Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI Agency)
OTTAWA — The Stephen Harper government's focus on finding tax cheats has yielded billions for the federal treasury, MPs were told Tuesday, but doing more to find the wealth hidden by money-launderers and fraudsters in offshore bank accounts could mean giving the RCMP some new and perhaps controversial powers.
Finding those offshore bank accounts has been "the top priority" for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) since the Harper government took power in 2006, a CRA official told MPs on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance Tuesday. And, so far, that effort appears to be paying off.
Government auditors have found $4.6 billion in taxes Ottawa is owed, mostly from offshore accounts, CRA Assistant Commissioner Terrance McAuley said.
For the seven years the Tories have been in power, that means they've been plugging tax leaks at the rate of nearly $700 million a year.
Brian Jean, a Conservative MP on that committee, noted that in 2005, the last year the Liberals were in power, the CRA found just $174 million.
MPs on the finance committee are looking for ways to do more to tighten tax loopholes and find the money hidden away by tax cheats.
Everyone agrees the problem is a big one though neither the RCMP, the CRA nor department of finance officials were willing to say how many billions of dollars are being hidden from tax authorities.