OTTAWA—Canadian tax authorities have launched roughly 100 audits into taxpayers named in the Paradise Papers offshore tax leak, according to documents tabled in Parliament.
The Canada Revenue Agency said it has identified 3,000 people or corporations with “links” to the Paradise Papers database, revealed in Canada by a joint Toronto Star-CBC investigation.
While approximately 100 Canadian taxpayers named in the database have been identified for audit, the agency reported none have been referred for criminal prosecution for tax evasion and not a single penny has been recouped.
“Audits and criminal investigations such as those linked to the Paradise Papers are complex and, due to those complexities, can require months or years to complete,” the documents read.
“It’s a lack of action and lack of results,” said Pierre-Luc Dusseault, the New Democrats’ critic for tax issues.
In 2017, the Star and CBC-Radio Canada reported that 3,300 Canadians were named in the Paradise Papers database, a trove of documents leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The documents, combed over by hundreds of journalists across the world, documented the questionable but not necessarily illegal world of offshore banking and tax avoidance. Canadian business people, wealthy citizens and even former prime ministers were named in the database of leaked records from Appleby, a law firm founded in Bermuda that specialized in offshore tax schemes.
In November 2017, the CRA said they had 990 audits and 42 criminal investigations into offshore “financial structures” underway. On Tuesday, CRA Minister Diane Lebouthillier said there are currently 50 ongoing criminal investigations related to offshore tax evasion.
“We have hired over 1,300 auditors and have over 50 ongoing criminal investigations related to offshore tax evasion,” wrote Émilie Gagnon, a spokesperson for Lebouthillier, in a statement to the Star.
“Our investments are giving the agency the resources it needs to get the job done and we are starting to see results.”
“Tax cheats can no longer hide.”
Dusseault disagreed, accusing the Liberal government of not being aggressive enough in pursuing tax cheats who hide their wealth offshore.
“If you want to send a very strong message around the world who are committing tax evasion around the world, you need to take action very quickly, very seriously,” Dusseault said.
“The (Liberal) government hasn’t convicted anyone of international tax evasion. So it’s really a lack of results that they don’t take it seriously enough.”
The CRA told Parliament 25 employees had been assigned to work on Paradise Papers issues specifically, including “research, data analytics, risk assessments, audits and co-ordinating efforts with the agency’s international partners.” Over 30,600 employees work in the CRA’s tax section, according to departmental records.
Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier