Tax Evasion & Avoidance

Subsidies, tax havens, bribery and fraud

The Panama Papers are in the news today but the underlying stories are not new. American commentator Matthew Yglesias reports on the latest developments. He says the leaked papers:

…offer the most granular look ever at a banal reality that’s long been hiding in plain sight. Even as the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nations have engaged in increasingly complex and intensive efforts at international cooperation to smooth the wheels of global commerce, they have willfully chosen to allow the wealthiest members of Western society to shield their financial assets from taxation (and in many cases divorce or bankruptcy settlement) by taking advantage of shell companies and tax havens.

If Panama or the Cayman Islands were acting to undermine the integrity of the global pharmaceutical patent system, the United States would stop them. But the political elite of powerful Western nations have not acted to stop relatively puny Caribbean nations from undermining the integrity of the global tax system — largely because Western economic elites don’t want them to.

Tara Golshan provides more detail.

After an American Senate investigation in 2011 suggested annual tax losses to America of more than $100 billion dollars, investigative journalist Nicholas Shaxson of the Tax Justice Network stated:

The first thing that really has to be done is for people to start to see how big and bad this system has become. …As a first step for reform, we need to understand that and spread the message.

…Somebody else has to pay for those taxes that aren’t being paid… You get a compression of the tax system because of this dynamic. Ordinary people have to pay more in order to pay the taxes that wealthier people are not paying.

How much extra is being paid by British Columbians because of tax evasion and avoidance? If the cost to the USA is more than $100 billion, the cost to Canada is likely $10 billion to $15 billion C$ a year. BC’s share extrapolates to more than a billion dollars a year.

Proving Yglesias’ assertion that economic elites don’t want an end to tax abuses is a Globe and Mail report from 2014, which followed work by Elizabeth Thompson at iPolitics:

“Internal Canada Revenue Agency documents confirm the agency is cutting some of its most highly-trained staff and folding international tax evasion units…

If we calculate the value of subsidies and tax expenditures (think BC Hydro, IPPs and gas production) the financial imposition on ordinary BC residents measures in the billions.


I’ve written about this subject previously. Click on the category “Tax Evasion & Avoidance” shown on the left to scroll through related articles. I also suggest you view YouTube videos that autoplay if you run the Democracy Now video shown above.

9 replies »

  1. By email, a reader asked, “Do you think there will be any BC Liberal connections in the Panama Papers documents release?”

    My answer:

    The Panama Papers certainly bring emphasis to patterns of behaviour throughout the world. Any of us who had examined methodology of tax evasion and avoidance are not surprised by what has been revealed, only by the scope of it. Yet, I understand those are files from a single Central American law firm. What's been made available is probably a drop in the proverbial bucket.

    Accordingly, the likelihood that an event of interest to us will be revealed is small. The most important outcome of this leak is increased public awareness of behaviour patterns that most consider wrong.

    Many policies of the current Liberal government make little sense. If public money is to be spent or public assets given to private organizations, most of us believe the decision makers have an duty to maximize returns to citizens of the province. When that is not done, we're left to wonder why.

    One possibility is the philosophical belief that private interests should always outrank those of the public or the state. Another possibility is that decision makers are gaining secret benefits for doing deals that confer benefits on certain people. In thinking about which is more likely, I would consider that greed is much more common among humans than is anarcho-capitalism.


  2. its too bad only certain news organizations received the documents. They will look for their own countries' names, but those of others, not so much.

    Perhaps CBC might have a summer work program for techies, financial students, law students, etc. going through the docs pertaining to Canada. I'd certainly volunteer towards the salaries. Some young computer whizz might develop a new program to find what they need. all sorts of potential. If the government hadn't down scaled some areas of the RCMP, they could re-allocate staff to looking for fraud and tax evasion. Because I bet you the loose of taxes is hurting Canada more than any wanna be terrorist. Gee they might even find shell companies established to move money around to assist with terrorist organizations. they found businessmen funnelling things to Syria………..

    Nothing will happen. Nothing will change. Its all about the elite staying elite. Its all about the average taxpayer enabling the elite to maintain their life style. How stupid are the voters of this country?

    If I don't pay taxes, I'll hear from CRA. somebody avoids taxes by Panama lawyers, well they just go through life doing fine/

    Its not different from school boards having to absorb increase in their electricity bills, but Christy clark's donor buddy with a mine, well he only has to pay the interest on his outstanding bill. It all part of the same mind set.

    So how many B.C. Lieberals, friends and associates names will be found in the paper “dump”.


  3. This brings the KPMG Isle of Man tax scheme back into focus. I'd be interested to see how Trudeau and his gang spin not going after these tax shelters? Not really expecting an epiphany of accountability from the LPC on that matter. Trudeau has apparently undertaken hiring some more CRA folks, I wonder if any of their efforts will be focused on the Isle of Man folks? I suspect that the KPMG client list contains quite a few members of the LPC and the BC Liberals.


  4. Best answer I've read yet. The distinct possibility is that there are some who benefit in this country and indeed this province.
    The gutting of the CRA, and its foreign oversight operation, along with “senior” investigators, by the previous conservative government, was a huge win for those evading taxes, via offshore havens. The resulting chase of bingo operators and the various charities, that ensued after the above issue, was a ridiculous move by the CRA.We are being led by those whose intent is to manipulate, divide, and through “greed”, extort or simply steal, the wealth of this country. We are all part of this country. If the elites continue in their pervse “theft” of wealth from the rest of us, there will be a consequence. Historically, the breakdown of governance, through graft, theft, and political malfeasance, has spawned more war and ideological change, than many other issues.
    The B.C. Liberals, are the “poster child”, of a new and troubling form of kleptocracy.
    They must be stopped, and their brand of corruption and ultimately manipulative form of governance, eradicated.


  5. Well said. The key phrase you mention is, “its all about the average taxpayer enabling the elite to maintain their lifestyle.” To which I would add, ” and maintain power through manipulative governance, that they directly support, through cronyism and political donation.
    We currently are manipulated through corporate, with support from government, propaganda. The elites use this “power” to influence their “bottom” lines, and direct involvement in decision making.
    The real scam is the promise of jobs and economic growth. All the while increasing fee's and costs to ensure taxpayers and those at the bottom, have a good reason to support them. The money to continue to pay for a decreasing standard of living and the fee's governance keeps imposing.
    Theft on two fronts. Resource wealth and increased taxpayer fees, and taxes. The losers are the taxpayers, all the way around.


  6. It's also too bad e.a.f. that all the NDP can muster up, is a complaint about Christybelles fundraiser. Even if it gets traction it will be investigated and dismissed by the Liberals best friend, conflict-of-interest commissioner, Paul Fraser.


  7. “One possibility is the philosophical belief that private interests should always outrank those of the public or the state”

    A good point, and yet…for Premier Smirk and others of her ilk, it is only *our* public or state whose interests should be outranked, they have no problem giving the farm away to foreign state-owned enterprises.

    And if those foreign states have serious human rights issues, so much the better (or so it would seem).


  8. Liberals throwing more $ in the CRA budget will not make a dent in resources needed to actually do something about all this offshoring. They claim that it will, but in reality it won't even cover the previous cuts from the dark decade of Harper.
    I'm sensing 50 shades of black in the new blockbuster #Harper The Sequel


  9. The 21st century is indeed the era of the “grifter”, where faux capitalism, is masking a deep and sinister new age Fascism, where the elites, the rich and powerful, play government like a marionette show, by pulling strings here and strings there.

    There is no more 'public good', rather it is all a percentage game.

    Donald Trump exemplifies the “Age of the Grifter” with his dark lies, deep deceit and a farcical platform, where the uneducated regal in finding their scapegoats.

    Herr Harper was the same, with his pseudo religious banter; his dislike of science; his disdain for the average man/woman.

    We are now entering a new dark age, made all the more sinister by corrupt politicians and incompetent bureaucrats overseeing a crumbling nation, whee the stateless elites have sucked all financial good out of.

    As in the past, the only outcome is a revolution and the question is: “Will be a quiet revolution or a loud and nasty fight?” My money is on the latter.


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