I am sorry if I have not made myself heard by my hon. friend behind me. I cannot face all directions at once. If I turn round and face in his direction, I am afraid a majority of the members of the House would not be able to hear me at all.
I submit, Mr. Speaker, to you and to the House, that the present provisions for appeals are entirely unsatisfactory. I have already read an extract from a letter written by a responsible party in the province of Ontario complaining that for years when the board of referees was apparently available appeals have been made, but these appeals have been disregarded and ignored; and that subsequently, in 1923, the whole system of appealing to boards of referees was done away with, and the appeal provided to the Exchequer Court. He states-and I think it will be obvious to everyone-that the appeal to the Exchequer Court is only possible for and only likely to be made by the very large taxpayers who can afford to run the risk and to incur the expense necessarily involved.
Seventhly, I submit, from the evidence which was laid before the committee, that although the Business Profits War Tax Act does not apply to accounting periods subsequent to 1920, assessments and collections under that act have not yet been cleaned up in this year 1925. The commissioner has admitted delay possibly measured in years, both in the sending out of the preliminary letter of advice to taxpayers, and in the sending out of the final notice of assessment. The commissioner has also admitted and defended deliberate delay in issuing the final notice of assessment, in some cases where firms were in financial difficulties. By reason of such delays in making assessments and collections, there have been unknown and indeterminable losses of revenue, -either by loss of interest or due to intervening bankruptcies.
These are the facts and conditions in the department that have been brought out by the inquiry. What then is the conclusion to
which we are driven? I submit that it is this: The Commissioner of Taxation possesses quite extraordinary powers, and virtually complete immunity from investigation and criticism. There is every opportunity and temptation to exercise discrimination in the administration of law. No official should be placed in this position. No man should possess such tremendous and such arbitrary power. What therefore should be done? I suggest the following as remedial measures.
First, there should) be an amendment to section 11 of the Income War Tax Act dealing with secrecy, to make it clear beyond question that the Auditor General has full power to make investigation of all matters pertaining to assessment and collection of income taxes. I understand it is the intention of the Acting Minister of Finance to recommend that the Auditor General be empowered to audit the revenue of the Dominion. The latter has stated that there is some doubt as to whether or not he is permitted under the law to audit this particular department, and I submit to the minister, to the House and to the gov-vernment, that such amendment ought to be made immediately so that the Auditor General would be in a position beyond any doubt or controversy to investigate these matters. I should like personally to turn over to the Auditor General, since I have been unable to secure action on the part of the committee, a number of specific allegations of irregularity that have come to me privately, and I should like to have him investigate these matters. If this amendment to the act be not passed, he may come back next year and state that he has been unable or has not been permitted to make this very necessary investigation.
In the second place I think there should be such amendments to the Act as will enable taxpayers to carry their appeals to local courts, thus taking away from the Commissioner of Taxation the opportunity for exercising discrimination in the secret adjustment of appeals; also making appeals much less expensive than they are now to the Exchequer court. I desire, without making any personal reflections, to point out to the House and to the minister that there is under the present system every opportunity for a secret arrangement between the commissioner and any taxpayer, an arrangement which if it is irregular or unwise is not possible of discovery later on.
In the third place-and although this dea's with a somewhat different matter, it is a matter which ought to be considered and acted upon, I think, by this House in the near
future; I refer to the assessment of income taxes-