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Tax agency fails to create new strategy for cheats after three-year effort

The current guiding document is a decade old, and changes since then - including the advent of cash-register ``zapper'' technology that conceals sales - have made it increasingly out of date.

After a three-year effort, the Canada Revenue Agency has failed to produce a new national strategy to combat the underground economy - despite repeated requests to do so from cash-starved provinces.
   
The provinces, especially Ontario and British Columbia, have been pressing the agency since late 2010 to update its strategy for extracting taxes from the underground economy, estimated to be worth more than $35 billion annually.
   
The current guiding document is a decade old, and changes since then - including the advent of cash-register ``zapper'' technology that conceals sales - have made it increasingly out of date.
   
The agency regularly audits offenders in three most-active underground sectors, that is, construction, retail trade and food services, including table-waiting staff.
   
In 2011-12, the last year for which statistics are available, the agency carried out almost 11,000 underground-economy audits, finding more than $300 million in unpaid taxes.
   
But internal documents from last October show that an updated strategy for targeting the right businesses and workers, with enough resources and agency-wide co-ordination, has eluded officials.

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