Former Calgary man sentenced to 11 years in jail and fined $550,892 for tax evasion and fraud

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced that James Harvey Cameron, a former resident of Calgary, has been sentenced to 11 years in jail and fined $550,892 after defrauding investors of over $2.5 million through a deceptive investment scheme. The judge also ordered Cameron, 66, to pay restitution of $1,831,700 to his victims.

If Mr. Cameron fails to pay his fine in six months he will have to serve an additional four years in jail for default.

From 2002-2006, Cameron operated a fraudulent RRSP scheme which promised a 2% monthly return to individual investors. The scheme raised just under $8 million, but only paid out a total of $882,000 to investors.  Cameron misappropriated the funds to support his luxurious lifestyle, including buying property, cars, a horse, and a $75,000 cruise in the Bahamas. He also transferred funds offshore to Barbados.

A Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) investigation proved that Cameron diverted $3.9 million of the investors’ funds for his own use and failed to report this as income on his tax returns, evading $1,132,882 in taxes.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that [Cameron] executed a deceptive investment scheme with subjective knowledge of the prohibited act and consequences,” said presiding judge, Justice P.R. Jeffrey, in his written reasons for convicting Cameron. “The CRA acted towards him with considerable patience, forbearance and fairness.  He was given ample opportunity to provide to CRA any plausible alternate explanation for what occurred, yet did not.”

Justice Jeffrey commented in his sentencing report: “The $1,831,700 I have ordered payable in restitution should be subtracted from his [Cameron] total taxable income… therefore I find his taxable income to have been $2,118,817.”

Cameron was convicted of tax evasion under the Income Tax Act and fraud under the Criminal Code.

Sentencing took place today at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary.

You can report suspected tax evasion to the CRA by visiting https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/programs/about-canada-revenue-agency-cra/informant-leads-program.html or by calling the National Leads Centre at 1-866-809-6841.

All case-specific information in this news release was obtained from the court records.

Did you know that between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2017, total domestic and offshore related criminal investigations have resulted in 408 convictions involving $122 million in federal tax evaded and court sentences totaling approximately $44 million in court fines and 3,103 months in jail?

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Expected Changes to CRA’s VDP: Preview

On June 9th, 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) launched a 60-day online consultation with Canadians on the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP), in which the CRA is seeking input from the public to ensure that the program is more “responsive, innovative and fairer for all Canadians”.

One of the key asks by the CRA is this question; “We are asking you – when should the VDP apply? Should it apply only to those who knowingly choose to not pay their taxes or also to those who make mistakes on their returns?”

Based on that question, many organizations have been putting out materials stating that the CRA is changing the program and that it is already been decided, however that is not the case, yet, as the consultation period has not even ended.

What Is Voluntary Disclosure?

The Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) gives Canadian taxpayers a chance to change a tax return they have previously filed or file a return that should have filed and by making these changes through the VDP, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may give relief from prosecution and penalties.

By applying to the CRA under the VDP, a Canadian taxpayer might only pay the taxes owing plus interest.

The disclosure MUST meet all four of the following conditions to be valid;
1. A penalty would apply
2. It is voluntary, which means it is made before the CRA takes any compliance action against you
3. the information is at least one year overdue
4. it includes all the relevant information – meaning it is full and complete.

Anyone can use the VDP, including individuals, businesses, employers, payers, trusts and estates, whether a resident or a non-resident of Canada.

Why Changes to the VDP?

When the CRA found out that there were Canadian taxpayers hiding money offshore, they began to consider whether the current VDP was fair for all Canadians. Should a taxpayer who forgets to include an income source be granted the same relief as a taxpayer hiding money overseas and failing to disclose that income in order to reduce the amount of taxes they would have to pay in Canada?

The answer clearly is no, it’s not fair, and the CRA wants to change the program to make it easier for actual errors and omissions to be fixed, while making it much more difficult to allow tax evaders to utilize the program to avoid prosecution.

The most meaningful change expected in the VDP is the introduction of a two-track system:
1) the General Program, and
2) the Limited Program.

The Limited Program would limit the availability of the program in certain circumstances or where there is a “major non-compliance” as such relief for penalty and partial interest relief could be seen as “overly generous.”
Under the General Program, taxpayers who qualify for the VDP will not be charged penalties or referred for criminal prosecution with respect to the disclosure, and may be entitled to partial relief for any interest in respect of assessments preceding the three most recent years of returns required to be filed.

Whereas under the Limited Program, applications that disclose “major non-compliance” will not receive the same level of relief as they would under the current VDP. Taxpayers will not be referred for criminal prosecution and will not be charged a gross negligence penalty with respect to the disclosure, however, other penalties will be charged as applicable such as a late filing penalty, a failure to remit penalty, an instalment penalty or an omission penalty. Additionally, no interest relief will be provided.

What Might Constitute “Major Non-Compliance?”

Major non-compliance might look like this:
• Taxpayers who undertook active efforts to avoid detection through the use of offshore vehicles or other means
• Large dollar amounts being disclosed
• Multiple years of non-compliance
• A sophisticated taxpayer, or use of sophisticated tax avoidance techniques under the advice of a sophisticated professional, and
• The disclosure is made the CRA has released information aimed at cracking down on taxpayers failing to disclose all their income

The determination of whether an application should be processed under the Limited Program will be made on a case by case basis.

Other Considerations
While determining the status of an application to the VDP, the CRA will also consider;
• If they will require payment in full of the estimated taxes owing as a condition of acceptance
• If transfer pricing cases and applications from corporations with gross revenue in excess of $250 million qualify
• If applications that disclose income from the proceeds of crime will be allowed access to the program

The CRA will continue to cancel VDP applications if they learn that the disclosure was not full and complete, or if was intentionally inaccurate.

The release of the changes to the CRA’s VDP will be announced in the fall, and the above is speculation as to what the new program will look like. If you, or anyone you know has failed to fully or accurately disclosure income, it’s best for them to speak to a professional now, especially before there are changes to the program which might disqualify them.
At inTAXicating, we are always available to discuss the CRA’s VDP and you can find us at http://www.intaxicating.ca, or send us an email to info@inTAXicating.ca.

CRA’s Offshore Informant Leads Line Succeeding

A vast majority of Canadians pay their fair share of taxes, but those who don’t put an increased burden on the rest of us. That is why the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has implemented initiatives to help Canadians participate in the efforts to help fight offshore tax avoidance and evasion. The Offshore Tax Informant Program…

via Federal programs in place to address offshore tax avoidance and evasion — National Post – Top Stories