taxes

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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.


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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 Alberta’s 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.


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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, it’s 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.


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The May 2 minority Liberal budget is a politically expedient document that likely avoids an election but unfortunately fails to tackle Ontario's looming fiscal crisis. The longer the province waits, the more difficult and painful the reforms will be when the inevitable day of reckoning arrives.


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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.


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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 it’s worth, it might be of some comfort to know taxes have provoked much the same reaction throughout history.


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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, we’re 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.


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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, let’s look at each plan for the most important types of taxes. It’s not a pretty picture.


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The recent death of Margaret Thatcher provoked a plethora of analysis and emotion about the late British prime minister. That was predictable given how the much-needed reforms of the British economy upset the turgid status quo; that was bound to produce admirers and critics.