Minister Lebouthillier announces tightening of the Voluntary Disclosures Program to ensure greater tax fairness
December 15, 2017 Ottawa, Ontario Canada Revenue Agency
Canadians work hard and expect their Government to do the same to ensure a tax system that is equitable, where everyone pays their fair share. The Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) is a way for taxpayers to correct errors in their tax affairs. However, this program has been used by certain wealthy individuals and corporations as a way to avoid the consequences related to their aggressive tax planning.
Today, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, announced changes to the VDP to tighten the eligibility criteria to access the program and ensure that it fulfills its purpose of allowing Canadians to come forward and correct honest mistakes. Beginning March 1, 2018, a limited program will apply to taxpayers who have intentionally avoided their tax obligations. To determine if taxpayers have intentionally avoided their tax obligations, the CRA will consider a number of factors, including, but not limited to: whether efforts were made to avoid detection through the use of offshore vehicles or other means, the total dollar amounts involved, the number of years of non-compliance, as well as the sophistication of the taxpayer. Corporations with gross revenue in excess of $250 million who will apply to the VDP will be considered under the limited program.
The formal changes to the VDP will:
- create a new Limited Program, which will offer more limited relief to taxpayers who have intentionally avoided their tax obligations;
- require payment of the estimated taxes owing as a condition to qualify for the program – this payment was not required in the past;
- cancel relief if it is subsequently discovered that a taxpayer’s application was not complete due to a misrepresentation; and
- eliminate the process for taxpayers and authorized representatives to make disclosures on a no-names basis.
The revised policy reiterates that the CRA will continue to restrict participation in the VDP if it has already received information on a taxpayer’s (or a related taxpayer’s) potential involvement in tax non-compliance–for example, a leak of offshore financial information such as the Paradise Papers, or other information that names the taxpayer.
The Government’s recent investments will allow the CRA to modernize and make more effective its information-gathering tools for its audits and investigations in order to combat tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. The CRA’s ability to detect non-compliance continues to improve. Along with these efforts, the CRA will continue to review the operation of the new VDP, more specifically with respect to taxpayers who access the Program and that are getting more sophisticated. The new VDP is expected to remain in place for at least two years, after which additional tightening may be proposed based on results and feedback.
“The Government of Canada is committed to cracking down on tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance to ensure a system that is responsive and fair for all Canadians. The changes to the Voluntary Disclosures Program are part of these efforts, which will allow the Agency to crack down even further on those who are intentionally breaking the law. Because of our investments, the Agency will have the resources, the staff and the tools to gather information. In this light, the CRA will re-examine the VDP in the coming years, with the goal of further restricting the relief it offers.”
- The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue
- The Voluntary Disclosures Program applies to disclosures relating to income tax, excise tax, excise duties under the Excise Act, 2001, source deductions, GST/HST and charges under the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006.
- The 60-day consultation on the Voluntary Disclosures Program gave Canadians an opportunity to have their say on how to improve the tax system to make it more fair and equitable. The CRA is also following the recommendations from the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Finance and the Minister of National Revenue’s Offshore Compliance Advisory Committee.
- In fiscal 2016-2017, the VDP received over 18,500 disclosures representing an estimated $1.6 billion in previously unreported income.
Office of the Minister of National Revenue
Canada Revenue Agency
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