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Canadians are right to be angry over the Panama Papers leak

The offshore accounts behind the Panama Papers may be legal. But they’re not fair.


 

Canada Revenue Agency“Leak” is hardly the right word. The Panama Papers, as they are being called, are more of a Noah-style great flood. A full 2.6 terabytes of computer files, encompassing 11.5 million documents relating to 200,000 offshore companies operating in tax havens like Switzerland, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.

Once the property of Mossack Fonseca, a law firm based in Panama City, and now in the hands of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 100 media outlets around the world, the documents give an unprecedented glimpse of how the wealthy protect and hide their money. The names involved are already dazzling—soccer god Lionel Messi, filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Jackie Chan, Ian Cameron, the father of David, the British PM. And the many friends of Vladimir Putin, with fortunes totalling US$2 billion that are always at the Russian president’s disposal.

The eye-popping revelations will continue for weeks, if not months. But let’s not lose sight of the 350 or so largely unknown Canadians whose shell companies have been caught up in the data dump. Ottawa’s official figures say $200 billion in Canuck wealth currently sits offshore and out of reach of the Canada Revenue Agency. The actual amount, however, appears to be much, much higher, with annual tax losses somewhere in the $6-billion to $7.8-billion range—roughly a quarter of the current federal deficit—according to an estimate obtained by the Toronto Star, a partner in the consortium.

As of yet, none of the media outlets have put forward evidence that these people have done anything illegal. Taking full advantage of regulatory loopholes and byzantine tax-minimization schemes can certainly be characterized as clever. Although one wonders whether the Canadian public will be inclined to see it that way.

We are, after all, a country that jettisoned a cabinet minister over a $16 glass of orange juice. Not to mention one that spent $23.5 million on an auditor general’s investigation that uncovered $991, 917 in “inappropriate” expenses from 30 current and former members of the Senate. (A figure that was reduced by $144,713 in an arbitration chaired by a former Supreme Court justice, that surely cost a whole bunch more.) Quebec—Canada’s Most Corrupt Province™—held a public inquiry into the awarding of government construction contracts that heard from 291 witnesses over 261 days of testimony, and generated a 1,741-page final report at a cost of $45 million, while documenting $15 million in dubious contributions to political parties.

Just this past week, the media has been full of outrage over tales of fundraising by Liberal governments in British Columbia and Ontario. The annual “Heritage Dinner” with Premier Kathleen Wynne in Toronto raised more than $2.5 million for party coffers in a single night—and more than a few questions about why 1,500 business people and lobbyists might be willing to pay $1,600 a plate for rubber chicken and a canned speech, or an extra grand to rub shoulders with members of her cabinet at a 30-minute-long “pre-reception.” Honestly, they’re finally efficient and effective at something, and all we do is complain.

Related: So why do the rich hide money offshore, anyway?

Canadians are, on the whole, awfully worried about people lining their pockets. Transparency International’s last Global Corruption Barometer survey from 2013 found that 53 per cent of respondents said that corruption has increased “a lot” or “a little” over the previous two years. And 62 per cent identified our political parties as the most rotten apples in a stinky, spoiled barrel.

Which is all a little odd, given that Transparency International’s other big survey—the Corruption Perceptions Index—ranked Canada as the world’s ninth-cleanest nation in 2015, behind Denmark and Sweden, but well ahead of the United States and Japan. (North Korea and Somalia tied for last, in 167th place.) In fact, only three per cent of Canadians reported paying a bribe in the last year, and mostly on the local level like “land services.”

Alesia Nahirny, Transparency Canada’s executive director, says she gets asked a lot about that apparent gulf between perception and reality. One part of her answer is that the organization actually has a rather narrow definition of corruption—the use of publicly vested power for private gain. The other is that Canadians, with little real-life experience with Africa’s corrupt cops, Russia’s on-the-take bureaucrats, or South American kleptocrats, believe their country is capable of more. “We are a democracy. We really do have higher expectations,” says Nahriny. “And that’s fair.”

The Panama Papers suggest that shady, self-interested behaviour, like so many other things, has gone global; wealthy people, whose first allegiance is to their bank books, working in concert with accountants, lawyers, and each other, to put their money beyond the reach of governments. Maybe it’s not illegal, but it’s clearly not fair—yet another advantage conferred upon the already obscenely overprivileged.

It might be time for Canadians to broaden their horizons and start getting angry about what happens behind oak-panelled doors in Geneva, or in air-conditioned offices in the Caymans. By all means, let’s keep watching the politicians. But to put it in terms we can all understand, $7.8 billion a year buys 487,500,000 glasses of overpriced orange juice.


 

Canadians are right to be angry over the Panama Papers leak

  1. Why should Canadians be angry? If people are acting legally, then there’s nothing to be angry about. And since there is no evidence (yet) or even any hypothesis of illegal activity, there’s nothing to be angry about. That emotion you’re feeling is envy, not anger.

    • I’m not angry at those taking full advantage of the existing system, I am angry at our politicians,and those of other countries, who allow the system to exist. After the 2008 debacle there was a shortlived opportunity to bring financial markets and tax systems to rights. It was not taken.

    • More like fear, actually.

      Anyone with half a brain knows that the rich will get away with what they’re doing, regardless. However, the Panama Papers leak will give governments a reason the clamp down on the finances of the middle class, that won’t have the resources to defend themselves.

      Just landed in Canada, and left an account in the old country? Now you’ll be looked at with suspicion. A target of politicians that are ‘mad as hell’ at the tax cheats, while the envious cheer on.

      Paranoid? Darn right! As a US/Canada dual citizen, I have plenty to worry about with the IRS, and my so-called ‘offshore’ Canadian account that I need, just to pay bills with here, just because of those politicians, and their envy specialists. Meanwhile, I don’t have $2,350 to renounce, so I’m basically stuck. But hey! At least the government looks good going after the ‘bad guys’, eh? (sigh)

      • MJH,

        You had better hope a republican wins the next election. They at least have said they want to get rid of the IRS. I don’t understand how American can go after Americans working/living overseas and demand they pay taxes back home. Crazy.

        It’s like asking you ex-husband to keep paying your light bill after he leaves you. Wait a minute…that is actually quite common isn’t it?

        • Get rid of the IRS eh? Exactly how does that work?

          • It doesn’t.

            But, it’s a case in point on how you can get someone to vote for you, when you tell someone what they want to hear.

          • As MJH mentions….you can’t get rid of the IRS.

            It would be nice, but you have to find something similar to replace it. The IRS in the USA, is almost like the security service in other countries. They assume you are trying to rip the country off…..and what makes it worse, is when political motivation determines who gets audited. Currently, the IRS in the USA is just the fifth column for the Democratic party.

            The American tax code is over 100,000 pages long. Start there. Reduce it to about 200 pages….things would get better.

        • What is a republican going to do for me? Not a **** thing!! To believe otherwise, is to be a useful idiot for the system.

          They’ve recently passed a law where those that have a tax debt, can even get their passport revoked. They’ve also promised to get rid of FATCA, but after the midterm elections, they’ve gone silent. Once they get their votes, they forget about you, because they got what they wanted. Frankly, they are NO better than the Democrats, so they can talk all they want about getting rid of the IRS. They’re not going to do it, and I have no reason to believe they will. They’re not going to take a chance, and risk their big government, military industrial prison complex, by getting rid of the IRS. It is NOT going to happen.

          The only way out, is to get in line, turn in your passport, and pay the renunciation fee. That, or be too poor to even be a target. In a world where success is now punished, what else can you do?

          • The Liberals (Brison, Garneau, etc) also made the right noises about protecting Canadians from FATCA. Now that the Liberals are in power it’s a very different story. Would be nice if for once a party actually meant every word that came out of its collective mouth.

            For kicks, check out these before and after posts:
            h$$ps://darrellsamson.liberal.ca/liberal-party-position-on-u-s-foreign-account-tax-compliance-act-fatca/
            h$$p://ipolitics.ca/2016/03/17/trudeau-liberals-reverse-position-on-controversial-irs-information-sharing-deal/

          • JIM R

            Exactly. It would be very nice.

            The thing is, Conservatives signed it. The Liberals talked about how, “….a Canadian, is a Canadian, is a Canadian….”, but that is certainly not so when it comes to FATCA. So, what’s left? The NDP? Does anyone honestly believe that those socialists will stand up for Canadians on this specific issue?

            In the end, all of the major parties have no problems with selling out one of their own, when it comes to saving Canadian banks a 30% withholding from the IRS, for hiding US persons.

            The best way I can protect my wife from being thrown under the bus, is by my NOT having a joint account with her under any circumstances, because I am tainted with US personhood, and my Canadian-ness doesn’t mean squat here.

    • I don’t begrudge people their wealth. If you earned it, inherited it or won it – that’s fair. But gaming the system isn’t fair.

      If the rich and powerful are the ones benefiting from the rules they create – whether or not it’s legal – people should be angry. Exploiting a loophole that only exists for a certain wealth level defeats the entire justice system.

      Whether or not there’s illegal activity, these loopholes must be closed. If this causes the rich to leave Canada – good riddance. We now have proof that they aren’t benefiting us.

    • you can not be serious!

      The system is about access. The rich and powerful have much more access than the average person. So the laws are set up for their benefit.

      While the average canadian struggles under heavy debt the rich have created a system worldwide that ensures other people pay for roads and other infrastructure while they get off Scott free.

      Where do you think the big tax breaks go?

      • Exactly what big tax breaks are you referring to? RRSP, TFSA, etc, or something else?

  2. As taxpayers we need assurance that the CRA will audit every Canadian who has these offshore holding companies. Prediction: some will be legitimate, most won’t be. Back taxes, fines, and most importantly, jail time would be appropriate for the latter.

    • Chris,
      I think you are wrong . Most will be legitimate and a few won’t. There’s a tipping point that we’ve passed with taxation on those making over $200,000 driven by our big spending Liberals in Ottawa and Ontario. At some point it becomes very worth while to go to the trouble of setting up these legal entities particularly when you see how poorly the government manages the money they collect. We’ve arrived at that point. However, let’s not forget that the top earning 20% of Canadians currently pay 80% of the total tax take and the top 1% pay 20%. That’s outrageous.

      • What’s outrageous is the way you make things up.

        That tipping point you mention is supposedly a top rate of 50% but “our big spending Liberals in Ottawa and Ontario” actually only combine for a top rate of 42%.

        And while you think lowering the tax rate for the middle class and raising it for the wealthy is something horrible few other Canadians agree with you.

        Finally, if the top 20% pay so much tax it is because they earn so much money. Those earning 87k or less are paying a top rate of 33% combined in Ontario but the reason that’s only a small portion of the total taxes is because that is nothing in terms of dollars not tax rate compared to what the top 20% earn.

        • For 2013, the top marginal tax rate in Ontario is exactly 53.53%, which applies to all income over $220,000, and includes both federal and provincial amounts.

          http://www.taxtips.ca/taxrates/on.htm

          Now who’s making things up? You should try googling things before accusing others of inaccuracy.

        • Mr. Edwards,
          You should check your data. The current tax rate for income over $200,000 for residents of Ontario is 53.53% as noted below by Khalid. Orville’s sister in Ontario added 4% and the man child in Ottawa added another 4%. I’m in that bracket because I got a good education and worked 70 hours a week for 40 years. My money didn’t just fall from the sky!!

          • Jerome,

            with those hours, you must be a lawyer, doctor, or accountant.

          • It is not about the tax rates it is about the tax loopholes.

            If you can create a offshore corporation where all of the wealth is transferred by manipulating cost to have no profit in canada then you are gaming the system.

            If you eliminated overseas management fees, dividend tax credits and enforced the rules of non-arms length transactions and fair market value then the tax rates would be reasonable or even excessive on the rich.

        • J. Edwards wrote:

          “And while you think lowering the tax rate for the middle class and raising it for the wealthy is something horrible few other Canadians agree with you.”

          Yes, Eddie…the folks who don’t have to PAY THE INCREASE in taxes agree, whilst though who actually EARN more are stuck paying your way.

          If you want more money J. Edwards…..get a better job. Stop stealing from me, because that’s what it is called when you take something from someone without their permission or approval.

          • “that’s what it is called when you take something from someone without their permission or approval.”

            You do not give permission or approval to the CRA when filing your taxes, nor when the provincial/federal governments decide how much to tax you.

            You have a vote. That’s your only say. Don’t like it?
            Run for office, get elected, and maybe then you’ll get your way.

            I can see it now:

            James So-and-so for Halifax MP
            “Vote for me so I can rig the rules because I don’t want to pay my FAIR SHARE”

            I doubt you’d win.

          • Raise Window….

            I already pay more in taxes than many people earn in a year. There are other folks in my position, and guess what? We pay MORE than our fair share. I don’t get “extra” from the Government no matter what I pay each year, but there are far too many Canadians (like you) who seem to think that because I make more than you do…that I am being unfair to you, or somehow taking from you.

            You should just thank me for paying your bills, and leave it at that.

    • That’s nuts or at least impractical: my RRSP portfolio like many I’m sure is diversified into US, European and Asian funds as well as Canadian. Diversification is supposed to be virtuous behavior so why criminalize it?

      • Every single one of the stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, GICs, etc in your RRSP is held in an account in a Canadian financial institution. As such, there is nothing offshore about your RRSP, and the CRA either does know, or can easily know, everything it wants to about your portfolio. Securities held in Canadian financial institutions are not the focus here – offshore accounts are.

    • ACtaully, what would be most fair is to have a flat tax system for everyone; regardless of income. The Rich would still pay the majority of taxes, but the lower income folks would also have some stake in how government handles their money.

      If people didn’t feel they were being ripped off by Governnment, they would be less inclined to stash their wealth offshore. Those who still insist on hiding what they earn after a flat tax is iimplemented….throw the book at them.

  3. Those who argue that anything is okay as long as it’s legal are flat out wrong. Religion aside, unless you actually believe that greed is good, some things are simply immoral. If the ultra rich were truly concerned about financial privacy, they wouldn’t have such opulent lifestyles. Legal just means that no one has written a law against it. Who writes the laws? Not the poor or the mythical middle class. Laws are bought and paid for by the wealthy. The media should publish the names of these “tax avoiders”, Revenue Canada should audit them and Ottawa should write rules that are fair to all.

    • Rather than spout all of this B.S. why don’t you start a petition to get the tax system fixed? Sounds to me you are the kind of person who would drive 80 kph on a 100 kph highway because YOU BELIEVE the latter is too dangerous.

      • We need a FLAT TAX SYSTEM. The progressive systems in some countries, including Canada, is just a polite form of class warfare. Some will say that lower income people can’t afford to pay their fair share, but what is fair about getting the benefits without making a sacrifice?

        Frankly, if lower income people paid taxes, then maybe they would pay more attention to what various levels of Government are up to. If you only pay $2500 per year in taxes or if you pay $120,000 per year in taxes, you are still going to be upset that the Government wasted your money on a dumb statue no one wants to look at, but was made by the premiers transgender/questioning, or two spirited vegan, womyn’s studies graduate feminist nephew.

        If you have a STAKE in society, you become a more active participant. At least you should.

    • Tax avoidance is common practice, that’s why every year millions of Canadians hire a 3rd party to complete their tax returns to ensure that they maximize their tax avoidance. When one has a lot of income, one also employs a whole network of experts to help them with that. Tax avoidance measures comprise a long tradition of government regulation some of which is possibly justifiable: when one provides rental property or sends a child to university there are special tax treatments for expenditures; when corporations engage in technology development or expand production capacity there are tax treatments for expenditures; in the middle is the anonymous cohort called investors that range from humble pension fund beneficiaries to billionaire entrepreneurs. There are tax treatments for almost all wealth that have been put in place to encourage particular uses of wealth where the general theme is tax avoidance (tax spending from the government perspective) is used as a subsidy/incentive; in that light, tax avoidance is a desired behavior (max’d your RRSP or TFSA lately?). Not surprisingly, there’s a global market where companies and countries use tax measures to attract wealth … how many times do we hear our own politicians boasting about low corporate rates?

    • Bruce…you are an idiot. You wrote:

      “If the ultra rich were truly concerned about financial privacy, they wouldn’t have such opulent lifestyles. Legal just means that no one has written a law against it. Who writes the laws? Not the poor or the mythical middle class. Laws are bought and paid for by the wealthy. ”

      Ok, so while Bruce has managed to fit a whole lot of stupid in just a few lines, let’s unpack it.

      “If the ultra rich were truly concerned about financial privacy, they wouldn’t have such opulent lifestyles.”

      Bruce, just admit that this is not about appearances, it is about envy. Your envy. Get over it.

      “Legal just means that no one has written a law against it. Who writes the laws? Not the poor or the mythical middle class. Laws are bought and paid for by the wealthy”

      Bruce…do you know what an election is? Do you know what a vote is? What about a ballot?

      If there is no law against it……then it is probably something that most people are not opposed to. Apparently, you think there should be a law against some dude buying or wearing a ROLEX, simply because you don’t have one. (And yes…I have three of them…but two of them were gifts, and one is an older model I picked up and had restored)

      As for who writes the laws…well, you KNOW who writes them. People who are elected write them, and the last time I looked, it doesn’t matter if you are a welfare bum, or chronically unemployed. It doesn’t matter if you are dirt poor, or stinking rich. We all get the same say.

      the fact that your guys (no doubt the NDP) aren’t in charge is just evidence that most people have the sense not to vote for a group who would legalize theft.

      Frankly, if you want to know the truth, the best way to get the country back on track, is to TAKE AWAY THE VOTE from folks who have never paid taxes, or never will. If your sole contribution to democracy is demanding that people who are smarter than you, work harder than you, or have more than you give you even MORE than they do now………you are a parasite. You are what is WRONG with this country. You shouldn’t have a say in how my money is spent because clearly, you don’t know how to manage your own, let alone earn it.

      • Clarification:

        The comments about “parasite” don’t apply to folks who have no choice in their earning ability. My comments are directed at those who CAN work, but who choose not to because not working doesn’t prevent them from buying their smokes, beer, or pot.

    • “Legal just means that no one has written a law against it.”

      That reads too much like, “Those that have no criminal records, are just smart enough to not get caught.” without considering the fact that people might actually know how to follow the law.

      There is a difference between morality, and legality.

      • MJH wrote:

        “There is a difference between morality, and legality.”

        Actually, you and I agree whole heartedly on this point you have made.

        But it doesn’t apply to the topic at hand.

        Tax avoidance is legal, but it is not necessarily immoral. The money being “stashed offshore” was earned by the person “stashing it” It isn’t stolen loot, or ill-gotten gains in many cases.

        If you were a kid who wanted to shovel sidewalks in the winter to earn money for a new video game….how would you feel if your mom or dad ordered you to share your earnings with your brother who preferred to sit at home and watch TV?

        Is it fair that you do all the work, but have to share the results of that work with someone who has done nothing to deserve your earnings? That is what it boils down to.
        In fact, there is a pretty good chance, that after being forced to share your earnings with your layabout brother after working your butt off all winter in -25 C weather while he sat in the house and watched the Kardashians…….you wouldn’t make the same effort next winter.

  4. Surprisingly, no one seems to be concerned about the massive invasion of privacy perpetrated by the press in this case. No one needs to know publicly where one’s personal wealth is stored or where one’s income comes from except relevant tax authorities and government regulators. In spite of the sham virtuosity the same media spends as much time sucking up to and glorifying the rich and famous as anything else. Even the media with ‘off-shore’ investors and even reporters use tax experts to reduce taxes paid are happy to point fingers. Make no mistake, this story is not about tax policy, asymmetry of tax measures, wealth management or globalization – this is just another version of outing a celebrity for wearing an unflattering dress (all media is competing with National Inquirer).

    • When you write “No one needs to know publicly where one’s personal wealth is stored or where one’s income comes from except relevant tax authorities and government regulators.” you are missing the whole point of this leak.

      This offshore money is invisible to Canadian tax authorities and government regulators. Some of the people implicated might be fully compliant with the law (both letter and spirit). In those cases, we should apologize profusely.

      The people who are fully compliant with the letter of the law, and are legally tax cheats – should be shamed and those loopholes closed.

      The people who aren’t fully compliant with the law should be prosecuted.

      • How can someone be fully compliant with the letter of the law and yet be legally a tax cheat? The 2 are mutually exclusive. If you are fully compliant then you are by definition not a tax evader or tax cheat.

        Having said that, I 110% agree that those who are evading taxes (i.e. doing something illegal) should feel the full weight of the law, and that could include jail time in some cases.

        Those who are avoiding taxes (not illegal) via loopholes – well, one man’s tax loophole is another man’s legitimate tax expenditure. There’s often much arm-waving about tax loopholes, but what people are often complaining about are legitimate tax expenditures that they don’t agree with. For an example of this, see: h$$p://www.taxfairness.ca/en/news/close-tax-loopholes-make-taxes-fairer-and-simpler

  5. Looking at the list of names, one can see the type of folks who use this technique to disguise their actual wealth.

    1. Political Leaders – politicians from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, morrocco, or African nations. – They want to hide the wealth they have STOLEN from their nations. They aren’t worred about taxes, because many of the leaders of these countries live beyond the rules they impose upon their people.

    2. Organized Crime – Russia would actually fit in the above category as well, but frankly, RUSSIA is a country run entirely by organized crime, so it doesn’t make a difference. Other names will be South Americans, Mexicans, Italians, etc. They’re hiding their drug money, or prostitution funds.

    3. Illegal tax evasion – folks concerned about hiding the true amount of money they have made/earned/acquired. They pay SOME taxes in their home countries, but hide some money to avoid paying taxes on all of it.

    4. Legal tax avoidance. This is probably going to be the biggest group in the papers. These are folks who live in HIGH TAX countries, and they are simply sick of having various levels of Government steal their money. You will find a lot of French and Canadians here. When the tax level approaches or exceeds the 50% mark, folks start looking for ways to keep more of what they have earned.

    I still suspect we’ll see Quebecers in pretty high numbers on this list. And they will either have Liberal connections, or Italian last names. La Familia Liberal !!

    Let the bloodletting begin.

  6. The source of the supper wealthy’s riches is a combination of very hard work, luck, and most importantly, the presence of a developed, safe, secure, & controlled economy, complete with a trained work-force. That economy costs a lot of money to develop, maintain, and enhance, and is done through a tax system that is supposed to be fair (i.e. uniformly applicable to all). Our current tax system does provide for the fact that those who have received more benefit from this economic system, should pay more into the tax system, and it does so through methods considered by the citizenry to be fair, when uniformly applied. However, tax havens and other tax dodges resulting from loop-holes in the tax system short-circuit this process, making the other taxpayers foot an unfair share of the tax burden. Tax planning, and the minimizing of tax is a process quite separate from taking advantage of legislative loop-holes. We must pressure our governments to close the existing loop-holes and improve the legislation in such a way that finding and opening new loop-holes is excessively difficult. This can be done if legislators are forced by the citizenry to do so. For example, by requiring new “tax planning” schemes to be approved by the CRA prior to becoming legal would put a stop to the cat and mouse game currently played between the CRA and Tax Consultants. Further, improved quality in the content of tax legislation would provide fewer possibilities for loop-holes in the first place. In this way, we can neutralize the tax benefits of tax-havens and other loop-holes, making our tax system once again uniformly fair for ALL Canadians.

    • I agree, but with one change. I would change ‘fair’ to ‘just’. ‘Fair’ would be something more akin to a flat tax system. A ‘just’ approach is different in that it promotes what you are writing about. The tax system is one of the levers of control an elected government has. It can, and often is, altered to promote or discourage various activities. The high tax on smoking is a simple example.

      That said, when the tax system is adjusted, or simply allowed to remain, such that very high income people have ways to avoid taxes then there is the whiff of corruption. These are not levers to promote some government agenda, they simply reward deceit. Legally okay is not the same as morally right. Legally okay simply implicates the law makers along with those who exploit it. As Canadians, we are right to be outraged by such things. It’s not an economic argument, funds spent on tracking them down verses what is returned. The returns are a more just society and a somewhat cleaner political system. These are important. That Canada ranks 9th in lack of corruption doesn’t happen by accident.

      For all those hiding funds, I will finish with one warning. As the information age progresses, the dark corners of the financial world will lighten. Eventually, it will be a simple matter to analyze the world’s financial transactions to identify all the hiding places, no matter how deeply buried. The citizenry will demand no less. Remember, this particular leak goes back 40 years. There will be more, and more. What you are doing today will eventually be found out and made public. If this bothers you, then maybe you should do something about it now.

    • Can you elaborate on what these existing loop-holes are? Very often people talk about loop-holes but don’t provide examples. Or, they refer to things like the capital gains exclusion, dividend tax credits, even RRSP deductions as loop-holes, which many people would not consider to be loop-holes.

      FWIW, I think the CRA should go after offshore tax *evaders* with all guns blazing (which they have so far been unwilling or unable to do); and, I would have no issue with jail time for the more egregious evaders.

      • Not the OP, but I’ll say this:

        Effectiveness aside, the items you refer to are levers intended to generate a particular result. Retirement savings, for example. A loop-hole would be exploiting these in an unintended way that does nothing except reduce taxes paid.

        A TFSA earns untaxed interest and was presumably created and regulated to generate some Canadian goal. Creating an off-shore company, transferring your savings into it, earning untaxed interest, and then spending that interest with a corporate credit card in Canada (I’m presuming this is something like how it works), is either a loop-hole our outright fraud. The people that can afford to do this don’t need to be encouraged to save for their retirement. They are simply exploiting the system to avoid what “the masses” deem just, perhaps with the assistance of bought-off politicians.

        • I would have to say that this example is tax evasion (fraud, if you will) and is illegal, rather than loop-hole assisted avoidance (which is legal). The person doing the above is not paying taxes on income (interest) of which he is the beneficial owner, so it’s straight out illegal.

          Like I hinted, there’s lots of heat about loop-holes, but little light.

        • Here’s my layperson’s take on what is a tax loop-hole: A tax loop-hole is a rule or regulation that allows an individual or entity to legally decrease their tax burden in a manner that was never intended by the tax authorities.

          And, as I said before, there’s lots and lots of talk about tax-loopholes in the abstract, but when you try to get down to specifics you often find little useful being said.

          Here’s one post that talks about loopholes, but basically lists well known tax expenditures. The implication being that a tax loop-hole is often just a tax expenditure that someone doesn’t like.
          h$$p://www.taxfairness.ca/en/news/close-tax-loopholes-make-taxes-fairer-and-simpler

          The mentioned article is especially humorous in that it lists the Public Transit Tax Credit and the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit as loop-holes. Now, I think very little of boutique tax breaks in general and would not shed a tear at the disappearance of most or all, but to call the 2 aforementioned credits loop-holes is just ludicrous, and shows how the word ‘loop-hole’ is simply misused again and again and again by agenda driven organizations and the media.

    • “Tax planning, and the minimizing of tax is a process quite separate from taking advantage of legislative loop-holes”. JAS, How do you minimize your tax? RRSPs?-they’re viewed as a loophole by those too poor to contribute to them.
      “those who have received more benefit from this economic system and should pay more into the tax system”. How does one receive more benefit without working his ass off? I directly attribute my high income to good personal decisions: to get well educated in a degree in demand and be in the top 10% of graduates by being an exceptionally diligent student; by picking one of the very best companies in Canada to work for; and then working 70 hours a week for 40 years and outperforming other employees in the company to rise to the highest job. So the additional benefit was fully earned through hard work. When does a government feel that they’ve bashed those people enough? The top 20% of earners in Canada pay 80% of the taxes collected and the top 1% pay 20%-that sure seems like a “fair share” to me!! And my taxes are now higher by 8%-+4% due to the Ontario Liberals and +4% due to the free spending liberals in Ottawa.

      • RRSP’s are not tax-loop holes. They are pension plans for those who do not have company provided pension plans. They allow people to save income and defer taxes to a time when they make less income. The government encourages them. They are completely based on income and they have an upper limit. If people take enough of an advantage, there is a possibility that they will save enough for their pension that they will not qualify for old age pension, saving the government and tax payers a lot of money.

    • JAS,

      I somewhat agree, but here is what would most likely happen. Assume the Liberals make the changes you outline above.

      Now, if the money they collect as a result of these changes allowed for the Government to reduce taxes in proportion to that collected…that would be a good idea.

      However, remember, this is a LIBERAL Govenment in charge now. I fear that the result of what you propose would just allow Trudeau and his buddies to spend even MORE money. The Liberals won’t look at newly collected money as justification to reduce current taxes, they would look at it as an excuse to piss away even more of our money on useless (but vote-getting) causes.

  7. It’s worth thinking about what you’re angry about. The author says “… $200 billion in Canuck wealth currently sits offshore and out of reach of the Canada Revenue Agency.” And why is it that the wealth of Canadians is all supposed to be within easy reach of the Revenue Agency?

    Take the example of Iceland’s Prime Minister. The Panama papers confirmed that his wife has offshore accounts holding significant wealth from her inheritance. I use the word “confirmed” because these accounts were already publicly declared and publicly discussed in Iceland during the election campaign and reported every year for their taxes. There is no “revelation” for this case.

    The same will be true of many others on the list, and will not be true for many others. The blanket condemnation is actually an attack on the idea of private wealth. Why should wealth owned by an individual being used for some business purpose somewhere in the world, be taxed in Canada? If it is Canadian income, then yes it makes sense for Canada to tax Canadian income. But otherwise?

    It is true that there are any number of political leaders are looting their countries and stashing the gains abroad. Is it more of a problem if it is kept in cash in an account in the Virgin Islands or if it is kept in real estate in London? The transfer of cash is easier I suppose. But the problem is the same. The problem is the looting of the country, now how the loot is stored.

    The real issue that governments are complaining about is not the looting of countries, since often they don’t object to their own looting. The issue is that private property exists which is out of their reach.

    • “Take the example of Iceland’s Prime Minister…. There is no “revelation” for this case.”

      You do realize that said Prime Minister has resigned, because of this revelation, because roughly 5% of the ENTIRE population of the country signed a petition demanding it.

      • Iceland’s PM is exactly the kind of person who should be resigning over this kind of thing. Legitimacy of governance requires a demonstrable whole-hearted acceptance of the system that you have been placed in charge of. Regardless of the legitimacy, there is no reason whatsoever for an elected official to be holding accounts outside of his country. I have no issues with private citizens of Canada having legitimate offshore accounts, just as I have no problem with private citizens accessing health care outside of our public system.
        But, anyone who deems to govern, must be prepared to live to a much higher standard. No offshore accounts of any kind. No foreign business holdings, such as the foreign registry of a steamship line. No accessing private or foreign health care, even in the instance of a life threatening illness.
        And yes, it would be fair to question family and spouses in this matter. You live or die by the constraints of the system you operate.

      • It can’t be much of a democracy when the 5% that sign petitions get to decide for the other 95%.

  8. Canadians have to realize that most of us are sheeple and as such our main purpose is to provide for the elite. We get sheared by the politicians and depending on their hair or other adornments we feel we are somehow well off compared to sheeple in other countries. We should not be upset with the elite for doing what they have always done and they or course have made it legal so all is well, Give it a week and we will be back in our pens and will have forgotten this.
    BAAAAAAA

  9. This article is good example of why Canadian journalism is awful and Canadians read foreign sources to get news.

    Federal government gives media companies tens of millions of dollars annually and our compliant media produce articles about how just because people have secret offshore accounts, it doesn’t mean anything. Canadian reporters also ignore that this is political scandal, where our all these politicians getting this money from. Where is PM Trudeau’s money – our Roi-Soleil was able to extract money from public sector unions for giving speeches so he didn’t have to spend his inheritance while he was unemployed for much of his 20s and 30s.

    Canadian reporters are paid by government to ignore scandals, they are boosters at best.

  10. Um, Earth to headline writers: I don’t think any sensible person is angry about the leak. Canadians, at least, are happy that the news got out.

    Creeps and hiders, and their Panama lawyers, may be unhappy. But Canadians on the whole? No.

    -dlj.

    • One company in one country isn’t even 1% of the global tax evasion and crime going on.

      ISIS gets its banking in Arab states. Our Canadians banks have several incidents, one Mexican BNS bank manager was too honest and murdered for it.

      This isn’t even a scratch on the surface of the amount of corruption going on. Hey, Lichtenstein 106 Canadians haven’t paid up yet, and were never fined nor charged. Politicians talk good but in how it really works, taxes are for commoners. Even religious banking knows that.

  11. Thank you Jonathon Gatehouse for providing the context notes for your excellent summary of the Panama Papers. This is a useful getting started guide to what I believe will unfold as the biggest corruption scandal to hit the modern world. Of course, what will become most interesting is not only the big international names on the list but what it means to Canada’s economy. Imagine if even a fraction of those taxes had been paid – what more could have been done to provide infrastructure improvements so all Canadians can enjoy potable water, accessible healthcare, safe roads and bridges and innovation toward a fast track conversion to a clean, green nation. What can be done now? Let’s start by resetting our moral compass. Whether it is a $16 glass of orange or $200 billion sitting offshore and currently out of reach of the Canada Revenue Agency, it must be reeled in.

  12. Ya right, Canada is less corrupt as we are not looking. Media turns blind eyes to this all the time. I am still waiting for our influenced media to print the names of the Lichtenstein 106 that haven’t even paid up yet, and no fines makes us clean how?

    Worse, this in one company in one country when its 1000s of businesses, lawyers, banks doing this around the world every day. How do ya think ISIS operates?

    Media feeds put Putin on the front, yet Putin isn’t on the list. And if guilt is by association, how about the Ukraine government with the president on the list with associations to Obama, Hillary and Kerry that give them money, or our own government sending aid?

    Media, do you read your own garbage with any logic? Panama papers are less than 1% of what is really going on. But its not politically correct to say so, right?

  13. I am kinda surprised at the heading “…Legal…but …not fair”. Offshore accounts are only legal for resident Canadians, if declared in form T1135 of your tax return. There are heavy penalties for non-declaration. The threshold for declaration is $ 100,000 Canadian in foreign assets at any time during the year.Assets of course include, cash, property, shares etc.

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