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Canada's tax system unfairly favours wealthy: poll of CRA auditors

Businessmen walk in Toronto's financial district on Feb. 27, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A recent union-sponsored survey suggests an overwhelming majority of federal government auditors believe Canada’s tax system unfairly favours the wealthy over average Canadians.

The poll, conducted by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, found nine out of 10 auditors and other tax professionals surveyed agreed that corporations and wealthy Canadians can more easily avoid paying taxes than less well-off individuals.

The survey of more than 1,700 members of the union, which represents tax professionals at the Canada Revenue Agency, also found four of every five respondents think loopholes and tax credits built into the system benefit corporations and the rich.

Some 84 per cent of respondents to the internal online survey said they believe that by better enforcing existing tax laws, the government could capture more tax revenues without raising taxes.

The anonymous survey was sent electronically to nearly 11,600 PIPSC members working for the tax agency between Feb. 20 and March 6.

Of the 2,170 respondents, 1,741 were tax professionals, including 1,384 auditors. The analysis excluded responses from 429 computer-systems employees.

The findings show the difficulties tax auditors face in ensuring Canada’s tax system “remains fair in the face of off-shore tax havens and other tax avoidance schemes,” said PIPSC president Debi Daviau, who used the findings to further push the Trudeau government to increase CRA funding.

The union said the agency continues to struggle with a $500 million shortfall compared with the budget it had in 2012 before the former Harper government slashed spending.

A spokesperson for the CRA said the Liberal government has tried to rebuild the agency over the last three budgets, and is focusing resources “to target high areas of risk.”

“Those investments are allowing the CRA to deliver better data, approaches and results for Canadians,” Etienne Biram said in an emailed statement.

“Our 6,300 auditors have an array of tools at their disposal and we will continue to explore ways to provide them with additional tools and resources to assist them in their challenging and important work.”

Another Environics Research poll commissioned by the union found 79 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement, “It is easier for corporations and wealthy individuals to evade and/or avoid tax responsibilities than it is for average Canadians.”

That public opinion survey, which is based on some 1,000 respondents, was conducted by telephone between July 3 and 8. The results are considered accurate within plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.