It may be hard to believe, but Canadians don't know the difference between what the government is owed in taxes and what it collects. And we aren't going to find out. That is the decision by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in response to a request from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) for information that would allow calculation of the tax gap.
Apparently the Commissioner of Revenue had assured the PBO the info could be provided without breaching taxpayer confidentiality or violating the Income Tax Act, but after meetings with CRA officials that initially appeared productive, the CRA declined to provide critical information, citing legislative prohibitions. The PBO stated in a letter to the Commissioner that he would, as a result, be unable to fulfill part of his legislative mandate and requested other options. After a long delay, he was told he would not be getting the information and that was that.
Tax evasion and tax avoidance through the use of tax havens has long been a problem for Canada and other countries. Indeed it is an international scandal. Knowing the tax gap would assist government in best allocating resources to recover these monies. Appreciating this, earlier this year MP Dionne Labelle made a motion in the House of Commons to order the CRA to provide information necessary to provide an independent estimate of the gap arising from tax evasion and tax avoidance via tax havens. It was defeated by the Conservatives.
The PBO is mandated to "provide independent analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation's finances." Rather hard for him to do his job, and hard for us to get a proper picture of the nation's finances, when we don't know what's missing.