Anyone who watched CTV's W5 yesterday has to be scratching her head in both amasement and fear at both the targets and the tactics of the Canada Revenue Agency. In the time allotted for a one-our documentary, the producers at CTV were able to provide at least four examples of what to this viewer looked like harrassment verging on terror, and one "target" taxpayer actually used the word "terror" in his account of his own story.
First, deploying rookie investigators alone on innocent taxpayers is not a good start.
Even to target such candidates, without actually listening to both their story and the story of their accountant, is reprehensible.
Failure to follow even CRA's own protocol guidelines, by making apppointments, and by treating every client with courtesy, represents how, in the recorded words of one phone call from CRA, "the government is out to screw you" and "I'm going to make your day worse today".
Canadians are an extremely compliant group, for the most part. We believe in both the government and the need for taxes. We are not the U.S. where the need for the government's existence is barely established in many parts of the country. The individual American taxpayer would like nothing better than to deprive the government of more taxes, believing that Uncle Sam already takes too much.
Every single example depicted on W5 expressed the belief that, not only were they very careful in their preparations of their tax returns, but that they did not resent the "tax-man" at all.
However, as one sitting Member of Parliament from Newfoundland and Labrador, whose constituent was one of those targetted by CRA, put it, "If people knew what power was held by unelected people in Canada they would be terrified."
The accountants interviewed, acting on behalf of their clients, not those representing CRA, commented that they had never seen "anything like this" in thirty years of practice.
What has happened in Ottawa, that when the reporter from CTV attemtps to make an appointment to interview the Commissioner of CRA, he is refused, and then when he shows up in the lobby of their office building, he is ushered out door unceremoniously, with barely a "we do not comment" on indivudal cases by some civil servant? And then, upon encountering the Minister in charge of the Canada Revenue Agency, and asking why the investigators do not follow even minimal protocols in their investigations, he comments, on camera, "We have a very good service that serves the people of Canada very well."...and refuses even to engage in addressing the questions and the issues raised by the reporter.
Has this country become a kind of "police state" with respect to the collection of taxes?
Has CRA become impenetrable to the mere posing of reasonable questions from reasonable people?
And, why, in the words of former CRA auditors, does "Canada Revenue Agency believe that everyone is guity until proven innocent, and why is the burden of proof is on the taxpayer to prove that CRA is wrong in their claims, when the matter reaches court?