Section 24: Information must qualify to be withheld under referenced law

Complaint: The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) withheld a list of tax discounters under section 24.

Investigation: The OIC learned that companies on the list prepare income tax returns, acquire any refunds and pay them out immediately to clients. The requester simply wanted a list of firms in this line of work and their business addresses.

Outcome: CRA released the records and agreed to do so in response to similar requests in the future.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Section 24 refers to other laws that prohibit or restrict the disclosure of information. Among these are section 241 of the Income Tax Act, which protects the confidentiality of taxpayer information.
  • In this case, the information did not relate to taxpayers but rather to businesses dealing with them. Releasing the list would not reveal any information the provision was designed to protect.
  • In another case, CRA similarly applied section 241 broadly, withholding its entire file on a taxpayer’s business. CRA argued that, since the company had been dissolved, no one had the right to its income tax information. However, an exception in paragraph 241(4)(b) allows information to be released that is necessary to determine any amount a taxpayer may owe CRA or vice-versa. CRA retrieved and released 700 pages, with some exemptions applied.
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