Monday, May 22, 2006

A bizarre incentive

The CP follows up on the $18 billion in unpaid income taxes revealed by Sheila Fraser's report last week. And for a government supposedly committed to rewarding those Canadians who play by the rules, some of the problems seem relatively simple to fix:
A tendency in the Canada Revenue Agency to choose "what's easy" over "what's right" is to blame for $18 billion in unpaid taxes uncovered in the auditor general's latest report, some of its current and former employees say.

It's a system plagued by inefficiency, one that rewards managers with financial incentives regardless of whether debts are actually collected, a debt collector at the Toronto North tax office told The Canadian Press...

To meet the budget, collection agents must erase a pre-determined amount from their books. That number can be resolved in two ways - either the debtor pays their taxes, or the collector writes off the account by declaring it "doubtful" or "uncollectable."

"They have big pushes. We have weeks where everyone says there's a deadline coming, we have to write off as much as possible because they set a budget from headquarters," said the employee.

"Everyone goes nuts and writes off all these accounts. It's just weird."
So part of the solution may be as simple as not paying CRA managers to write off debts. Unfortunately, the article notes that some of the same problems have been constant for Canada's tax collectors since the Cons' godfather handed over power to the Libs over a decade ago...meaning that there's a substantial amount of inertia behind the current system, and that the Cons may well see the issue as one which they can ignore due to the Libs' failure to solve anything when they last gained the government benches.

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