The author is vice-president of Tax at CPA Canada and one of the country's leading tax advisors.
Gabe is vice-president, Tax at CPA Canada,and is one of the country's leading tax advisors and a frequent speaker at tax conferences. He has over 34 years of tax experience in a broad range of areas and is the author of numerous articles. A past governor of the Canadian Tax Foundation and a director on its executive committee, he was a partner with KPMG from 1986 to 2011.
The underground economy is toxic. It costs jobs, makes it harder for above-board businesses to compete and ruins faith in our tax system. It can also leave you holding the bag when you get sub-par results or someone gets burned in a cash deal. But there is something we can all do, and it's simple.
By making it easier to navigate the tax rules and meet their obligations, Canadians will spend less time and less of their money on preparing their taxes, leaving more in their pockets. For Canadian businesses, productivity could improve as they spend less time, effort and capital dealing with tax compliance and red tape.
How is it that everyone seems to know someone who's paid under the table, but no one concedes to doing it? Of course, that's no surprise. Who wants to admit to putting personal gain ahead of the greater good? It costs jobs, undermines businesses that play by the rules, and deprives the government of much needed revenue for vital programs. Statistics Canada says the underground economy totalled $42.4 billion in 2012, roughly 2.3 per cent of gross domestic product, much of it occurring in the construction, finance and real estate, retail and hospitality industries.
The Conservative budget's failure to initiate a process of comprehensive tax reform is a missed opportunity to lift Canada's prospects for long-term prosperity and growth. Tax reform and simplification would improve Canada's international competitiveness, productivity and economic growth, from both a personal and corporate perspective.