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CRA expands 'snitch line,' now taking reports on those fraudulently receiving COVID-19 aid
VANCOUVER -- This week, the Canada Revenue Agency expanded its suspected tax cheat reporting portal to include claims of COVID-19 benefit fraud. That means Canadians who suspect someone of receiving funds they're not entitled to can now report them to the government.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) have all been added to the list of different types of cheating you can report on the CRA website.
Just last month, at least 77 Vancouver seniors were believed to be the target of a CERB application scheme in which a woman, who advertised her services on Facebook, offered to sign them up for a government benefit in exchange for a 10 per cent cut.
Don Davies, the MP for Vancouver Kingsway, vehemently condemned the practice.
"At the very best they are committing an immoral and unethical act by taking advantage of vulnerable seniors," he said. "And at worst, this is illegal.”
Most of the seniors didn't actually qualify for the CERB, a $2,000 a month benefit for those who have lost their job during the pandemic – but the woman was signing them up anyway.
The CERB application process was intentionally designed to be simple so it would be easily accessible, a choice Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended in May.
“Our focus was getting help out to people when they needed it, as quickly as possible, and cleaning it up afterwards,” he said.
More than 15 million applications for the CERB have been processed since it was first introduced, and $42 billion in aid has been paid out so far. And employment lawyer Howard Levitt believes there's been rampant abuse.
"People say 'I want my piece too' and when they hear about some people cheating, they think they are the bigger fool by not cheating themselves," he told CTV News.
The CRA's portal, where you can report a lead on suspected tax or benefit cheating, now allows Canadians to report individuals receiving the CERB or the Canada Emergency Student Benefit who do not meet the eligibility criteria. It also enables reporting of businesses or charities "that are misusing the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy."
There are recent reports that the federal government had flagged about 200,000 people who may have wrongly received money from COVID-19 financial assistance programs and there may be others who applied for funding for which they weren't eligible.
“The CRA and Service Canada have records of all individuals who’ve received payments for the CERB and CESB, and are verifying to make sure the payments were correctly allocated,” the site says. “Similarly, various pre-payment verifications and post-payment reviews are being conducted by the CRA for the CEWS.”
The reporting process is anonymous and can be done by mail, by phone or online. When McLaughlin On Your Side called the designated phone line on Tuesday, the line was continuously busy.
With files from John Forani and Pat Foran