OTTAWA – The Conservatives are beefing up the tools used to go after tax cheats in the hopes of recovering billions in lost revenue.
A team of six to 10 bureaucrats will be assigned to work only on pinpointing tax evaders and their efforts will be backed by $30 million over the next five years for new technology and other tools required for the hunt.
“Anyone trying to hide large sums of money offshore should know this — they should declare all their assets now before the agency comes after them,” Revenue Minister Gail Shea said Wednesday.
Half of the money announced Thursday was previously committed in the March budget to build a system that will require banks and certain other financial institutions to report funds transfers of $10,000 or more to the Canada Revenue Agency.
The remaining $15 million will be reallocated from elsewhere within the CRA in order to increase compliance efforts, the minister said.
A number of other provisions to go after tax cheats were announced in March, including a new reward for people who blow the whistle on major evaders.
The hunt for tax dodgers has both financial and political motives.
Governments around the world were embarrassed in April after 2.5 million files on offshore tax havens were leaked to the media via the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
And earlier this month, a House of Commons report suggested that “taxpayer morale” was at risk if the government didn’t tell people it was actively working to improve the system.
Meanwhile, the 2013 budget suggested the Conservatives are banking on recouping $2.4 billion over the next six years via stronger compliance in order to erase the deficit.
It’s unclear how much money is actually lost each year to international tax evasion; independent estimates indicate Canada could be losing up to $7.8 billion annually in tax revenue.
Shea said Wednesday that since 2006, enforcement efforts have recovered about $4.5 billion.
The CRA has been among the departments hardest hit by ongoing federal budget cuts.
It’s expected to cut some $300 million out of its budget over the next three years and eliminate around 3,000 jobs.