CPA Canada sets the record straight

CBC recently produced inaccurate reports linking CPA Canada to a KPMG court case. CPA Canada sets the record straight.

UPDATE: We welcome the support received from members in connection with the CBC news reports, including this online piece.


The CBC recently produced reports about Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), linking CPA Canada activities to a court case involving KPMG. The reports contain numerous factual errors, all of which have been previously pointed out to CBC. The following information sets the record straight.

At no time has CPA Canada or any of its representatives been involved in discussions about the KPMG lawsuit with the federal government, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or any other third party organization. As a professional association with a public interest mandate, all of CPA Canada’s activities with the federal government, the CRA or as intervenor in legal cases are focused on policy and practice matters.

Intervenor status

The CBC reports stated that CPA Canada “was fighting the CRA in court to shield the files of millionaires who had stashed money offshore.” Other similar statements were made online and in radio and television reports.

CPA Canada applied for, but never gained, intervenor status in the KPMG court case. CPA Canada did not intend to make submissions to support KPMG. Rather, CPA Canada sought intervenor status to represent the perspective of all its members on two of the central issues raised by this proceeding: (1) the potential chill on taxpayer-accountant disclosure that may result from the use of unnamed person requirements; and (2) the cost, for CPA Canada’s members and for their clients, of defending and/or complying with such information requirements.

In Canada, the CRA can use unnamed person requirements as a tool to gather information on a group of as-yet unidentified taxpayers that it believes is not reporting income. A common application is for the CRA to issue a requirement to a third party to obtain information for the purpose of verifying compliance of an unnamed person or persons.

CPA Canada is concerned that an overly broad reliance on unnamed person requirements would affect disclosure by taxpayers to their accountants, thus potentially negatively affecting proper compliance with Canada’s complex tax laws.

Lobbying

CBC reports raise the issue of lobbying, in particular, our organization’s outreach efforts around the issue of confidentiality. Some CBC broadcast segments and online articles also reference Bill Dobson, who is a registered CPA Canada lobbyist.

CPA Canada has long been on the record opposing tax evasion. However, we have advocated for confidentiality rights for all taxpayers for more than a decade. Confidentiality rights are fundamental to fairness and the effectiveness of the Canadian tax system. The approaches we have advocated for would be similar with other developed countries such as New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. We believe this confidentiality is needed in a self-assessment tax system to facilitate the kind of open discussion and full disclosure required to ensure CPAs can accurately advise their clients.

CPA Canada, now and through its predecessor organizations, has long worked with the federal government, including the CRA, to ensure Canada’s tax system is fair and effective for all Canadians. Our lobbying efforts have been open and transparent. The federal government invites lobbying of public office holders as a legitimate activity because free and open access to government is an important matter of public interest.

Regarding Bill Dobson, CPA Canada hired Mr. Dobson after he retired from the CRA. The lobbying Mr. Dobson did for CPA Canada related to taxation and finance policy issues and all activities were fully disclosed through the Registry of Lobbyists. Mr. Dobson did not have any dealings for CPA Canada relating to KPMG. In addition, neither CPA Canada, nor any representatives acting on our behalf, had any discussions with federal government officials or staff regarding KPMG.

CRA has said that CPA Canada’s hiring of Mr. Dobson did not breach CRA’s conflict of interest rules.

Confidentiality

A CBC report tied a statement by Kevin Dancey, CPA Canada's president and CEO, regarding confidentiality to the KPMG court case. Mr. Dancey has never discussed the KPMG court case with the CBC. CPA Canada has repeatedly told the CBC that CPA Canada has no connection to the KPMG tax case and that CPA Canada sought to intervene only on the unnamed person requirements issue and the potential implications that could have on taxpayer compliance.

CRA-CPA Canada Framework Agreement

The CBC reports raise the issue of the CRA-CPA Framework Agreement — questioning whether this agreement should have been made while the KPMG tax case was ongoing.

The Framework Agreement was initiated by CRA as part of its Vision 2020 strategic plan issued in 2012 to create a more efficient and effective tax system. As part of that strategic plan, the CRA reached out to major stakeholders with a view to working collaboratively for the good of the tax system.

It is common practice for federal departments to consult with affected industry stakeholders when making policy changes. This is a legitimate part of public policy development recognized by the federal government as important to the public interest.

The Framework Agreement with CRA opens dialogue on tax issues that are important to all Canadian taxpayers and businesses. The opportunity to exchange expertise and insights on tax issues will, over the long-term, help ensure a well running tax system for Canada.

The Framework states that it is a commitment on the part of the two parties to work together “cooperatively and collaboratively, over the long-term, to foster an enhanced relationship that will contribute to ensuring that Canada has a well-functioning and world class tax system.”

The ultimate authority in these discussions as to what to do about any issue still rests as always with the CRA.

CPA Canada’s position

  • CPA Canada does not advocate for the interests of any individual accounting firm or member and has never had any dealings with the federal government or CRA regarding KPMG.
  • CPA Canada’s mission is to act in the public interest. CPA Canada stands for a fair and ethical tax system — equal for all Canadians. CPA Canada is opposed to tax evasion and supportive of a system that allows taxpayers to obtain independent, confidential tax advice.
  • CPA Canada works with the CRA and with federal government through fully-transparent lobbying efforts to make the tax system better for all Canadians.

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