CRA's new Postal Code Project targeting richest homeowners
With the release of the Panama and Paradise Papers, the headlines have been filled with world celebrities engaging in offshore tax evasion. But Canada has its share of tax evaders too who engage in “creative bookkeeping,” which is why the Canada Revenue Agency has launched a new initiative to crack down.
The CRA’s new Postal Code Project is meant to target some of Canada’s richest neighbourhoods, using high-priced real estate in five regions of the country as an indicator of wealth.
The project is focusing on more than 1,100 homes that are valued in the millions, says Ted Gallivan, the assistant commissioner for International, Large Business and Investigations Branch at the Canada Revenue Agency.
“(We’re) looking at the value of the home and seeing who owns it: is it a company, is it a trust, is it an individual? What other information do we have about them?” he told CTV’s Your Morning from Ottawa.
Revenue agency workers will conduct “in-depth risk assessments” on each of these houses, looking for signs that the homeowners are trying to hide their wealth is being from the taxman.
“Basically, we’re looking to make sure the people have paid the taxes that they owe.”
Gallivan says the CRA has engaged in similar projects in the past, but this is the first time they’re “taking it to scale” and reviewing so many residences at once.
“The message we’re trying to send is the tax authority has the resources and the mandate to go hard after ‘aggressive tax planning’,” Gallivan said.
If CRA assessors find houses that are owned by numbered companies, for example, and those companies are owned by a numbered company that is owned by a trust, that will likely raise a few red flags and prompt the CRA to request more information. If enough concerns are raised, the revenue agency would launch a full audit.
Gallivan says a lot of houses in Canada are owned by non-residents, such as trusts, foundations, and corporations.
“There could be really good legitimate reasons for that that have nothing to do with tax -- or they could be part of a complex tax structure designed to avoid paying your fair share,” he said.
The CRA is focused on those multinationals or individuals who know about tax loopholes and have the wealth to take advantage of them or to try to profit from them.
It’s then up to the courts, Gallivan said, to decide whether these homeowners’ attempts at “creative accounting” are legal.