The tax man sets up shop in Nunavut

Canada’s tax man is setting up shop in Nunavut, to provide information, and perhaps to begin a crackdown on the so-called “underground economy.”


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Revenue Canada will soon beef up its presence in Nunavut.

For the first time, the federal government agency in charge of tax collection will have an information officer in Iqaluit, a Revenue Canada official said last week. The person is expected to begin work by December.

“The idea is that it will be a Revenue Canada employee — that should definitely improve the service,” said Elmer Leblanc, assistant director of client services for Revenue Canada.

Revenue Canada hopes to hire a Nunavut resident who speaks Inuktitut to help local residents navigate the often murky and complex waters of taxation.

The officer will provide basic information to taxpayers and will contact the Ottawa office when necessary.

Tax crackdowns?

Revenue Canada also plans to hold tax seminars for businesses. And Nunavut residents can also expect visits from Revenue Canada officials looking to crack down on the underground economy.

The plans for an increased presence came after Revenue Canada’s Ottawa office recently took over responsibility for Nunavut from its Edmonton office.

Officials from Revenue Canada’s Ottawa office were in Iqaluit on an “outreach” tour last week. The bureaucrats met with an Iqaluit Town Council committee, and held information sessions for the public.

Revenue Canada officials in Ottawa decided to send a delegation to the new territory before it began conducting any audits or enforcement strategies, Leblanc said.

“We felt it was important that we come and see what this territory is all about,” he told members of the finance, legislation, administration and community services committee.

The tour revealed the hurdles Nunavut residents sometimes face when looking for information about their taxes.

“There’s not a lot of information out there,” Leblanc said. “There seems to be a gap — especially from the business perspective.”

Local businessman Doug Lem recounted to the officials some of the problems he faces as a business owner in the Arctic.

When a bli ard made it impossible to remit his payroll taxes on time, Lem said he received little sympathy from the federal government.

“I don’t think Revenue Canada respects the conditions of the North. As a businessman the information isn’t always there,” he said.

Leblanc advised Lem to take advantage of Ottawa’s “fairness legislation.” The legislation allows for exceptions to be made under certain circumstances.

The information sessions also revealed some of the difficulties Revenue Canada will face when trying to improve the service to local residents.

“The language is going to be a challenge,” Leblanc said.

Leblanc could not say whether the beefed up presence in Nunavut would also mean increased enforcement of tax laws.

He did say Revenue Canada’s enforcement division will travel to the new territory.

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