The Canadian tax system is complex and no single number can give us a complete idea of who pays how much tax. This Alert examines what has happened to the tax bill of the average Canadian family over the past 51 years. To do this, we have constructed an index of the tax bill, the Canadian Consumer Tax Index, for the period 1961 to 2012.
The Canadian Consumer Tax Index reveals that there has been a dramatic increase in the average family’s tax bill from 1961 to 2012. Among those factors is a sizeable increase in incomes over the period: 1,382 percent since 1961. Even with no changes in tax rates, the family’s tax bill would have increased substantially; growth in family income alone would have produced an increase in the tax bill from $1,675 in 1961 to $24,828 in 2012. Second, the average family faced a tax rate increase from 33.5 percent in 1961 to 42.7 percent in 2012. It is clear that taxes have become the most significant item in family budgets, and that taxes have grown more rapidly than any other single item.
In 1961, the average family spent 56.5 percent of its cash income to pay for shelter, food, and clothing. In the same year, 33.5 percent of the family’s income went to governments as tax. By 2012, the situation was reversed: the average family spent 36.9 percent of its income on the necessities of life while 42.7 percent of its income went to taxes.
The results show that the tax burden faced by the average Canadian family has risen compared with 51 years earlier. The total tax bill, which includes all types of taxes, has increased by 1,787 percent since 1961, and the tax bill has grown more rapidly than any other single expenditure item.