The CRA's criminal investigations process

Tax evasion is illegal and deprives citizens and governments of public funds, which are essential to supporting critical infrastructure projects and important social programs and services like health care, child care, and education.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is committed to fighting tax evasion and other serious tax crimes. There are serious consequences to breaking the law.

Once convicted, tax evaders can face penalties, court fines, and jail time —in addition to having to pay the taxes they tried to evade, plus interest. However, criminal investigations are complex and often require years to complete. There are many steps and several factors that can affect the length of the investigations.

Below is a general outline of the CRA's criminal investigation process:

  1. Triggers for a criminal investigation
  2. Files are selected for investigation
  3. Criminal investigation steps
  4. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada's role
  5. Tax crime consequences

1. Triggers for a criminal investigation

Various sources of information may lead the CRA's Criminal Investigations Program (CIP) to initiate a criminal investigation, such as:

2. Files are selected for investigation

Not all files will trigger a criminal investigation.

A file is usually selected by:

The CIP will place priority on the following:

3. Criminal investigation steps

A criminal investigation has many steps. They include:

The CRA can communicate with the public at different stages of the criminal investigation by issuing an enforcement notification.

As with any criminal investigation by law enforcement, CRA criminal investigations of tax evasion and fraud are complex and usually require years to complete. Here are some factors that affect the duration of the investigation:

4. The role of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada

When they receive a report from the Criminal Investigation Program, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada analyzes the information and decides whether to prosecute. If they do, the following steps are taken:

At the conclusion of a prosecution that results in a conviction, the CRA will publicize publicly available details, including the identity of the taxpayer, the nature of the tax evasion, the court-imposed fine and applicable jail sentence by issuing an enforcement notification.

5. Consequences of tax crime

In addition to having to pay taxes owing, as well as interest and penalties, under the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act, Canadians who are convicted of tax cheating face serious consequences, including:

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