Canadian tax agency is now fingerprinting tax evasion suspects
The Canada Revenue Agency is now recording the fingerprints of every citizen charged with tax evasion and storing the information in a database, which could drastically limit foreign travel for all those suspected of criminal tax offence, according to a report by the CBC.
“Introducing a mandatory fingerprinting policy would serve as a powerful deterrent to those considering committing a serious tax offence or those who may contemplate reoffending,” said an internal memorandum explaining the new measure. “The mobility restriction is an important deterrent, especially for people engaged in offshore tax evasion.”
After years of erratic fingerprint collection records based on the varying advice of local prosecutors, the tax agency decided to update its policy manuals last fall with a mandatory fingerprinting clause.
The fingerprints of all suspected tax evaders will now be added to the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database, which can be accessed by nearly 70,000 Canadian police officers.
However, the information can also be accessed by some foreign agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its border officers.
U.S. officials accessing the CPIC database “may view a taxpayer charged and/or convicted for tax evasion as inadmissible to their country,” according to a copy of the memo obtained by the CBC. The new policy was authorized in a July 7 order under the Access to Information Act.
“Without a national policy on fingerprinting, CRA’s convictions were not always recorded in CPIC,” CRA spokesman David Walters said. “Therefore, some persons convicted of tax evasion were unknown to law enforcement agencies.”
Qualified police officers will collect the fingerprints on behalf of the CRA, Walters said. Although there are no statistics on how many fingerprints have been collected since the new rules took effect, formal tracking is set to begin on April 1.
The CPIC database is connected to fingerprints, which enables authorities to track the suspect’s movements before and after conviction. “Without fingerprints, the CRA cannot ask law enforcement to carry out such tracing of movements,” the memo said.
The memo also details other benefits including “facilitating the apprehension of an accused who fails to appear for trial or sentencing as it allows law enforcement to execute a bench warrant for the arrest of a person alleged to have committed a tax crime, including any accused who may leave the country to avoid facing the consequences of their actions.”
When a suspect is acquitted of tax evasion, the CRA will “request” the fingerprints be deleted from the CPIC database.
However, some law firms specializing in fingerprint “destruction” say that the information could be retained for months, depending on the practices of the law enforcement service that initially registered the fingerprints.
The tax agency’s new policy is part of its renewed focus on tax offenders, particularly offshore tax evaders.
The Canadian government allotted $444.4 million of the 2016 budget to combat tax evasion over a five-year period.