Canada must expose hidden company owners to end ‘snow washing,’ inquiry hears

By Laura Kane

THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER _Canada must urgently create public registries that reveal the true owners of corporations in order to shed its international reputation as a destination for laundering the proceeds of crime, an inquiry has heard.

A coalition of tax fairness groups told British Columbia’s money laundering inquiry Wednesday that hiding ill-gotten cash behind shell companies is so widespread in Canada it’s known globally as “snow washing.”

“It is no wonder criminals set their sights on Canada, which has some of the weakest corporate transparency laws in the world,” said James Cohen, representing Transparency International Canada, Canadians For Tax Fairness and Publish What You Pay Canada.

“There are more rigorous checks to obtain a library card than there are to set up a shell company.”

B.C. launched the provincial inquiry amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping to fuel its real estate, luxury car and gambling sectors. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is participating and says it is committed to tackling the national problem.

Three days of opening arguments concluded Wednesday. The inquiry will reconvene in May to quantify the extent of money laundering in B.C. before main hearings in September through December delve into specific industries.

Cohen, executive director of Transparency International Canada, said it joined forces with the other two groups in 2016 after the Panama Papers shed new light on wealthy individuals’ use of offshore companies to evade taxes.

The leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca also revealed that Canada was being marketed as a location to bring dirty money and have it cleaned like the  “pure white snow,” he said.

There are a number of gaps in Canada’s anti-money laundering law but a key problem is its weak beneficial ownership regime, which allows company owners to remain anonymous, Cohen said.

He proposed adding owner information to existing business registries already in place in provinces and territories. This addition would deter money laundering while still respecting privacy rights, he argued.

Cohen noted that the United Kingdom gathers information about owners that is available to authorities but limits the details that are posted publicly on its registry. For example, an owner’s month and year of birth are posted but not the date.

He praised B.C. for creating a land ownership registry that identifies those buying real estate, as well as the federal government for consulting with provinces and territories on a possible national registry, but he urged swifter action.

“The extent of secrecy granted to companies has come at a high cost to Canadians, particularly in British Columbia,” he said.  “Bad actors have exploited Canada’s stable economy, leading to crime, housing unaffordability and increased corruption.”

The organization representing real estate agents in British Columbia told the inquiry that it has taken action since several government-commissioned reports found the housing market had become a hotbed for dirty money.

A lawyer for the B.C. Real Estate Association said it supported the province’s land ownership registry and it also struck a working group with others in the sector to make anti-money laundering recommendations.

Chris Weafer asked commissioner Austin Cullen to accept those recommendations, including that the provincial and federal governments create a “comprehensive, efficient enforcement regime” that avoids duplication of reporting practices.

He also pushed back on the idea that mortgage brokers or others in the industry regularly accept cash deposits. This practice has never been common except in extenuating circumstances and even then amounts were modest, he said.

“The regulation of Realtors and the real estate industry is in a state of flux in this province, through taxes, new regulations and legislation,” Weafer said.

“As a participant in these proceedings, BCREA can provide a practical lens to give the inquiry a boots-on-the-ground perspective of the current and past state of the industry, and provide insight as to what the industry may look like following proposed changes.”

Another key issue is to what extent lawyers should be included in the national anti-money laundering regime, given that they are involved in large purchases of assets and the creation of corporations, partnerships and trusts.

Kevin Westell, representing the Canadian Bar Association and Criminal Defence Advocacy Society, said the regime should not apply to the legal profession. Requiring lawyers to report suspicious activity to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre, or Fintrac, would violate solicitor-client privilege, he said.

It would also add to a “disturbing” trend of the B.C. government undermining the work of lawyers, he said, pointing to policies including proposed changes to its public auto insurer that would ban injured people from suing at-fault drivers.

Both the bar association and defence advocacy society recognize the inquiry is important, Westell said.

“At the same time, both organizations are wary that the zealous search for solutions to the money laundering problem will lead to investigative and regulatory overreach that could endanger the independence of lawyers, the privacy of private citizens and the rights of all Canadians to a free and just society.”

4 tricks the wealthy use to reduce taxes that ordinary Canadians can try

4 tricks the wealthy use to reduce taxes that ordinary Canadians can try

The excerpted article was written by Julia Mastroianni | Financial Post

 Here are a few ideas:

Sheltering investment income

For any Canadian with the ability to save money, sheltering income from the taxman in one of the two main savings vehicles the government makes available is a no-brainer.

David Rotfleisch, founding tax lawyer of Toronto firm Rotfleisch and Samulovitch, recommends Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) to everyone.

“You should be putting away the maximum you can into your RRSP. That in and of itself is the most important tax-saving tip and it’s available to everyone,” he said.

Contributions to an RRSP are tax-free, meaning you don’t have to pay any income tax on them in the year of the contribution. The funds can also be invested with no tax on gains until the age 71 — at which point a taxpayer must begin to withdraw funds, which are then treated as taxable income.

Tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) are another option. While the money you contribute to your TFSA will be post-tax income, any interest, dividends or capital gains earned in it are tax-free for life, and you won’t have to pay taxes on the withdrawals.

Wealthy Canadians use these accounts too, though Jamie Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning at CIBC, said they might use them a bit differently. They’re likely maxing out their RRSPs and TFSAs by contributing the yearly limit — but they aren’t stopping there.

“What the wealthy are doing beyond that is they are actually using TFSAs to fund for their children once the children reach the age of 18,” Golombek said. “So some wealthy families are giving money to their kids at 18 to encourage the kids to put money into their own TFSAs. And what that does is it’s able to transfer wealth intergenerationally while keeping all the investment income tax-free.”

Incorporating

Many wealthy Canadians run a side business (or their own business) for the benefits of lower tax rates, business write-offs and tax-deductible individual pension plans.

If you run a business, are self-employed or doing freelance and contract work, it’s worth considering incorporation. Barrett said the choice should depend on how you use the income you’re earning.

“If all the income that’s coming in is being consumed by you every year, then there’s no advantage,” he said. But if the money you’re making through self-employment, even if it’s a small side business, is extra money for you, incorporation has its benefits. The 2019 small business tax deduction rate was nine per cent after the federal tax abatement, meaning you’d be taxed at the much lower corporate rate on your income.

Before you incorporate, Rotfleisch said to evaluate whether it’s worth your time and money. “Incorporation costs a couple of thousand dollars, but then you have your accounting costs to do the financial statements and tax returns and that’s going to cost you around $1,500 dollars,” he said. “So you have to decide if it’s worth spending that for the other tax benefits.”

Income-splitting and prescribed rate loans

While this strategy is particularly effective for wealthier Canadians within the highest tax bracket, there are benefits for the average Canadian too. If one spouse is in a higher tax bracket than another, they may want to shift some of that taxable income to another family member, including children.

However, in Canada, if you just loan money to a family member, the money will be attributed back to you on your tax returns. Instead, you would need to set up a prescribed rate loan with the Canada Revenue Agency-approved interest rate (currently two per cent). As long as the family member pays that interest rate to you every year, the money you’ve loaned will count under their tax return. When loaned to a child or spouse who doesn’t earn any income, that money then becomes taxed at the lowest tax bracket.

Permanent life insurance

Most Canadians are familiar with term life insurance, which provides temporary coverage for a set time. Permanent life insurance, on the other hand, lasts for life. This life insurance comes with an investment component that grows free of annual taxation.

However, it’s not quite accessible to the average Canadian, as it’s sometimes six to 10 times the cost of term life insurance. Permanent life insurance is usually an additional investment option for the wealthy who have already maxed out their RRSPs, TFSAs and other investment options and know that they have extra income that they’d rather not pay taxes on every year.

Jennifer Poon, director of advanced planning at Scotia Wealth Management, said that this is an option normally favoured by wealthier Canadians because it’s a long-term investment. “You can’t always just lock up all your cash in a life insurance policy because this is a tax shelter,” she said.

Ultimately, Barrett noted, the more money you have, the more tax planning you can do with it. Average Canadians can try out these strategies, but the savings won’t come close to the thousands and millions that the wealthiest are saving every year.

But with the right planning, savings are still possible.

“Even if you’re making 60 grand a year, and you’re smart and you’re frugal, and you’ve done all your tax planning properly, you can still get some really good savings that may be meaningful to you at that kind of an income level,” he said.

The BC Securities Commission has announced the appointment of Gordon Johnson as its new vice-chair

The excerpted article was written by James Burton

The British Columbia Securities Commission has announced the appointment of Gordon Johnson as its new vice-chair.

Brenda Leong, chair and CEO, said: “It’s my pleasure to welcome Gordon to the BCSC. We will surely benefit from Gordon’s wealth of experience, especially in the areas of capital markets and administrative law.

“His insights and perspectives as a seasoned practitioner will be invaluable in helping to guide our regulatory policy and tribunal decisions.”

A BCSC press release detailed how Johnson has more than 30 years of securities law and senior litigation experience. He was a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG), where he focused on both prosecuting and defending clients on regulatory issues and investment claims, and dealing with disputes between investment firms.

He also has significant experience in administrative law, having appeared as counsel before many tribunals, including tribunals of the BCSC, as well as before the British Columbia Supreme Court and the British Columbia Court of Appeal. Johnson served on BLG’s national board for six years.

#JustDrive – SGI: 284 impaired driving offences reported in January

Feb 25, 2020

Getting arrested for driving impaired is a terrible way to start off the new year, as 284 people found out in January.

The January spotlight found police across the province reporting 231 Criminal Code charges for impaired driving and 53 roadside administrative suspensions.

While many New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside, it’s important to commit to drive sober or plan a safe ride home when you know you’ll be impaired by drugs or alcohol. Saskatchewan has tough consequences for impaired drivers, and impaired driving is the leading cause of death on Saskatchewan roads.

Distracted driving tickets decline for third consecutive month

The number of reported distracted driving offences continued to trend lower in January after seeing significant drops in both November and December. Police reported 509 tickets issued last month (including 405 for cellphone use).

Remember, distracted driving penalties increased Feb. 1, but police officers were keeping a close eye on distracted drivers long before the change, and will continue to focus on this issue.

In January, police in Saskatchewan also reported the following:

  • 428 tickets related to seatbelts and car seats and,
  • 5,563 tickets for speeding and aggressive driving.

February’s Traffic Safety Spotlight continues to be on distracted driving. Avoiding a big ticket (plus demerits, and vehicle impoundment for a repeat offence) is easy. Leave the phone alone, be wary of other behaviours that might distract you, and #JustDrive.

NFP unifies brokerages under its brand

NEW YORK, N.Y. — NFP Canada Corp., an insurance broker serving the needs of the trucking industry, is unifying its Canadian businesses under the “NFP” brand, further integrating acquired brokerages.

The company announced Tuesday that several of its Canadian brokerages, including Capital Benefit Financial Group, Corporate Benefits Analysts Insurance Agency, Consortia Group, PBL Insurance Limited, Dalton Timmis Insurance Group, Mass Insurance Brokers, McLean Hallmark Insurance Group, Elective Benefits Services and Indemnis Trade Risk Management, will adopt the NFP name.

This implementation marks the latest in a series of strategic initiatives of NFP Corp. across North America, the company said.

“We are thrilled to come together under the NFP brand and unify our operations in Canada,” said Greg Padovani, president of NFP in Canada.

“The integration of these well-established firms creates a platform for NFP that has the size, scale, and capabilities to provide a full range of insurance solutions to Canadian corporations and individuals.”

NFP is one of the top 10 Canadian brokerages, with 750 employees.

ICBC unveils new road safety school resources

ICBC unveils new road safety school resources

As part of ICBC’s commitment to promoting a safe driving culture in B.C., ICBC has developed new road safety learning resources to help teachers give children and young adults the foundation they need to stay safe.

Designed for students from preschool to grade 10, teachers can now download road safety resources for free at icbc.com. The material is divided by grade level, and each grade has a teachers’ manual and handout booklet for students.

“I’m impressed with all the materials available to us,” said David Evans, teacher, South Island Distance Education. “There are activities and worksheets for all grade levels and ties back to the new learning standards. Thank you for helping us improve ways to be safer in our community.”

“Whether it’s learning how to safely cross the road, or understanding the rules of a four-way stop, road safety is important for all British Columbians,” said Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s vice-president of public affairs and driver licensing. “As part of our commitment to promoting a safe driving culture in B.C., we’ve developed these road safety resources to help give children and young adults the tools they need to stay safe, now and in the future.”

The new material is downloadable, searchable and easily printable in its PDF format. The redesigned school materials align with the Ministry of Education’s new curriculum guidelines, which include:

  • incorporating Core Competencies, Big Ideas, and Learning Standards through the Know-Do-Understand model
  • focusing on personal safety, personal awareness, and personal/social responsibility
  • integrating the First Peoples Principles of Learning perspectives

Learn more about these resources available to educators at icbc.com/4teachers.

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