Posted on Ipolitics.ca You can add your comments at that website. The title of the article is “Revenue Canada quietly handed 155,000 Canadian banking records to IRS”
[Note that the journalist began article with point that our Canadian Government sent private bank info south before receiving privacy assessment from Office of Privacy Commissioner. Journalist failed to find Liberal Government MP willing to chat but did hunt down Liberal Senator who complained about actions of the Tories.]
The journalist, Elizabeth Thompson, comments on her own article: “The language is not misleading. A number of people I interviewed told me of their efforts to get comments from the new Liberal government since the election – from the same Liberal MPs who commented on this issue before the election. I’m trying once again today for an interview with the Revenue Minister (who has a lot less to do with the budget than the finance minister does) and I will keep trying.”]
“The Canada Revenue Agency quietly turned 155,000 banking records over to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service during last fall’s election, without waiting for an assessment from Canada’s Privacy Commissioner or the outcome of a court challenge to the controversial move.
According to documents tabled in the House of Commons, roughly 150,000 of the Canadian bank records transferred to the IRS on Sept. 30, 2015 related to individuals who are U.S. residents or people with U.S citizenship living in Canada.
The transfer, the first of its kind, was the result of a deal worked out between Canada and the United States in the wake of the U.S. decision to adopt the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), pressuring financial institutions around the world to reveal information about bank accounts in a bid to crack down on tax evasion by U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts.
The Conservatives have argued that given the penalties the U.S. was threatening to impose, they had no choice but to negotiate the information sharing deal and through the deal was able to exempt some types of accounts such as RRSPs and Tax Free Savings Accounts from the information transfer.
A second transfer of records to the IRS is scheduled for September 30, 2016.
As part of the deal, the IRS also agrees to send the CRA information on Canadians with U.S. accounts.
While the government says financial institutions should be open with clients about their files being sent to the IRS, the CRA is not automatically informing those whose records have been transferred, saying it is up to individuals to ask for the information.
The CRA says it submitted a privacy impact assessment to Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien’s office for review on Aug. 27, 2015 but only received recommendations from Therrien on Jan. 4, 2016 – well after the records had already been transferred.
Critics, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before he came to power, have raised concerns about the information sharing deal, saying the implications of the CRA reporting to a foreign government agency about Canadian citizens was “troublesome.”
“The Liberal Party of Canada believes that the Conservative government’s efforts to safeguard the personal privacy of Canadians have been inadequate,” Trudeau wrote in a letter dated June 25, 2015 to Lynne Swanson of the Alliance for the Defence of Canadian Sovereignty, which has been fighting to stop the CRA from turning the records over to the IRS.
“While the United States has the right to target tax evaders using offshore accounts, targeting hard working Canadians who pay taxes is unfair,” Trudeau added. “The Government of Canada has a responsibility to stand up for its citizens when foreign governments are encroaching on their rights. We believe that the deal reached between Canada and the U.S. is insufficient to protect affected Canadians.”
During the election campaign, Liberal Darrell Samson, who was elected MP for the Nova Scotia riding of Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook, pointed out that Liberals had criticized the information sharing in the House of Commons and questioned whether the move was even constitutional.
“We also have concerns that the agreement reached with the U.S. may not stand up to a Constitutional challenge given that it forces the banks to treat clients differently based on their national origin, something forbidden by Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” he wrote on his website.
Since taking office, however, Trudeau’s Liberal government appears to have been silent on the deal.
A spokeswoman for Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said the minister was not available for an interview Tuesday.
Swanson, who has been a Canadian citizen since 1973, says she feels betrayed – first by the Conservatives and now by the Liberals.
“I’m furious. I feel totally betrayed,” she said, rattling off a list of prominent Liberals who spoke out against the deal before they formed the government.
Swanson questions whether Canadians would accept a similar deal to share private information with any country other than the U.S, saying it treats some Canadian citizens differently from others.
“FATCA requires Canadian banks and other financial institutions to report to the IRS private banking information, private financial information. In terms of bank accounts that includes account numbers, account balances, total assets, transactions, address and other personal identifying information.”
“If all Canadians were having that information submitted to the Canada Revenue Agency to pass on to a foreign government, there would be absolute outrage in this country.”
Swanson said her group’s constitutional challenge of the information sharing deal is currently before the courts. NDP Revenue Critic Pierre-Luc Dusseault, who placed the question on the order paper, is concerned that the CRA is not advising people whose records were shared with the IRS.
“What is worrying me is that CRA is not notifying people automatically whose information was transferred,” Dusseault explained. “So the CRA has some information on Canadian citizens who are happen to also have American citizenship and these people had their information transferred on September 30 without a lot of noise.”
Dusseault says the CRA should notify all of those whose records were transferred.
“Some people may not know that they are part of that transfer.”
Dusseault says he is also concerned by the CRA’s decision not to wait for the privacy commissioner’s ruling and to transfer the records during the election campaign – a time when under the caretaker convention public servants are supposed to abstain from anything but routine actions.
Dusseault said he plans to propose a parliamentary committee hold hearings into the CRA’s actions.
Senator Percy Downe, who sits as a Senate Liberal, says the CRA should have waited until after the election before transferring the records to the IRS.
“It’s quite surprising that they did not ask for an extension,” he said. “The extensions the IRS gave others they claimed did not apply to the CRA but I’m sure the IRS would have understood if the CRA had said, ‘We’re in the middle of an election, the election’s over in October, we’ll have a new minister in November.’ What’s a couple of months delay?”
Downe said he was also surprised the CRA transferred the records before getting an assessment from the privacy commissioner’s office, which he said made recommendations about limiting the collection of information, limiting the disclosure of information and the retention of personal information.
“This is after the horse had left the barn, if you will, because the information was already turned over in the rush to get it to them.”