Diane Francis, the grande dame of Canadian business journalism, is now deep into her “Sucker Nation” series of columns in the Financial Post, exposing the outrageous ways that Canadian taxpayers get ripped off by amoral fat cats, expats, and passport-collecting jet-setters. Highly recommended reading, as it’s important to know what loopholes (and outright frauds) people exploit to stick someone else with the country’s bills. It’s a good character check to ask yourself: would I do what these people do, if presented with the opportunity?
Read each installment, with some great reader comments and e-mails following, on the National Post’s Full Comment blog:
“I read your column and just couldn’t resist commenting on the abuse and fraud on the medical health care system I see and hear about every day.
“My husband and I moved to X [Latin America] to retire 3.5 years ago. We buy comprehensive insurance, to the tune of C$3,200 each and are glad to do so. However, many of the Canadians who have moved here, and spend at least ten months a year outside of Canada, are delighted to tell us that they have full access to the Canadian medical system. (Obviously, they think we are dumb to have insurance.)
“One such couple just flew back to Canada because the man had heart palpitations. He is currently undergoing bypass surgery and will soon have a pacemaker and defibrillator installed. They have lived in Europe for the last three years and this year spent all their time, other than Christmas, here. This particular couple have taken all of their investments offshore and the only income they pay tax on is the Old Age pensions. They tell everyone this.
(Quoting a tax accountant who wrote to her:) “…as an example, we have many Asians who have obtained Canadian passports and are working in Hong Kong and other areas earning substantial amounts of money. I’m not for taxing this compensation earned in other countries if the Canadian passport holder declares himself to be residing in those areas and is a taxpayer in those jurisdictions.”
“However, I feel very strongly that they should not be allowed to dance at two weddings at the same time. Why should these people be entitled to return to Canada at any time and take advantage of our health, social and educational services?”
“Once they have lived outside of Canada for one year, they should be obligated to pay a so-called `reentry fee’ for the services we provide.”
“In the first year this fee could be as low as $2,500 plus the maximum health tax plus an additional amount if they have school aged children. I would have this `reentry fee’ as a cumulative amount so that if they were away for five years and wanted to return for medical help or send their children to Canadian schools they would have to pay five times the amount, or seven times the amounts if they have been absent for seven years. This would compensate all Canadians who have been footing the bill over this period of time.”
Amen to that! Pay to play, people.
“Extremely rich people from corrupt countries apply for permanent residency at their local embassy and it is my guess that their certain `special influence’ is exerted so they can get themselves and members of the family into Canada as immigrants.”
“They visit Canada for a few weeks, get bank accounts, buy a condo then hit the road and leave Canada, letting the clock tick until they qualify for Canadian citizenship.”
“Once they have a passport the party begins and they can come back and forth to use our services at will without contributing to taxes.”
“These people are rich beyond our wildest dreams. A spare condo in Toronto [or Vancouver] is chump change if one looks upon it as [free entitlements like health care], needed `insurance’ against a collapse at home or a change in government.”
Thousands of fabulously wealthy Canadians sit on yachts in tax havens without paying any taxes on wealth made in Canada. Some, like the Irvings of New Brunswick, accumulate a king’s ransom because their Canadian empire’s ownership was transferred by the founder in the early 1970s to a series of Bermudian trusts.
It’s outrageous. The Americans do not allow this. Americans are taxed on the basis of their citizenship irrespective of residency.
Canada allows its wealthy to go offshore, pay a one-time departure tax on their wealth of 25% capital gains tax and never have to pay tax again on their nest egg as it accumulates in Barbados, Bermuda, Bahamas or any number of tax havens like the Channel Islands or Ireland.
Canada also allows people to leave “permanently” for tax purposes, then come back without penalty. That’s why it is not unusual for old expatriates, or those with serious illnesses, to return in order to poach off Canadians for health care because they are medically uninsurable abroad.
“Fortunately, for every one of these guys there are ten of us who don’t do this,” said Seymour Schulich. “My family’s here, my grandchildren are here and I made my money here. Say what you want, I think you owe allegiance to the place which gave you the opportunities. I would say to these guys who leave ‘it’s okay to take your money and run, but don’t ever come back.’”