Ottawa gets tough on tax-avoidance software

EDMONTON – The federal government is cracking down on businesses that use computer software to skip paying taxes.

“Some businesses have been using electronic suppression-of-sales software, also commonly known as Zapper software, to hide their sales so that they can avoid paying the GST, the HST and income taxes that they owe on this income,” said federal Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay at a news conference in Edmonton.

“If you are in possession of such software now, it’s up to you to check and make sure that this suppression-of-sale software is not part of what you are using in your establishment.”

Findlay said as of Jan. 1, the penalties for infractions will increase dramatically — possession of zapper software will cost business owners $5,000 for a first offence and $50,000 for subsequent offences.

Creators of the software, if the taxman can find them, face a fine of $10,000 for the first offence and $100,000 if caught again.

Quebec is using “black box” monitors to record transactions on every restaurant cash register in the province.

Garth Whyte, C-E-O of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said that’s overkill and has only created ongoing costs and red tape for honest businesses.

“One approach is to go target the above-the-ground economy,” he said. “What the (Canadian Revenue Agency) and the minister are doing is they’re targetting the below-ground economy, but also targetting the manufacturers.

“I think that’s the key point. If you don’t make them, you can’t buy them. Those are the ones we have to go after, really. I mean, those are the big guys.”

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