The office of auditor general Michael Ferguson in one of its fall reports last week said the Canada Revenue Agency hasn’t been treating all taxpayers equally when auditing and reviewing their tax filings. The AG’s office found the revenue agency’s treatment varied based on the agency staff investigating the files, the region where the file was reassessed, and the type of taxpayer. That last bit is interesting: the audit found that the agency asked for information from individual taxpayers with Canadian job income more quickly and gave them less time to respond than it did with other taxpayers, such as international and large businesses, and taxpayers with offshore accounts. “Over the past five years ending March 31, 2018, the agency took, on average, more than a year and a half to complete audits of offshore transactions,” it found, and sometimes the agency didn’t get information at all, so the file was closed without any taxes assessed. This looks bad on a government that appears to have been trying to crack down on offshore tax evaders, in the wake of international scandals involving Canadians such as the Panama Papers leak in 2016. The government in its 2016 budget gave the CRA $444-million over five years to help reduce tax evasion and tax avoidance, and the year after it committed another $524-million over five years to reduce tax evasion and boost tax compliance. Yet, even with these additional resources, the CRA seems to be focusing on the little guys because they’re easy to go after, while letting some of the big fish off the hook. “Does the CRA have a culture of conveniently ignoring tax evaders who have the means to hire a lawyer?” asked Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in a press release responding to the AG’s report. She cited a May 2007 report from a former AG to the House Finance Committee. According to this, Ms. May said “Specifically, the CRA was ‘inconsistently’ approaching international audits because they did not have the capacity to tackle the highest-risk files.” Now, more than 10 years later, and in the shadow of high-profile investigations like the Panama Papers, it's “disconcerting” that the same kind of problems are being noted, said Ms. May. “The CRA needs to shift its Sheriff of Nottingham approach to tax collection and have the rich pay their fair share rather than concentrate audits on hardworking Canadians because it’s easier to have them pay,” said the Green leader. She has a good point. The CRA should funnel resources into ensuring more consistency in its application of tax rules and compliance activities. The agency has also rightly agreed to follow the AG’s latest recommendation to “set time limits for all audit workloads to provide information requested and...consistently enforce the provisions of the Income Tax Act to compel taxpayers to produce information once those time limits have passed.” In its defence, the agency said “The complexity of the request drives the time provided to respond, and legislation prescribes the time allowed for the Canada Revenue Agency to finalize compliance work. The Office of the Auditor General of Canada identified a lack of fixed timelines for more complex agency requests in which auditors have to use their judgment and court action is more likely to be required to secure co-operation.” It would move to boost these timelines by March 2020, it said.