How a Canadian Bank Wants You to Forget They Avoid Taxes

If you are on social media you might have noticed a campaign by TD Bank called #TDThanksYou.

It is another example of a popular corporate advertising practice that goes like this:

  • organize a surprise event for a few customers,
  • videotape it
  • add some music
  • slap a syrupy hashtag on it
  • hope it goes viral and people think you are nice guys.

You'd have to have a heart of stone not to let it pull at your heart strings a little and they know it. 

But wait. This is the same multinational that aggressively operates in tax havens.

In 2012 TD Bank made $6.5 billion in profit. But, because of overseas profits, it cut its tax rate to 15 per cent. That's half the regular Canadian corporate tax rate which is already the lowest in the G7. In 2009 when the corporate tax rate was almost 32 per cent, TD paid only 7.6 per cent tax in Canada.

TD is not alone in this practice. The Royal Bank spends millions sponsoring events and donating to charities. But it too operates in tax havens all over the world. And resource giant Cameco uses the tag line "Cameco Cares" - contributing to children's hospitals and organizing summer concerts. But behind that feel-good generosity, Cameco has avoided more than a billion dollars in taxes through its use of a Swiss tax haven.

So here's the thing. It is great when big companies donate. But it rings hollow when their business plan involves avoiding taxes here at home. It means they aren't paying their fair share for health care, education and transportation. Most of us are thankful to live in Canada. And most of us pay our taxes as a way of expressing that thankfulness and responsibility to our country. It is time for multinationals to start doing the same. 

These same companies will tell you that what they are doing is legal - even though it might not be in the spirit of the law.  That kind of avoidance needs serious scrutiny from our political leaders. There is $199 Billion of Canadian money in tax havens and it grows every year. 

Take a minute to tell our political leaders that you want tax fairness to be part of their vision.