OECD report recommends giving tax authorities access to suspicious transaction reports

An international think tank is calling for tax administrations to have the fullest possible access to suspicious transaction reports received by financial intelligence units to ensure tax compliance and to tackle serious crimes as tax evasion, bribery, corruption, money laundering and terrorism financing.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is calling on jurisdictions to provide the legislative framework to allow tax administrations to suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and to ensure that operational structures and procedures are put in place to facilitate the “maximum effectiveness” in the use of STRs.

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Tax authorities target undisclosed foreign assets

A letter recently sent to some Canadians “strongly” encouraging the voluntary disclosure of potential undisclosed foreign assets and unreported foreign income is the latest indication that the Canada Revenue Agency is stepping up efforts to crack down on international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.

A growing number of wealthy Canadians are coming clean with concealed assets in foreign tax havens through the CRA’s voluntary disclosure program after lists emerged over the past couple of years with information revealing the names of supposed Canadians who allegedly have offshore accounts. The number of offshore disclosures increased from 1,215 in 2006‐2007 to 5,248 in 2013‐2014, representing over $2 billion in total unreported income since 2006‐2007, according to the CRA’s latest annual report. The CRA’s latest letter-writing campaign, which began last December, is widely expected to entice more Canadian taxpayers to come forward.

“It’s an inexpensive way of encouraging a greater level of compliance,” noted Michael Friedman, co-chair of McMillan LLP’s tax group. “Having a one-on-one audit can be costly for the CRA, and while those types of audits may be more effective in generating revenue for the tax authority, writing a letter to a taxpayer is inexpensive. When someone receives a letter from the CRA, they think twice.”

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Canada’s tough stance on dirty money

New anti-money laundering regulations introduced to demonstrate Canada’s tough stance on dirty money to international authorities will require reporting entities to spend more money, resources, and time to be in compliance, according to experts.

Published in mid-February in its final form in the Canada Gazette, the amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (Act) are meant to address several key failings identified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body established in 1989 that sets standards for anti-money laundering (AML) and anti-terrorist financing (ATF) activities. In 2008, FATF found that Canada, a founding member, was “non-compliant” on preventative measures such as customer identification and due diligence to combat money laundering.

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