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Corporate Tax Avoidance ‘Scheme’ Hurting Canada, Expert Says

Corporate Tax Avoidance ‘Scheme’ Hurting Canada, Expert Says.

 

offshore tax havens

As Canadians dutifully file personal income tax returns during the coming weeks, consider this: many profitable companies pay little or no tax.

In an interview this week on The Sunday Edition, Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, says these multinational corporations set up subsidiaries in tax havens such as Ireland, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and devise ways to transfer profits there from Canada. There are no laws to prevent this.

“There’s been a proliferation of tax havens,” Howlett explains to host Michael Enright. “Now, a quarter of all direct Canadian foreign investment going abroad is going to tax haven countries. That’s about $170 billion sitting in tax havens, so it’s become a huge problem.”

An additional concern for Howlett’s organization is Canada’s low corporate tax rate, which the Conservative government established with no guarantee or requirement from corporations that they spend it on job creation or other benefits to the country.

Currently, the rate is about 25 or 26 per cent, depending on the province. It’s so low that Howlett has actually heard complaints from the U.S.

“I was in Washington a year or so ago when I met with some of the congressional staff there, who were complaining about Canada becoming a tax haven,” he says, “because our corporate tax rates are now 10 points below the U.S.”

Culture of ‘secrecy’

He reveals that according to Bloomberg LP, few multinationals even pay that low rate. Of the TSX 60 – the top 60 companies trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange – only four paid 25 per cent tax or more between 2007 and 2011.

Thirteen per cent of these corporations paid less than 5 per cent in taxes and more than half paid less than 10 per cent. Much of this tax evasion is done secretly.

“The secrecy allows people to open shell companies or trust accounts where they don’t have to identify who the ultimate beneficial owner is,” Howlett explains. “So an account can be opened up in the name of a local lawyer or some other person who acts as an intermediary. That way they can hide the fact that they’ve got money sitting in an account and it’s very hard for the Canadian Revenue Agency to figure out who’s got money hiding in Barbados or Cayman Islands or wherever it is.”

He adds that severe cuts at Revenue Canada – more than 3,000 public servants, more than any other government department – have hampered the government’s ability to investigate cases of corporate tax avoidance: “The problem is unless there is some credible threat of being caught, more and more people get into this tax-haven, tax-avoidance scheme.”

He says the situation has become so serious that some corporations are trying to “put the brakes on” tax cuts, as they witness the effects on critical areas of the Canadian economy, such as education, health care and infrastructure.

Global efforts are underway for reform. The G8 and G20 summits asked the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to devise a new international corporate tax system.

“Ultimately, I think we need a unitary taxation system where multinational corporations have to report their global profits, and the profits should be taxed where the economic activities occur and the value is created,” Howlett says. “If the corporations aren’t paying their fair share, ordinary taxpayers are shouldering more of the tax responsibility.”

Corporate Tax Avoidance 'Scheme' Hurting Canada, Expert Says

Corporate Tax Avoidance ‘Scheme’ Hurting Canada, Expert Says.

 

offshore tax havens

As Canadians dutifully file personal income tax returns during the coming weeks, consider this: many profitable companies pay little or no tax.

In an interview this week on The Sunday Edition, Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, says these multinational corporations set up subsidiaries in tax havens such as Ireland, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and devise ways to transfer profits there from Canada. There are no laws to prevent this.

“There’s been a proliferation of tax havens,” Howlett explains to host Michael Enright. “Now, a quarter of all direct Canadian foreign investment going abroad is going to tax haven countries. That’s about $170 billion sitting in tax havens, so it’s become a huge problem.”

An additional concern for Howlett’s organization is Canada’s low corporate tax rate, which the Conservative government established with no guarantee or requirement from corporations that they spend it on job creation or other benefits to the country.

Currently, the rate is about 25 or 26 per cent, depending on the province. It’s so low that Howlett has actually heard complaints from the U.S.

“I was in Washington a year or so ago when I met with some of the congressional staff there, who were complaining about Canada becoming a tax haven,” he says, “because our corporate tax rates are now 10 points below the U.S.”

Culture of ‘secrecy’

He reveals that according to Bloomberg LP, few multinationals even pay that low rate. Of the TSX 60 – the top 60 companies trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange – only four paid 25 per cent tax or more between 2007 and 2011.

Thirteen per cent of these corporations paid less than 5 per cent in taxes and more than half paid less than 10 per cent. Much of this tax evasion is done secretly.

“The secrecy allows people to open shell companies or trust accounts where they don’t have to identify who the ultimate beneficial owner is,” Howlett explains. “So an account can be opened up in the name of a local lawyer or some other person who acts as an intermediary. That way they can hide the fact that they’ve got money sitting in an account and it’s very hard for the Canadian Revenue Agency to figure out who’s got money hiding in Barbados or Cayman Islands or wherever it is.”

He adds that severe cuts at Revenue Canada – more than 3,000 public servants, more than any other government department – have hampered the government’s ability to investigate cases of corporate tax avoidance: “The problem is unless there is some credible threat of being caught, more and more people get into this tax-haven, tax-avoidance scheme.”

He says the situation has become so serious that some corporations are trying to “put the brakes on” tax cuts, as they witness the effects on critical areas of the Canadian economy, such as education, health care and infrastructure.

Global efforts are underway for reform. The G8 and G20 summits asked the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to devise a new international corporate tax system.

“Ultimately, I think we need a unitary taxation system where multinational corporations have to report their global profits, and the profits should be taxed where the economic activities occur and the value is created,” Howlett says. “If the corporations aren’t paying their fair share, ordinary taxpayers are shouldering more of the tax responsibility.”

World governments agree to automatic information sharing

World governments agree to automatic information sharing.

February 24, 2014
Sovereign Valley Farm, Chile

It’s like 34 drunken sailors holding each other up. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the latest product from the good idea factory that is the OECD.

Over the weekend in yet another cushy five-star hotel, representatives from this unelected supranational bureaucracy announced plans for world governments to exchange all their citizens’ tax and financial data with one another.

The 34 members states of the OECD are enthusiastically supporting this measure. And it constitutes the end of whatever remains of financial privacy.

The premise behind the OECD’s destructive pipedream is, as usual, to stamp out ‘tax evasion’. But this is a misnomer to being with.

Just about every multinational company out there employs strategies to reduce their current tax liabilities that are perfectly legitimate based on existing tax laws.

This is why companies like Google and Apple famously earn billions in profits but pay almost no tax. They’re vilified. But it’s legal.

These companies have shareholders from all over the world. And their solemn responsibility is to maximize shareholder value… not maximize the amount of funds that politicians in a single jurisdiction get to blow on wars and welfare.

There are also isolated individuals who are sitting on undeclared income stashed away in an overseas bank somewhere. But the aggregate amount is tiny compared to the $60+ billion that Microsoft alone has stashed away overseas, untaxed.

You’d think they’d get at the root cause of the problem and try becoming more competitive… lowering tax rates and streamlining government operations (shocker!)

But no. Instead they resort to even more Draconian tactics to lord over private citizens’ financial records and unilaterally set aside long-standing international treaties.

It’s a pathetic display of exactly the sort of tactics that governments embrace when they go broke. And most of these OECD countries ARE broke– Italy, Japan, the US, Spain, Greece, etc.

So what we have now are a bunch of bankrupt member states who think that they are helping the other bankrupt member states raise revenue by terrorizing citizens (rather than actually fixing the problem).

It’s genius. But what else can one expect from the OECD?

This is the same organization which said, in the same meeting over the weekend, that Germany should accept higher inflation so that the rest of Europe wouldn’t suffer from deflation.

The arrogance is astounding.

This is the same logic as borrowing your way out of debt and spending your way out of recession… brought to you by the same guys who completely missed all the warning signs of the Global Financial Crisis. Along with the IMF. The Federal Reserve (and every other central bank in the world). And every government out there.

Yet these are the rocket scientists who pull the levers that control the system.

It behooves anyone who can see the big picture to distance yourself as much as possible from this system.

This means, for example, keeping a portion of your savings in real assets that they cannot control, as opposed to paper assets that they conjure and manipulate.

Most importantly, it means not having all of your eggs in one basket. Bankrupt governments will resort to any measure they feel is necessary to maintain the status quo.

And if you live, work, invest, bank, run a business, own real estate, etc. all in one of these bankrupt countries, you are really taking on tremendous risk.

‘Natural Person’ Tax Evasion Theory Caused ‘Staggering Losses’ At CRA: Report

‘Natural Person’ Tax Evasion Theory Caused ‘Staggering Losses’ At CRA: Report.

If you come across claims that you don’t have to pay income taxes in Canada because you’re a “natural person,” you’d be well advised to ignore them, or Canada Revenue Agency may be coming after you.

Canada’s federal tax collector has suffered “staggering losses” due to an anti-tax campaign that claims only “legal persons” have to pay income taxes, while “natural persons” are exempt, according to documents obtained by by the subscription news site Blacklock’s Reporter.

“The Canada Revenue Agency is the victim of a widespread and continually growing scheme to defraud the federal government of millions of dollars in tax revenues,” the agency’s Enforcement and Disclosures Directorate said in the documents.

“Law-abiding taxpayers need to be reassured that fraud does not pay, or they will look to join the multitude of fraudsters.”

Though no estimates were provided for exactly how much money the feds are losing to “detaxers,” as the CRA calls them, the documents urge aggressive enforcement because “the number of participants is growing quickly.”

Since 2000, there have been at least 23 convictions of “natural persons” who argued they didn’t owe income taxes, the Langley Advance reports.

Websites such as Natural-Person.ca and DetaxCanada push the “natural person” theory and other similar theories attempting to find arguments against the requirement to pay taxes.

The principal argument goes like this: The “legal person” established by the government, complete with Social Insurance Number, has to pay income taxes. But the “natural person” behind that legal person is a separate entity. If you “transfer” your wealth from the legal person to the natural person, you don’t have to pay income tax.

The CRA neutrally describes these theories as “opinions,” but warns that “individuals who mistakenly confuse opinions with facts may expose themselves to serious financial and legal problems if this results in their failure to comply with the Income Tax Act and other tax laws.”

Some people who have followed the advice of “detaxer” groups have ended up paying the price in the justice system. An Ottawa-area dentist and her husband weresentenced last year to two-and-a-half and four years in prison, respectively, for following the advice of Paradigm Education Group, which lectures on the “natural persons” theory.

Paradigm Education Group, based out of B.C., was itself targeted for tax evasion. The group’s leader, Russ Porisky, was last year convicted of tax evasion and counselling others to commit tax fraud, and sentenced to four-and-a-half years.

“Remember also that many groups and individuals stand to profit considerably from the perpetuation of certain tax myths,” the CRA website states. “Don’t let them profit at your expense!”

Some critics of the government’s approach to tax evasion argue the feds spend too much time on relatively small tax evasion cases, such as the “natural person” cases, while not doing enough to go after larger tax cheats who take advantage of offshore tax havens.

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