Canada Revenue Agency headquarters in Ottawa: Isn’t the election a good time to press our politicians about offshore tax havens?
Chris Mikula / The Ottawa Citizen
“Because something is legal does not mean it’s not a scandal.”If there is a serious problem, and no one acknowledges it, does the problem really exist? And why is no political party talking about the Panama Paper (2016) and Paradise Paper (2017) disclosures in this federal election campaign, which is only 10 weeks away?All political parties are mute about the thousands of affluent Canadians who continue to legally use tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The estimated $5 billion annually, or $25 billion over five years in lost revenues through “individual” tax avoidance practices, are staggering amounts. When affluent Canadians do not pay their share of taxes, as per Revenue Canada’s published tax schedules, Canadians must make up the difference.It’s important to be clear. The use of tax havens by individuals to avoid paying taxes is not about greed or any person breaking the law. Despite what our federal government says, it has nothing to do with tax evaders, complex tax scams, tax audits or the CRA getting more money to combat tax cheats. This is a political issue about Canada’s two-tier tax system that benefits the rich while doing immense financial harm to other Canadians, and that diminishes the quality of life for all.This is a political issue about Canada’s two-tier tax system that benefits the rich while doing immense financial harm to other Canadians.Silence by political parties should not be an option. Canadians should demand that political parties engage in a frank and open discussion about “individual” tax avoidance prior to the October election. The cost to Canadians is too high to wait four more years until the next federal election.We did not have the benefit in the 2015 federal election of the Panama and Paradise Paper disclosures that identified thousands of Canadians who used tax havens. We have this information now. The 2019 election is an opportunity for Canadians to realize tax reform that prohibits affluent Canadians from using tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.Failure to address this issue now will mean four more years of great disparity in Canada’s tax system.It’s worth noting that U.S. citizens cannot legally use tax havens for the purpose of avoiding taxes. In the U.S., “individual” tax equality is sacred. This is not the case in Canada, where past governments have encouraged Canada’s financial élite to legally use tax havens to avoid paying taxes.No one has anything good to say about tax avoidance, specifically tax havens used by affluent Canadians. Yet no political party or politician is doing anything about it. This can only change if “average” Canadians link the federal election with the funding of Pharmacare, economic, environmental and social initiatives, with new monies via tax reform. We need to pressure all political parties to address this scandal.Historically, tax avoidance has been a taboo subject for all political parties. No political party was pleased by the Panama and Paradise Paper disclosures. Instead of changing tax laws to abolish Canada’s two-tier tax system, the government response is increased funding to the CRA to address tax evaders, tax cheats and tax scams. Although these actions should be applauded, they do nothing to fix the root problem.Canadians don’t like to think current and past government favour the financially privileged. That would be a serious violation of trust. But the evidence is clear that this is happening, and will continue, unless we make our voices heard before the October election.The goal of The Grassroots Coalition for Tax Reform, http://www.betteroutcomes.ca, is to pressure political parties to address tax avoidance in their election platforms, specifically affluent Canadians who use tax havens to avoid paying taxes.Norm McKee launched the Grassroots Coalition for Tax Reform with a goal to make tax avoidance an important election issue. For more information, email email@example.com.