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Recovery of COVID-19 Support Payments

May 8, 2024

Senator Gold, research from the Institut de recherche et d’informations socioéconomiques in Quebec recently highlighted the extent to which large companies have participated in offshore tax avoidance while also receiving public subsidies from the federal government.

In one example, a Montreal-based multinational transferred $99.2 million in profits offshore in 2020-21 while also receiving $115.7 million from the federal government in the form of COVID-19 wage and rent subsidies.

What concrete steps is the government taking to investigate and make accountable the companies that simultaneously claimed public subsidies while also dodging taxes?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Thank you for your question and your continued advocacy on this. As I’ve said before, it is important that everyone must contribute their fair share to finance public services. The government has redoubled its efforts to make sure that they pay, and that they don’t use loopholes to avoid their responsibilities.

It is my understanding that the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA, employs experts and continues to use sophisticated tools to better detect and deal with the most serious cases of non‑compliance. For example, by using electronic tools to conduct risk assessments of the corporate tax returns of all large businesses, the CRA is improving its ability to detect high-risk transactions and to focus its audit resources in the areas of highest risk. The CRA will continue to relentlessly track down those who use tax havens or other tax avoidance schemes to avoid paying their fair share.

Thank you, Senator Gold. The government is continuing to require repayment from individuals, including many who desperately needed income support and legitimately claimed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB, during the pandemic. In at least 27,000 cases, the government was in error, and individuals who repaid money were actually entitled to the CERB.

What steps is the government taking to ensure that its efforts to recuperate COVID-19 benefits focus on those who took and profited most — not those with the fewest resources, including no money to hire teams of lawyers to defend themselves?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Thank you for the question. As we mentioned — and it’s important to remind ourselves — when we passed the CERB, the government put it in place to urgently help Canadians. The government said that verifications would be done later.

The government recognizes that the situation of every taxpayer is different. In terms of reimbursement of excess CERB payments for the most vulnerable taxpayers, I’ve been informed that the CRA works with diligence and empathy on a case-by-case basis to resolve their debts based upon their ability to pay.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

I would ask senators to lower the volume of their phones, or turn them off. There have been tests of the emergency alert system that can be problematic for the interpreters. If you could shut off your phones, please.

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