Internal Canada Revenue Agency documents confirm the agency is cutting some of its most highly-trained staff and folding international tax evasion units…
The shakeup is raising concern both inside and outside the agency that the government is backing away from its promised crackdown on offshore tax cheats. Both the 2013 and 2014 federal budgets contained extensive pledges to increase enforcement in this area. There is also concern that veteran staff who know the ins and outs of offshore tax schemes will lose their jobs, leading some to take jobs in the private sector using that same knowledge to help clients reduce their tax bill…
Andrew Carnegie, a 19th century robber baron and 20th century philanthropist, once said:
As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
That turns out to be good advice when considering Canada’s Conservative Party. It claimed that it would take aggressive action against tax evasion which, by extrapolation of American data, could be costing Canada $10 billion per year in tax revenue. In fact, the Canadian government has limited the ability of tax collectors to look behind complicated schemes of evasion and avoidance.
Once again, Conservatives are proven to be servants of the rich and powerful. We should not be surprised because prominent Conservatives have played professional roles is setting up offshore arrangements to avoid income taxes. Andrew Saxton, my own MP and a former Credit Suisse officer, is one of those.
In 2014, Credit Suisse plead guilty in the U.S. to criminal charges and paid $2.6 billion in penalties for assisting Americans evade tax. Numerous other professional companies, including the giant KPMG and Swiss bank UBS, were held to account for involvement in tax frauds. By comparison, Canadian tax recovery efforts have been muted and will now be further crippled.
The following item was published in April 2011:
In my riding of North Vancouver, the incumbent MP is Andrew Saxton. I did not vote for him in 2008 but my friend did because he liked Saxton’s local connections. Robert hates carpetbaggers and is still angry about Montreal born, Toronto based Liberal staffer Warren Kinsella running here in 1997.
By the way, Palmer Jarvis Communications gave $10,000 to Kinsella’s campaign, a fact more interesting when we learned AdScam inquiry head Justice John Gomery found important correspondence of Kinsella, then Executive Assistant to the Minister of Public Works, was “highly inappropriate.” Adscam, you may recall, had much to do with government money being spread around through advertising agencies in scams that resulted in jail time and much embarrassment to ethically challenged Liberals. We can only speculate about why Palmer Jarvis passed along a substantial donation to the former Chretien assistant running in North Vancouver.
Friend Robert heard Andrew Saxton was the Tory candidate in 2008 and his support was assured because according to Saxton’s official bio:
Andrew spent his early childhood living on the North Shore where his father built the Grouse Mountain skyride and headed up the mountain resort.
Actually, Andrew Saxton Sr. has been involved in much more than Grouse Mountain Resorts. He was a founder or senior executive of Laurentide Financial Corporation Ltd., Elite Insurance Company, BC Television Broadcasting System Ltd., Granville Island Hotel and Marina Ltd., King George Development Corporation and has been involved with numerous other corporations, including Impark and Northwest Sports, one time owner of the NHL Canucks. Another directorship is with Canadian Commercial Corporation, a crown trade accommodation agency that specializes in that right-wing habit of socializing risks and losses and privatizing profits. Anyway, I’m sure father and son appreciate the ability to get together in Ottawa without having to worry about paying their own travel expenses.
Unlike Robert, I was not so keen on Saxton, despite the candidate’s claimed roots in our North Shore community. Junior may have been born here but he did his schooling at Ontario’s vainglorious Upper Canada College. That’s the all-grades English style boy’s school where annual costs for boarding students is now over $50,000. James FitzGerald, an old boy, wrote a very non-official history of UCC. He says about the school:
Since opening its doors in 1829, Upper Canada College has stood at the very centre of the Canadian Establishment, turning out generations of Eatons and Bassetts, Masseys and Thomsons, Conachers and Airds.
Saxton went on to the University of Western Ontario then worked for Credit Suisse in Switzerland and New York. That is the international bank caught in the glare of a major IRS investigation of tax evasion that resulted in the indictment of a number of Credit Suisse executives. The bank is under scrutiny of tax authorities in Brazil, France and other nations. It is involved in a major German investigation after eleven hundred affluent citizens stashed more than a billion untaxed dollars in Swiss accounts.
Andrew Saxton Jr. has connection to an international tax investigation arising from his career with the bank. CNews Parliamentary Bureau reported:
Saxton’s name appears in Federal Court documents showing he approved a couple’s request to transfer close to $200,000 to a bank account in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Opposition parties say Saxton, the parliamentary secretary to the Treasury Board, should be dismissed from his position or at least step aside to allow an investigation to clear his name.
“The parliamentary secretary authorized these transfers and, as an experienced banker, he knew exactly what he was doing and why,” said NDP finance critic Thomas Mulcair, adding Saxton has no choice but to step down.
It is shocking to see that this government will tolerate an individual who would have authorized the transfer of funds to Switzerland so that a couple could avoid paying Canadian taxes,” said Bloc Quebecois MP Serge Cardin.
I am reading a fascinating book by Nicholas Shaxson, Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens. It is no surprise to anyone with more than a tiny bit of knowledge of international finance that tax avoidance and outright tax evasion are rampant in the international economy. Keep in mind that Canada has the weakest laws among developed nations against corporate crime, although the Republican Congress is aiming to have the USA catch up, or drop down, depending on your view.
Prem Sikka, professor of the University of Essex had this to say about the book:
An absolute gem that deserves to be read by anyone interested in the way contemporary globalization is undermining social justice. This masterpiece illuminates the dark places and shows the visible hand of governments, corporations, banks, accountants, lawyers and other pirates in creating fictitious offshore transactions and structures and picking our pockets.
This financial engineering has enabled companies and the wealthy elites to dodge taxes. The result is poverty, erosion of social infrastructure and hard won welfare rights and higher taxes for ordinary people. Nicholas Shaxson has done a wonderful job in lifting the lid off the inbuilt corruption that has become so naturalised in the western world.
I remind you of how media trolls like the Vancouver Sun’s think-tank alumni and the stars of talk radio, Bill Good and the Michaels, Campbell and Levy, regularly report that no one wants to pay more taxes. Therefore, healthcare Canadians enjoy must be slashed. Of course you won’t hear those boys talking about schemes of our wealthiest citizens to hide assets and income from taxation. And, we are not talking small sums. Extrapolation of American data suggests that Canada is losing over $10 billion a year in tax revenue, BC more than a $1 billion annually.
U.S. Senator Carl Levin is a longtime fighter against offshore tax abuse. He is working to stop U.S. tax cheats from using foreign havens and to stop the U.S. being a tax haven for foreign tax cheats. Last week, he spoke at the U.S. introduction of Treasure Island:
Nick Shaxson admirably lays out the history of how tax havens have become such an insidious feature of the global economy. Today, folks around the globe know to go offshore to hide money. They know tax havens can be used to hide funds not only from tax authorities, but from law enforcement, courts and creditors.
Enron had over 400 offshore subsidiaries. A single building in the Cayman Islands, called the Ugland House, serves as the mail drop for nearly 19,000 companies incorporated there for tax-dodging purposes. Hedge funds whose employees live right here in the U.S. pretend to be based in tax havens to dodge U.S. taxes, and some companies keep their money offshore so they don’t have to pay one thin dime to support this country – in fact, they get tax refunds instead.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, has spent more than a decade exploring how offshore tax havens conceal wealth, distort commerce, and abet crime, money laundering and corruption. The truth is that tax havens have declared economic war on honest countries, including the United States by helping U.S. taxpayers dodge U.S. taxes and rob the U.S. Treasury of needed funds.
The ongoing drain on the U.S. Treasury is massive – and it bears directly on the budget and deficit debate. In 2006, our Subcommittee estimated that offshore tax abuses cost our Treasury about $100 billion a year in lost revenues.
Democracy Now! interviewed Shaxson and you can hear it by podcast or video. This is their promo:
We look at how corporations and the wealthy use offshore banks and tax havens to avoid paying taxes and other governmental regulations. “Tax havens have grown so fast in the era of globalization, since the 1970s, that they are now right at the heart of the global economy and are absolutely huge,” says our guest, British journalist Nicholas Shaxson.
“There are anywhere between $10 and $20 trillion sitting offshore at the moment. Half of world trade is processed in one way or another through tax havens.”
Shaxson is the author of the new book, Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens.
I suggest that when you decide how you will mark your ballot, put weight on the actions of politicians, not on their words.