November 10, 2019

With taxes, you’re guilty until proven innocent

The presumption of innocence, a cornerstone of Liberal Democracy, is essentially flipped in Canada when it comes to one matter: taxes. Here one is guilty until proven innocent. There is some justification for this. Taxpayers tell the Canada Revenue Agency how much they owe, not vice versa. The taxpayer is presumed to have all the relevant information. The problem is that this is not always the case. There have been cases where taxpayers have had money stolen from them, and the Canadian Revenue Service presented them with a bill. In such cases, the reversal of presumption of innocence is not justified.

The idea is that the burden of proving innocence is on the taxpayer because the taxpayer – and not the Canada Revenue Agency – has the information required to properly determine his or her tax liability. Except that this isn’t always the case.

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