The federal government is introducing changes to the Income Tax Act that would allow Canada Revenue Agency officials to voluntarily hand over taxpayer information to police if they have reason to believe such information is evidence of a crime.
The disclosures wouldn't require a warrant or court approval. The taxpayers whose information is disclosed wouldn't even have to be notified.
Canada's interim privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier is expected to address the changes to federal tax law at an appearance before the House of Commons finance committee Wednesday afternoon.
The proposed amendments, which are tucked away in the government's hefty 375-page omnibus budget bill, also significantly expand the scope of offences through which CRA officials could justify disclosing information.
As the Income Tax Act currently stands, officials are not allowed to disclose any information unless there's a criminal investigation underway or any serious circumstances with possible danger of death. In other words, only in rare situations.
But under the government's intended changes, auditors can provide police with information if they believe it's evidence of crimes ranging anywhere from bribing public officials to motor vehicle theft to monetarily benefiting from acts of arson.
Allison Christians, an associate professor at McGill University in Montreal who specializes in tax law, said this is further evidence of an "erosion of confidentiality — of privacy in general — from this administration."
"It is certainly the case that taxpayer confidentiality has been a sacred trust, because we want and expect and need taxpayers to voluntarily comply with the tax system," she said in an interview with CBC News.
Without assurances of privacy, Christians said, that compliance is at risk.
The federal government's budget bill passed the stage of second reading in the House of Commons and is now at the finance committee for further study.