The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) have announced that they are opening up their Informant Leads (snitch) line to information regarding COVID-19 benefit program fraud.
Amid reports that people are double dipping or taking the benefits when there are not entitled to, the CRA are intent on not waiting for 2021 when people file their tax returns, but are asking for Canadians to come forward and provide information regarding the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).
The Snitch Line accepts information of tax cheating such as not declaring all income, accepting “under the table” cash payments or setting up a fake business to claim losses and thus reduce taxes. The information reported goes right to an audit group, who compare the information they receive with the information the CRA already has on that individual and business, and if the amount to recover is significant, will act to seek recovery.
The CRA said it is looking for information regarding people who are receiving either CERB or CESB who were ineligible, or businesses or charities who are “misusing” the wage subsidy program.
The decision to go after cheaters marks a significant turning point in the Trudeau government’s desire to take on fraud of COVID-19 emergency aid programs. In mid-April, a CRA spokesperson dissuaded Canadians from snitching on potentially ineligible CERB recipients because, at that time, the CRA said their focus was on “getting crucial (CERB) payments to those who urgently need it now.”
The CRA stated that those who received a payment to which they weren’t entitled will be required to repay the amount in due course.
Due course meant with the filing of the 2021 personal income tax return for many who applied for and received the credit, only to learn that their income did not dip below the amounts making them eligible to receive the funds. With so many Canadians providing direct deposit information to the CRA, means that with direct access to your bank account, the CRA can take those funds when they want. It also means if there are not sufficient funds in your bank account that the CRA can freeze you bank account and send a garnishment to your employer, if warranted.
With this significant change in direction, it should be noted that any business or individual who are caught receiving money they we not entitled to, will be ordered to reimburse it and it could be quite costly. In the case of the wage subsidy, a business which falsified documents, in order to claim the benefit can face penalties up to 225% of the amount received through the program.
The CRA and Service Canada have records of all individuals who’ve received payments for the CERB and CESB. What has changed is that the CRA have brought in their audit staff – presently not working on audits due to COVID – to verify payments were correctly allocated.
How to Snitch
In order to successfully provide information to the CRA through their Informant Leads line, there is information that the CRA requires. Remember, all information provided to the CRA is anonymous.
Depending on the program they may have falsely claimed, the CRA would require details on the suspect’s work situation (CERB and CESB), their schooling situation (CESB) or their employer’s number of employees and total payroll (CEWS).
In many cases, people brag to their friends and neighbours about how stupid the government is, by providing them with benefit payments when they are not entitled, and that information is usually enough for the CRA to investigate.
The link to the CRA’s Informant Leads Program information, is here.