Bill C-31: Serious crimes measures

There are occasions when Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) officials, in the course of their ordinary duties, have become aware of information that could be evidence of a serious crime.

The Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, and the Excise Act, 2001 were amended by Parliament to allow the CRA to share relevant taxpayer information with law enforcement when there are reasonable grounds to believe the information affords evidence of a listed serious criminal offence. The amendments include a list of the serious criminal offences that could trigger disclosure to law enforcement, and are consistent with recommendations from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Committee on Fiscal Affairs.

The sharing of information under the new provisions will be strictly governed by new operating procedures, which came into effect on March 31, 2015.

Protection of taxpayer information is a top priority for the CRA. The new procedures ensure that the CRA takes all necessary precautions to safeguard taxpayer information and that only information authorized by law will be provided to law enforcement. Such shared information would have been identified by the CRA during its normal business activities.

In particular, the procedures ensure that the sharing of taxpayer information follows a rigorous and consistently applied protocol. The procedures explicitly require that, before any information may be shared; the strict requirements of the legislation are met, including ensuring that there are reasonable grounds to believe the information affords evidence of a listed serious criminal offence. Mere suspicion of a criminal offence is not enough to allow the disclosure of taxpayer information. The CRA will not search for specific information at the direction of police.

To ensure vigilance in applying the new provisions, the Assistant Commissioner of Compliance Programs Branch must approve all disclosures.  Further, as is the case at all times, any misuse of taxpayer information by a CRA employee will result in serious disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

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