Isn’t it interesting to compare and contrast how other countries operate? What’s really interesting is when one country can learn from the example of another, specifically when the learning happens in a positive, constructive manner. Take, for example, an article by Commox Valley, which details a lesson in fraud punishment that the U.S. might want to consider…
The article reports that the defendant, a “Campbell Riverite,” (or native of Campbell River) is finding himself in hot water with the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) and the courts. The man was accused of stealing personal identities to claim Goods and Services (GST) tax returns. He pleaded guilty to 26 counts of GST fraud, admitting to stealing the identities of six locals. (Well at least the U.S. hasn’t cornered this market.) But with only six identities, how much was the man able to bring in?
The investigation found that the man opened seven GST accounts, one in his own name and the other six in the names of the stolen identities. He used those accounts to make fraudulent claims to returns, receiving $108,000 that he was not entitled to. (Not bad for only having a few different names to work with.)
While Canada and the U.S. have many similarities – including, apparently, vulnerability for tax refund fraud – they also hold strong differences in their form of punishment for fraud. The Canadian government decided to fine the man $108,000, the total of his earnings during his fraudulent span of theft. But, this wasn’t enough – the man is expected to pay back the $108,000 he originally stole, on top of his $108,000 fine, totaling $216,000. (Real justice for the taxpayer!) The Canadian government also sentenced the fraudster to 18 months house arrest and 12 months of probation.
This is where we see the dynamics of governments allowing other countries to take example and learn: when individuals in Canada are convicted of GST fraud, they must repay the full amount of the taxes owed, plus interest and civil penalties assessed by the CRA. In addition, the court can fine them up to 200% of what they stole, as well as impose a five-year jail term. (Ok, now this is a deterrent! In the U.S., they usually don’t even have to pay back what they stole. The penalties often are far less severe.)
It is often helpful to learn constructively from the criminal enforcements of other countries. In this case, the U.S. could learn a little “real punishment” from Canada when it comes to fraud. It might assist our economy to start enforcing these tough payments on convicted fraudsters!