The CRA’s missing $75 million

Six years after the release of the Panama Papers, it’s not totally clear if the government has collected any tax-evasion-money found hidden in Central American offshore accounts. 

Driving the news: As of August, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had identified $75 million in unpaid taxes over 265 audits (with more to go) from the Panama Papers, but had not convicted anyone named or confirmed whether any of the funds had been collected. 

Catch-up: The Panama Papers refer to leaked records of offshore accounts (belonging to people rich enough to have offshore accounts) that were published back in 2016 in what was one of the biggest financial leaks ever.

  • It helped call attention to the issue of offshore tax havens, along with the wealthy individuals who used them to hide assets or reduce taxes.
  • 12 current or former world leaders, 128 other public officials and politicians, hundreds of celebrities, and business people from over 200 countries were named.
  • The analysis of millions of documents from a former Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca led to resignations, criminal charges, and over a billion in re-couped taxes. 

Why it matters: The leak handed the CRA a list of potential tax-evaders on a silver platter, but the agency’s slow action might undermine how much it’s able to recover in lost taxes. 

  • Globally, all other countries with citizens involved had successfully collected $500 million in unpaid taxes as of 2019.

What’s next: The CRA has been light on the details but says audits could take many years, since some of those named have lawyered up to block access to books and records. 

And don’t even get us started with the latest round of leaked documents, Paradise Papers ($1.6 million in unpaid taxes identified so far) and Pandora Papers in 2017 and 2021…