Dennis Howlett's blog

Paying Your Taxes is Political Crap? Game on, Apple

Wealthy multinationals are getting a reality check. They are waking up to a world no longer willing to look the other way while they play the tax dodging game.

The most powerful example is the recent European Commission ruling that Apple owes Ireland $19 billion in unpaid taxes. The tax dispute was the result of the Irish government making a sweetheart deal with Apple that has lasted more than a decade. The money is to be paid to Ireland – a small country of 4.6 million, which could afford to pay every man, woman, and child over $4,000 each.

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The KPMG Hearings: How MPs Tip Toe Around Tax Guys

In a pre-emptive move, Royal Bank of Canada has agreed to give the Canada Revenue Agency records on hundreds of its clients revealed in the Panama Papers. The files stretch out over 40 years of RBC’s involvement in Panama.

This is good news – but here’s a backstory to consider: It wasn’t a decision RBC took simply because it was the right thing to do. The Canada Revenue Agency went to the Federal Court with a motion to get those files. CRA argued that it needed to investigate whether the 429 offshore companies RBC set up or handled in Panama through Mossack Fonseca had been used to evade tax. It also came days before the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists releases a list of Canadian offshore companies registered in Panama, as well as the names of shareholders and directors.

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Public Vigilance: Lessons from the Panama Papers

First there was public outrage over the covert activities and entitled attitudes revealed in the Panama Papers.  Now there is an added sense of betrayal that governments and regulatory agencies let this happen on their watch.

Is it collusion, corruption or just plain incompetence? That answer will likely play out over time. But we need a public demand for accountability. Canadians need a plan to make sure that our leaders understand what we have known for a while - the tax system is neither fair nor doing its job. Here's a short list of where citizens needs to keep up the pressure. 

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Taxen Haven Users Should be Disqualified from Government Contracts

Politicians say that tackling tax haven abuse takes time. But what if, in the meantime, the government used its purchasing power to encourage better behaviour from its larger suppliers? What if governments refused to pay hard-earned taxpayer dollars to corporations that set up small offices in tax havens in a cynical attempt to play the tax game?  What if government drew the line in the tax haven sand and stood up for what tax fairness really means?

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The Cost of Tax Havens to Canada: It Gets Real in North Bay

Canadians for Tax Fairness goes to North Bay February 11 to attend a screening of the award-winning tax haven documentary The Price We Pay. The explosion in tax haven use by Canadian multinationals and wealthy individuals is robbing Canada of needed revenues - so the evening is not about something that is happening somewhere far away.  Dennis Howlett explains.

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The Canada Revenue Agency Needs an Overhaul

The first time it happened I was taken aback.

A Canada Revenue Agency employee approached me after I had given a talk to a community group in Charlottetown about tax havens. She shared her frustrations and concerns. Mismanagement and misplaced priorities, she said, were hobbling the capacity of the agency to do a good job on behalf of Canadians. Staff were being forced to throw the book at ordinary taxpayers who had simply made small errors in their tax returns. They were no longer able to exercise discretion or arrange for more flexible payment plans. Meanwhile, big time tax cheats were getting off lightly.

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