Ottawa estimates corporations dodged up to $11.4 billion in 2014 tax payments

Very interesting article published on June 18th, 2019 via the Canadian Press, regarding what appears to be Canadian Corporations avoiding the payment of $11.4 billion dollars in taxes owing to the CRA.

My initial reaction to that headline was likely similar to what others who saw this headline probably felt – that corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes, that corporations get all these tax breaks and that the government allows corporations to not pay taxes.

But before I would be able to properly comment on this, I would have to read the article a few times to figure out what the actual story is.

According to the article, the issues are these;
“Corporations avoided paying Ottawa between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion in taxes in 2014″, according to a new federal report created by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which estimated these figures.

The report estimates the “tax gap”, or the difference between what is owed to the government and what was collected by the CRA — for small and medium enterprises is between $2.7 billion and $3.5 billion and for large corporations, between $6.7 billion and $7.9 billion.

“The corporate figures bring the total estimated 2014 tax gap from a series of studies by a dedicated CRA unit to between $21.8 billion and $26 billion — or 10.6% to 12.6% of revenues — not including funds recovered or lost due to audits.”

By not including funds recovered or lost during audits, and not going into detail as to what “audit” specifically means, it could represent the amount of taxes assessed during an audit (where the CRA found additional taxes owing), or lost (where the CRA had assessed a corporation, only to find out during an audit that the assessment was inaccurate or invalid, and thus reversed, revised or reduced).

Taking a closer look at the figures, might be a huge shock to anyone who feels that corporations get it easy in Canada.

In 2014, Corporate tax filers reported approximately $298 billion in taxable income and $40.9 billion in total federal tax payable. Even though they made up only about 1% of the 2.1 million corporate tax filers, large corporations reported about 52% of the total corporate taxable income and contributed about 54% of the federal tax.

More than half the taxes collected in this country come from large corporations!

After being fed data which explained that the corporate tax gap for 2014 was between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion, then the government goes on to mention that the “total” estimated 2014 tax gap is $21.8 billion and $26 billion, meaning between $12.4 billion and $14.6 billion is taxes owed by individuals who are not paying their taxes…

Then the government explains that after the audits, which were left out of the equation, are finalized, the corporate tax gap will actually be reduced by between 31-40% for small enterprises and between 64-75% for large corporations, which means overall, the corporate tax gap for 2014 is actually somewhere between $3.3 billion and $5.3 billion and not $9.4 billion to $11.4 billion.

Clear, right?

So that means the actual tax gap, taking into consideration the post-audit figures that the CRA anticipates, is actually between $15.7 billion to $19.9 billion, and of those taxes owing, most of it is owing from individual Canadians who are not paying.

Meanwhile, large corporations pay 54% of the total taxes paid to this country to fund services, roads, healthcare, and the many benefits that we have all come to appreciate.

Why is this article geared towards corporations? Shouldn’t it be thanking the corporations and pointing fingers at the Canadians who are not paying their fair share? Why was it positioned this way?

Since that answer could be anything, ranging from inaccurate reporting to political manoeuvring, then the only question that remains from this article surrounds what constitutes “taxes owing”? Is that figure based on amounts reported by Canadians who just never paid the taxes, or does that figure include assessed amounts owing that the CRA created, and which may or may not be owing? If it’s the latter then it’s highly likely that the tax gap is even smaller.

NOTE

Ask me one day to tell the story about the notional assessments that I raised while working at the CRA at the request of my team leader to “get the attention” of the business… It got the attention of more than the business! It got the attention of the Minister of Finance. Lesson learned.

So, to conclude, there is a tax gap. There will always be a tax gap because not every Canadian has the ability to pay their taxes in full and on time, each and every year. As well, not every Canadian files their taxes on time, or are required to file on time, which means the full picture will never be forthcoming because of all the moving parts.

The timing and content of this article leads me to believe that the Federal government and the CRA going to come after corporations.  They shouldn’t, based on the actual figures, but corporations do not vote in elections – people do.

What the true intent of this article is, however, is very unclear to me.

Author: Warren Orlans

Welcome to inTAXicating. My name is Warren Orlans and this is my blog. I have been writing this blog since 2008 to provide clarity around taxation issues which I feel should have been explained somewhere - preferably by the CRA. I have over 20-year's experience in the taxation industry, 11 of them working for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and 5-years working in the private sector Managing the tax departments for large financial institutions. It was at that point when I realized that people were coming to my blog seeking advice, and asking me to assist them with their tax issues, so I opened up my own business and started helping people deal with issues relating to the CRA. My tax career began pretty much out of university at the CRA, in Collections, where I moved up, across, over and up again through their division with stops in Enforcement, Taxpayer Relief (then Fairness), Audit, Directors Liability, Training, Mentoring, GST, GST/HST, Payroll, Corporate Tax, Personal tax, and probably much more. If you have a collections, compliance or audit issue with the CRA, inTAXicating is the place you need to contact. inTAXicating works in strategic partnership with amazing tax lawyers, insolvency practitioners, mortgage brokers, debt counselling experts and much more. If you have a tax question, feel free to ask in the comments, or email me at either info@intaxicating.ca, or intaxicatingtaxservices@gmail.com.

3 thoughts on “Ottawa estimates corporations dodged up to $11.4 billion in 2014 tax payments”

  1. Hi I would like make a complaint to the CRA–but not on the snitch line.It is to do with paying under the table by a company with about 20 employees who punch a clock but are paid all the overtime at straight time in cash!About 60000 dollars year.The money for this is generated by about 150000 in cash sales.They have a way of applying this expense and writing it off.I am concerned if I do not get the information and explanation to them clearly they will miss the chance to succeed.they MUST get the time clock and cards!I am willing to go to them and prefer to explain in person.

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    1. Good afternoon Mike,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. Obviously having the opportunity to pay employees under the table for their overtime saves the company money because they don’t have to deduct CPP, EI and Tax from those payments and then match the deductions and submit them to the CRA.

      The employees also “win” because around half of that payment would otherwise be deducted for tax, so they get “double” the amount in their pocket.

      What is really short-sighted about this approach – aside from the fact that it’s illegal – is that at some point in the future either one of the employees or the company are going to get caught up in an audit investigation and once it comes to light, each and every employee with then be assessed penalties and interest for the income they were evading, plus they will have to pay back the tax owing. The employer will have the same penalties, however, having to pay back such a large amount for all the employees treated this way could put the company in financial difficulty and that often leads to layoffs.

      It’s an incredibly short-sighted approach which can and often does have long reaching negative impacts.

      So I do recommend that you contact the Informant Leads line at the CRA. Make sure that you have proof. Any proof, and stop this nonsense before the CRA catches up to them and it costs them far more than they would benefit.

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      1. Hi Thanks for the reply. Very accurate however you may have missed-overtime paid at straight time-cash.10 hours OT equals 10 hours cash at straight time rate.This changes everything.The employer is a bigger winner.The employee marginally.Both are participating in a crime and should be reported however I would think the employer is the bigger “fish” for Revenue Canada.The scheme belongs to the employer and the employee unwittingly participated or not given an option when hired or not remained employed had they spoke up.The next question is where does the cash come from?I am anxious about this and would rather talk directly with someone.

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