CBC News investigations: Here’s what they uncovered

Denis Bird / CBC / Sources: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, audit by Tax Revenue Agency ” Bird received a vote of confidence at Thursday’s meeting of a Finance committee during which he raised doubts about the audit that led to his being ordered to repay part of his tax bill. In 2015, CBC news found a total of 376 offshore companies registered in British Columbia, owned by foreign investors, where Mr. Bird was listed as the agent. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Bird claimed he had turned over such companies to shell companies without realizing that Ottawa had no oversight over the ownership. The CBC reported that his own financial records contradicted his claims. In January, the bank concerned said the remaining assets had been transferred to offshore accounts outside of Canada. In June, Bird admitted that he had acted improperly in dealing with his offshore clients. He also admitted that the average tax his clients paid was between $10,000 and $20,000. The CBC also found that Bird admitted he had failed to keep corporate records and that a fire alarm was never activated at his Toronto office. Bird’s conduct was found to have done “grave harm” to the integrity of Canada’s taxation system, accounting officers told CBC.But Geoff Coombs, from Taxpayers Against Government Waste, pointed out to the committee that “it’s not the government’s job to decide who’s the smartest guy in the room, it’s not their job to make money.”Tax laws mean each side should bear the burden of proof, Coombs said. He was concerned that the allegations against Bird were “gut level” allegations without concrete evidence. “We get a ‘C+’,” he said of Bird’s performance in dealing with high-net-worth clients. “We get this same rat pack of cronies every single time they go to court.”So how did Canada fare in prosecuting offshore tax schemes? In the 2013 Taxman Order, a federal investigation into seven million offshore shell companies, nine were judged “violations.” None of them were prosecution or finance minister reviews.”I think we’re guilty of turning a blind eye to what looks like fraud and we’re happy to let people benefit off that fraud,” Coombs told the committee. “We have spent 30 years licensing offshore companies. I think we have licensed hundreds of Canadians. We haven’t prosecuted a company.”

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