Taxes | Customs

Administration and enforcement of federal laws relating to taxes and customs revenues recently have been consolidated into one department.

Ordinary disputes as to the amount of taxes owed are normally dealt with by specialized civil lawyers but extreme cases of tax avoidance are regulated by punitive legislation deriving from the criminal law power. Federal prosecutions are usually initiated in cases involving structured schemes amounting to fraud or involving the use of false documents. Such schemes are also punishable by provincial offences which can result in jail sentences in the most extreme cases.

On the customs side illegal trading in tobacco products has increased sharply in recent years with the resulting increase in the severity of measures under the federal Excise Act as well as provincial offences. In fact, mandatory minimum penalties are now so severe, even for first offences, that a conviction can entail an almost lifelong liability federally as well as the necessity of performing many hours of community work provincially in order to avoid lengthy terms of imprisonment.

The North American Free Trade Agreement has given rise to an increase in consumer Trans border transactions, particularly in the automobile sector, with a resulting increase in prosecutions for undervaluing imported goods. Attempts to avoid relatively minor amounts of GST and PST can result in a shocking liability for monetary assessments in order to secure the release of goods seized by border authorities, in addition to criminal prosecutions in cases involving fraud and use of false valuation documents.

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