Revenue minister Gail Shea is stonewalling the parliamentary budget officer in efforts to find out how much money Canada loses in overseas tax evasion, says P.E.I. Senator Percy Downe.
Downe has been lobbying Ottawa to deal with the issue, and last fall asked parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page to prepare a cost estimate to the federal treasury of tax evasion. But Page says his office wasn't able to do that because it couldn't get the Canada Revenue Agency to release the information needed to make the calculations.
Downe said the lack of cooperation for overseas tax evasion is frustrating.
"There is all kinds of evidence that carpenters in western Canada, waitresses in eastern Canada, are all tracked down by the Canadian Revenue Agency [and] forced to pay whatever they owe if they are accused of not paying their fair share of taxes," said Downe.
"But very rich people who hide large sums of money overseas seem in most cases to get a tax holiday because the department does not go after them with the same degree of intensity that they do in domestic taxes."
In a recent appearance at the finance committee Shea said the OECD acknowledged that a tax gap is "almost impossible to calculate".
She notes that since 2006, the CRA has audited thousands of cases and identified over $4.5 billion in unpaid taxes abroad. She says that compares to a $174 million in the last year of the Liberal government.