Canada Revenue Agency tax dodge informant line receives 1,000 calls

Ottawa's program that pays for tips to the Canada Revenue Agency about tax cheats has received more than a thousand calls since being set up earlier this year.

In January, the federal government enacted the Offshore Tax Informant Program, which encourages citizens to become informants about Canadians trying to hide money outside of Canada and avoid paying taxes.

Since being set up on Jan. 15, the hotline has received more than 1,000 calls, and the tax agency is investigating almost 100 cases thanks to the information received.

The program offers cash rewards to whistleblowers, but so far no money has been paid out as the investigations are still in progress, the agency told CBC News Wednesday.

"As of July 31, 2014, the OTIP has received over 1,000 calls, 310 of which have been from informants … with 97 active cases being reviewed," a spokesperson for the CRA said. "Cases that do not qualify under the OTIP have been closed or referred to other areas within CRA for possible compliance action."

Snitch line

Tax avoidance has been a hot topic this year, as governments around the world have moved to crack down on what's believed to be billions of dollars of taxable profits hiding in overseas tax shelters.

The Canadian program pays out between five and 15 per cent of the funds recovered from any action, but only if the amount recovered is more than $100,000 — and you have to pay tax on the reward. That's much less generous than other programs, including a U.S. one where the payout to an informant can be as much as 30 per cent.

U.S. tax authorities recently paid out $104 million to a single informant, Bradley Birkenfeld, for information that helped uncover how Swiss Bank UBS helped Americans hide more than $5 billion from taxes. That came after Birkenfeld spent 2½ years in prison for his own role in the scheme.

Ottawa has stepped up its efforts to track down that foreign cash in recent years, bringing more cases to trial than usual of late.

Last year, Ottawa earmarked $30 million in new funds targeted specifically at tracking down Canadians illegally hiding profits offshore to bring down their tax burden.

In 2010, a CBC investigation uncovered that the names of 1,700 Canadians appeared on a secret list of Swiss bank accounts believed to be related to tax evasion.