Confidential information from Canadian taxpayers could soon be shared with police and authorities in three dozen countries around the world, under measures included in Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s latest budget.
In an inconspicuous section tucked into a small 78-page annex to the budget, the government says it wants to give police and tax authorities new powers to fight tax evasion and advance international investigations into serious crimes, ranging from drug trafficking and money laundering to terrorism.
The budget annex stated, “The sharing of information internationally for the investigation, prosecution and suppression of serious criminal offences, both tax-related and non-tax-related, is vital to the global fight against serious crime and is consistent with the government’s commitments to address global tax evasion and improve the fairness of the tax system.”
Three separate provisions outlined in the budget annex would enhance the powers of Canadian authorities to share confidential information about Canadian residents.
Currently, the Canada Revenue Agency can share confidential tax information about Canadians with authorities in other countries that are investigating serious cases, such as tax evasion. However, under Canadian law, the CRA cannot share that information with officials in another country investigating a crime other than tax evasion.
Canada currently has mutual legal assistance agreements with 35 other countries or bodies, including the United States, Brazil, Belgium, France, Israel, Russia and China.
That means authorities in one of those countries investigating someone for a crime like money laundering or drug trafficking could apply to Canada for that person’s tax records and obtain them.
The proposed new policy affects more than tax information.