Discussions about taxes are inevitably polarizing. Some Canadians think taxes are too high while others happily pay their share. But given the litany of taxes levied on us by the three levels of government, it is nearly impossible to get a sense of how much we truly pay.
In a recent debate on the pages of the National Post many Albertans might have missed, two economists, Rhys Kesselman from Simon Fraser University, and Jack Mintz from the University of Calgary, sparred over the most desirable tax mix for Alberta. Kesselman wanted Albertas single income tax rate replaced with cascading tax brackets, and structured to ensure higher overall taxes. Mintz advocated a sales tax but with the caveat that it be revenue neutral, i.e., some other tax should be lowered in exchange.
As the stress of the April 30th tax filing deadline fades and the shock realization by most Canadians regarding how much income and payroll taxes they pay subsides, its worthwhile considering the costs imposed on Canadians to comply with tax regulations.
All told, governments in Canada expect to collect $586.6 billion in 2013 (fiscal 2013-14). There are, however, significant costs beyond the simple dollars extracted.
Too often in politics, particularly during election campaigns, citizens conflate political brands with policy. That is, too often we make assumptions about the policies of political parties based on a perception rather than the reality of experience. Many assume, for example, that Conservatives care deeply about and pursue policies based on tradition, balancing budgets, and competitiveness while the NDP focus more on the poor and disadvantaged, strengthening unions, and restricting trade. The reality, however, is that policies are never that tightly woven with specific parties.
For those who file their taxes at the last moment and cut an extra cheque to government, right about now is unlikely to be their favourite time of year. For what its worth, it might be of some comfort to know taxes have provoked much the same reaction throughout history.
Unless analyzing tax policy is part of your day job, you likely avoid thinking about what ultimately can be a polarizing topic. But with the deadline for filing our income tax returns around the corner, were all forced to at least temporarily think about taxes. The deadline after all is a sharp reminder of how much income tax we paid throughout the year.
British Columbia is officially in election mode and the parties are rolling out their campaign promises. When it comes to the tax promises of the two mainstream parties, British Columbians are confronted with a choice, as it were, between higher taxes or even higher taxes. So pick your poison.
To see how they stack up, lets look at each plan for the most important types of taxes. Its not a pretty picture.
Milton Friedman was famous for his one-liners. One of his most repeated lines was: I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible. Friedman believed government was too large and intrusive, and that by cutting taxes, the size of government would be reduced.