After my post regarding how CBC news article carried IRS water, Calgary411 has published two email responses from Ian Johnson of CBC News*, which explain why they corrected the initial article. I was glad for the corrections. However, the letters also explained the CBC rationale behind the articles. In the first letter, Johnson wrote:
This story was written as part of a CBC income tax season editorial package. It was intended as a primer for Canadians who were born in the U.S. or who hold dual citizenship, in order to provide them with basic information about actions being taken by the IRS that they might not be aware of, and which could have direct tax implications for them.
In a second letter, he repeats this same reasoning.
I do want to point out again that while the taxation story itself has many interesting and important angles, this particular story was written specifically for a tax season editorial package and was intended to be a basic primer for American-born or dual-citizenship Canadians who are unaware of the US taxation issue. It wasn’t meant to be an examination of the impact the IRS actions are having, which I agree is extensive – there’s only so much ground that can be covered in a single story. This is a major issue affecting an enormous number of Canadians, and you can be assured it’s not the only piece of coverage CBC has offered, or will continue to offer, particularly as we approach the FATCA dates.
Now, I want to say that I really appreciate the corrections that the CBC made. But I do not believe that this complex issue needs a primer of this sort. A “primer” (pronounced with a short “i”) is typically a short book which helps a person get started on subject. For example, the Latin language has numerous primers which explain the basics of grammar and provide a vocabulary of the most common words so that a person might begin to read the language. A news article may be a “primer” only because of the dumbing down of a population: the sort of the basics of what you need to know in only 800 words. Right. A Latin primer takes a year of intensive study to learn. This is exactly why my description of the original article as carrying the IRS water is so accurate. The article is a primer only in the sense that the it would bear more appropriately the following title: “What the IRS wants you to know so that their shake down of Canadians might lead to better revenue collection in Canada”.
Do you want a true “primer”? Just Me, the most famous person from the 2009 OVDI, has some suggestions in the post that we have left at the top of this blog: The OVDI Drudgery for Minnows. There is no way to learn this subject by reading a single article. Indeed, the knowledge that one would gain from such an article is only enough to be dangerous. After reading similar articles in the media in 2011, numerous Canadians entered the 2011 OVDI program, and spent thousands of dollars on lawyers, accountants and IRS taxes and fines. This is exactly what the IRS wants. They want the media to publicize their requirements and their “amnesty” programs so that unsuspecting people become fearful and hand over money that they would never need to pay. If I were to do a primer article, I would offer the title, “Canadian residents should tell the IRS to shove their demands where the sun don’t shine!”. Why? Because (1) the demands are unconstitutional, unreasonable and unethical; (2) the Canadian government has offered the following protections: not to collect tax for IRS from Canadian citizens; not to collect FBAR fines from anyone; (3) the best protection that Canadians can have is to get their asses (i.e., their persons) and their assets (investments, condos, homes) out of the United States. I would mention that the recent application of insane extra-territorial tax laws are a casus belli–an attempt to extract tribute from other countries. I would also invite Canadians who have extensive savings (e.g., RRSP, RESP, RDSP, TFSA) in Canada but work in the United States, to come home as soon as possible. I would not recommend that a Canadian fill out an FBAR or enter the OVDI. I do not believe that the United States government is acting in a lawful manner. An unjust law is no law. Canadians may have to take seemingly drastic measures in order to protect their life savings. That is the article that I would write.
The legacy media still has attention from the public. But they cover few issues with sufficient depth that they can be understood. Their reporters are spread to thin. Thus, when it comes to the issues affecting the Isaac Brock Society, we can only expect more IRS propaganda from the legacy media.
*Ian Johnson is CBCnews.ca Senior Producer for Features, Special Projects, and for Technology and Science coverage.