OTTAWA - The federal government is tightening up tariffs on imported products such as televisions and iPods that receive a special exemption when used with computers.
A memo from the Canadian Border Services Agency, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, says that TV importers owe about $16 million from 2011 alone due to a reassessment of customs duties.
The memo from March 2012 says importers who use the computer exemption must get certificates from the end users — consumers, in most cases — that certify the product will be used with a computer.
No certificate, no exemption, says the agency, while acknowledging that the "vast majority" of end users are consumers and no such certificates are available.
The changes are not related to the Harper government's 2013 budget delivered last month, which has sparked a hot debate over whether new tariffs effectively impose a politically awkward "iPod tax."
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's office pointed to the computer exemption this week to say tariffs on iPods are not increasing — yet the agency told at least one importer in writing as recently as December 2012 that iPods also require end-user certificates to prove they qualify for the exemption.
Canada's complex tariff regulations have become a political football since the Harper government announced in last month's budget that it is reducing tariffs on a few popular items — while quietly raising tariffs on thousands of other consumer products.
Some economists have suggested the budget changes will increase tariffs on MP3 players, including iPods.
That prompted the federal NDP to accuse the Conservatives of hypocrisy, since the Conservatives mounted a high-profile campaign in 2010 accusing New Democrats of wanting to impose an iPod tax.
"During this fragile economic recovery, the last thing Canadian families and consumers need is a massive new tax on iPods," three senior Conservative ministers said in a joint release on Dec. 14, 2010.
NOBEL PRIZE TAX Being rewarded for helping bring world peace or writing a great novel can cost you. The "Nobel prize" tax--in reality it also applies to other prizes such as the Pulitzer--is a tax levied against the money a prizewinner receives. Unless, that is, he or she chooses to give it all to charity.
ILLEGAL DRUG TAX Often referred to as the "crack tax," this tax targets possession of illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. Over 20 states currently have such taxes on the books. When you pay the tax in Tennessee, you even receive stamps to attach to your illegal substances as proof of payment. And, not to worry, you don't have to identify yourself in order to pay the tax. Still, do people voluntarily pay the tax, thus admitting to possession? It appears not often, but Tennessee did collect $1.8 million from the tax in 2006; however much of that came from confiscated drugs on which, alas, taxes hadn't been paid.
BEARD TAX Tsar Peter I was one of history’s great tax enthusiasts. His taste in taxes was fairly eccentric, and he is know to have taxed everything from beehives to beards. In an effort to regulate his countrymen’s appearance, Peter the Great introduced a special tax on the latter item in 1705. With the exception of the clergy, anyone with a beard was required to pay for the right to sport facial hair.
SODA FOUNTAIN DRINK TAX If you are the type of person who infinitely prefers fountain soda to can soda, you may want to think again before moving to the Windy City. Chicago taxes can soda at 3%, but fountain soda at three times that amount, or 9%.
JOCK TAX It seems even jocks get picked on by the IRS. 20 of the 24 states with a pro sports team require athletes to pay state income tax for each game they play there. The tax can be traced to the 1991 NBA Finals when the Chicago Bulls beat the LA Lakers, only to receive tax bills from California for the three games the team played there. While the tax applies to other kind of performers who do business in multiple states, it seems that athletes, with their high visibility and well-documented schedules, are the easiest to target come tax time.
URINE TAX The Roman emperor Nero levied a tax on the collection of urine in the 1st century (his successor, Vespasian, was also a fan of the tax, and applied it to all public toilets.) At least after collecting the urine from public latrines the Romans put it to good use--launderers, for example, apparently found it useful as a source of ammonia for whitening togas.
TATTOO TAX Anyone looking to decorate their body with their loved one's name or finally get that eyebrow ring they've always dreamed of may not want to do so in Arkansas, where tattoos and body piercings are subject to an additional 6% state sales tax.
SPARKLERS TAX Celebrating Fourth of July in West Virginia may lose some of its glory when you realize that the state imposes a special tax on businesses selling sparklers and other ‘novelties.’ That comes in addition to the state’s 6 percent sales tax, and so it may be better to head out of state to buy those trick noisemakers.
SALT TAX Salt taxes have appeared in various nations over the course of history, yet rarely have they been well received by those made to pay them. The French, the Chinese and the British all implemented them at some point. In 1930, Gandhi led an anti-salt tax protest known as the Dandi March, which helped build support for the move towards Indian independence.
BLUEBERRY TAX It's not clear why the state of Maine has singled out the blueberry, but be warned that if you want blueberries from there you will be paying a penny-and-a-half per pound tax, which the states imposes on anyone who grows, sells or purchases the fruit.
WINDOW TAX Also known as the “glass tax,” it was introduced by William Pitt the Younger in eighteenth century England. Any property that had more than six windows was hit with the tax. Not surprisingly, many windows were bricked-over as a result.
NUDITY SALES TAX Wear less, pay more. At least that’s the case in Utah, which imposes a 10% tax on any sexually explicit business where someone appears nude or partially nude. The tax covers everything from merchandise to food.