Is the CRA Becoming a Police Watch Dog?

CRA reporting crimes to police

Not all that long ago any information that the CRA came across was kept strictly confidential.   It has often been a bone of contention with law enforcement agents who would want to use tax evasion as a means for digging out more serious crime intelligence and evidence to lay criminal charges, but were not able to do so.   If financial information was obtained by the CRA that entailed criminal activities they were not able to pass this information along to the Police officials.  This may now have changed.

Apparently the CRA has been given the authority to hand over evidence that indicates serious crime which also includes terrorist activity.   That doesn’t meant that they can specifically go looking for this type of evidence, but hey! If they happen to stumble across it then it can now be handed over.

This may come as news to many people as this authority giving was not widely broadcasted, and probably for good reason.   There is so much unrest at the present regarding the standards of privacy for Canadians going downhill that the Government probably didn’t want to rock the boat.

Now for most taxpayers who aren’t doing anything illegal anyway this may not be a big issue.   The premise of the release of personal information that was once held sacred by the CRA very well may be.

Many Canadians are beginning to feel a lot of unrest and feel that the Government is taking on the “big brother” sort of scrutiny.   This is not sitting well with many.

In case you are wondering how this came to pass there was an amendment concerning it that was nicely implanted in the latest omnibus budget bill.

For those in the past that haven’t really paid much attention to all these bills that get passed unless there is a really big issue, there may be a lesson to be learned here.   You just never know what additions are in these pieces of legislations and we now need to make our business to scrutinize them.

This new provisions are pretty broad spectrum when it comes to the type of offences that can be reported to the Police by the CRA.   They include B&E, theft of vehicles, arson, kidnapping and corruption.  It gets even broader than this as it also pertains to offences with a minimum prison term, or those with a max. sentence of 14 years.   These do not have to be tax related crimes.

These new CRA powers have been in effect since last June and there is no indication that the CRA as yet used them.

Apparently the privacy implications are leading the CRA to consult with the Federal Privacy Commissioner as to what impact this new legislature could have on taxpayers.   It seems that the criminal investigations branch of the CRA has to handle these potential criminal issues and approval of the assistant commissioner of the compliance Department of the CRA has to approve it.

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Sam Seidman, CPA, CA, LPA
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