It's February, folks, and you know what that means. Taxes... Yeah, yeah, Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, 2016 leap year and all that. But it's also the time of year when people wake up to the fact that, oh crap, tax deadlines are looming, and that they better get their act together to reduce their tax bill -- not to mention their stress level.
It may be tempting to pay for certain things in cash because we think that saving a few dollars here and there can't hurt; however, we fail to see the larger impact of what happens when we do. The underground economy makes it challenging to protect the country's revenue base and hinders the government's ability to keep taxes low. When people pay in cash, they skip out on paying the taxes that support things like healthcare, education and public transportation -- the very social services we rely on every day.
There is little argument that Canadians deserve a fair tax system. It is unacceptable that there be even the slightest perception that corporations and wealthy individuals can avoid tax investigations by hiring a lobbyist or high-priced tax lawyer. The minister should be demanding answers -- on behalf of all Canadians -- from her senior managers.
After weeks of waiting, we finally know how the Liberals are starting to roll out their tax-related election promises. The previous government was notorious for introducing last minute, retroactive tax changes that it was hard to predict if the new government would follow suit. And now we have our answers.
Companies operating in Canada in 2014 held over $199 billion in "assets" -- unpaid taxes -- in havens like Barbados and the Cayman Islands. Canada is one of the biggest "losers" of corporate tax revenue. The "winner" countries are the ones with low-to-none corporate income tax, such as Bermuda, as well as the super-rich.
In Canada, our system is unique to the individual, and tax obligations are based on each person's allowable deductions and credits. Knowing what to include is often difficult for filers because, across Canada, confusion about taxes persists. Knowing how influential taxes were in the election, let's make sure we understand what is out there and available.
Last week, Canadian government plans for keeping better track of people coming and going from the U.S. were revealed. The driving purpose for the increased scrutiny will save the government millions of dollars in social benefits on those who shouldn't receive them because they are out of the country.
Under the FATCA rules, financial institutions are obligated to provide the IRS with information about accounts and holdings of U.S. citizens. Basically, the IRS is trying to make sure you are not hiding money overseas though Canada is hardly a tax haven. But there is more to this overreaching legislation that just tracking down deadbeat U.S. citizens.
For the past few years, Canadians have been taking advantage of our dollar being worth about the same as the U.S. dollar. From buying up real estate to cross-border shopping, being on par with the U.S. dollar has had its advantages. However, in the last few months, economic factors have driven the Canadian dollar down. It may be time to regroup and look at some strategies to make the weakening dollar work for you.
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.