OTTAWA -- Canada's tax collection agency has allowed a staggering $18 billion in taxes to accrue from deadbeat businesses and individual Canadians and has written off nearly $5 billion as "uncollectible."
Auditor General Sheila Fraser is expected to take a whack at the Canada Revenue Agency in her report next month after scrutinizing its "efficiency and timeliness" in retrieving unpaid taxes.
The CRA says the amount of unpaid taxes has climbed to $18 billion from $13.9 billion in five years. The amount written off in the "doubtful account" category ballooned to $4.7 billion from $1.2 billion in the same period.
Spokesman Jacqueline Couture could not comment on the contents of the audit until it's released on May 16 but said the agency has worked to limit tax dodgers.
"The CRA has made significant investments to improve our tax collection process over the decade, and there are comprehensive plans in place to continue those improvements," she said.
Individuals were the worst tax evaders, with $8.2 billion in arrears.
Corporate dodgers owed $2.7 billion and GST cheaters owed $4.3 billion.
According to a summary of Fraser's audit, the collection of tax debt is a "complex" activity involving more than 4,000 full-time equivalent staff and a slew of information technology systems.
Noting the agency collected $9 billion in tax debts in the 2004-05 fiscal year, Fraser noted "any improvement" in efficiency could add millions to Crown coffers each year.
John Williamson, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said Canadians now sitting down to complete their annual returns will be outraged to learn of $18 billion in unpaid taxes.
"Taxpayers hope that Ottawa pulls out all the stops to recoup tax money that is owed -- because if they don't, it just means the law-abiding taxpayer ends up paying more so the government can cover its costs," he said.
Liberal finance critic John McCallum warned that Conservative plans to roll back income tax cuts will encourage more deadbeats.