Police could see tax info without warrant under proposed law

Paul Mcleod
The Chronicle Herald: May 12, 2014

Police would be able to see Canadians’ private tax information without the use of a warrant under a proposed government law.

If it’s passed, the Canada Revenue Agency could voluntarily hand over a taxpayer’s data to police and the citizen would never be notified.

The change is proposed in the Conservatives’ 375-page omnibus budget bill through a clause that amends the Income Tax Act.

Under Bill C-31, police could see such information if there were reasonable grounds to believe a serious crime had been committed. But neither the police nor the revenue agency would have to make a case to a judge.

Instead, revenue agency staff would decide whether they should hand over the information.

It’s a major reversal of the current principle that the agency cannot share tax data with third parties except in very rare exceptions.

“Without telling anybody, any person who works at CRA could on their own decide to share information,” Stephane Eljarrat, partner at Montreal law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, said in an interview Monday.

Eljarrat warned the House of Commons finance committee last week that there needs to be judicial oversight of disclosure. Determining reasonable grounds of a crime is not the specialty or the job of a tax agency, he said.

“The CRA’s mandate is to collect taxes, it’s not to investigate crimes,” he said.

“To protect everybody, it should be done through a judge.”

If Canadians suspect their tax returns will be used against them, they may start hiding income, he told the committee.

(read the full article at The Chronicle Herald)

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