New Year's Eve. Champagne toasts and countdowns. Kisses at midnight and Auld Lang Syne. It's a time to look forward to the year ahead, and reflect on the one just past. Especially your taxes. Sorry to rip you out of the reverie, but taxes never sleep. And on December 31, Canada's tax laws set in stone a number of factors that influence your personal tax return.
I don't like when tax dollars are wasted -- whether at the provincial level by relocating gas plants, or at City Hall by tearing up LRT contracts willy-nilly, or even by the federal government straight up losing $3.1 billion (whatever happened to that scandal, by the way?). And I get that times are tough. Saving pennies matters to a lot of people these days, and it should to our governments, too.
Top income earners with taxable income of over $135,000 are taxed at 29 per cent -- about average for an industrialized country. But because they have a lot more tax loopholes they can take advantage of, the average income tax rate paid by the richest 1 per cent was only 19.7 per cent. How is that fair?
We may be looking at something of a Dickensian, bah-humbug holiday season, according to a recent H&R Block survey of Canadian workers. The survey conducted by Leger showed only 44 per cent of Canadians are expecting an employer-hosted holiday party. But if, in fact, the season does put a scrap of gold or silver in your pocket, there's a chance it may come with tax implications, and many Canadians don't realize that.
In the real world, much of the money the rich and corporations gained from tax cuts is being socked away, often in tax havens. The amount of Canadian money in tax havens is at an all-time high. One of the main reasons corporations are not investing is that demand for products and services is weak because of stagnant incomes of middle and lower income Canadians.
We recently asked Leger to survey Canadians about cheating on taxes, and the results were a little surprising. Turns out that we don't seem to think tax cheats are all that bad. And if you are thinking about cheating on your taxes, the CRA does have several checks in place to make sure you are filing correctly.
In the recent throne speech, the federal government announced a variety of initiatives but the one that drew much attention was its ostensible consumer-friendly tack. To help consumers, especially those with the lowest incomes, the federal government doesn't need to micro-manage airline tickets. It could instead focus on the big picture.
Healthcare in Canada is anything but free. The average Canadian family of two parents with two children (similar to Walt's family in the drama) pays approximately $11,320 in taxes for hospital and physician care through the country's tax system, in addition to the cost of private insurance for things like dental care and outpatient prescription drugs.
Giving TransLink more tax dollars is like giving a pyromaniac a fresh box of matches. Both will eventually run out and keep coming back for more -- unless they change their ways. TransLink's executive vice-president Bob Paddon, he of the $307,857 annual pay, claims his operation is an "efficient and well-run organization." The facts prove otherwise. TransLink is a rat's nest of redundancy and waste.
Cameco is a multi-billion Canadian company that mines Canadian uranium, uses Canadian-developed technology, and relies on Canadian transportation system. Cameco employees use the Canadian education system, the Canadian health system, and they rely on the stability and legal protection that a Canadian democracy provides. So why does Cameco only pay taxes in Switzerland?
Don't hold your breath hoping mayors and councillors will come home from this month's Union of B.C. Municipalities conference with a stack of cost-saving ideas and strategies. In 2011, cities in B.C. combined to bring in $7.87 billion in revenue. Regional districts added another $1.6 billion. Throw in TransLink and its $1.3 billion and you have a combined annual budget of $10.77 billion to run everything from Abbotsford to Zeballos. To put that into perspective, if local government were a provincial government ministry, it would be bigger than anything except health, and more than double the size of education.
In 2013, Canadians worked until June 10, which happens to be Tax Freedom Day, to pay all their taxes. Tax Freedom Day is an easy-to-understand measure of the total tax burden imposed on Canadian families by federal, provincial, and local governments. But the true tax burden doesn't end with the revenues that governments collect.
On the editorial pages of Toronto's newspapers, there is a great debate about how to pay for the public transit expansion Toronto and the Toronto region desperately needs. The commentary is ernest, debating the merits of tolls, sales taxes, and other so-called revenue tools. But I think the debate is misguided.
No politician or citizen stands above the law, and each citizen must pay income taxes. When the lawmakers fail to follow their own regulations, citizens should demand better. In order to take parliamentary suggestions and regulations on tax avoidance and evasion seriously, citizens should feel confident that their MPs, first and foremost, are following the rules.
The BC Liberals and particularly Premier Christy Clark deserve the praise they're receiving for their surprise electoral victory. After all, the Liberals reversed a double-digit deficit in the polls and ended up securing a majority government. This moment of jubilation for the Liberals and their supporters will be short-lived however, as the reality of governing in difficult times takes hold. The litmus test for the success of this government, which they themselves established, is the success of the economy and in particular, jobs.
It is nice to receive a cheque from the government but a tax refund is not good, because you are only receiving your own money back. Your tax refund is money you have overpaid the government during the year. You want to pay the right amount of tax during the year, rather than give the government an interest-free loan.
Most people would agree that you shouldn't have to pay someone else's tax bill. Despite all of the myths surrounding tax filing, this one is actually in accordance with Canadian law. If a relative of yours were to die owing money, you have no obligation to pay their debts. It doesn't matter who they are, parents, siblings, aunts or uncles. If they have spent all their money, and die having nothing but debts, you're in the clear. However, unlike people whose debts die with them, a government's debt is carried forward forever (or until it's paid off). As we move through time, we're getting closer and closer to the point where it will be impossible to "clear our tab."
The response to such tax facts is usually this cliché: "Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society," this from the American Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., in a 1927 case. Right, but as a percentage of the economy, government spending was much lower in 1927 compared to 2013. One cannot endlessly extrapolate that "taxes are good for you." Not any more than it is useful to overdose on pharmaceutical drugs just because one pill helps kill some pain. Or to propose that because one glass of wine has healthful effects, then a dozen drinks must be even better.
On an individual's death, a new taxpayer is created. The estate trustee is responsible for tax on income earned by the individual up to the date of death. All too often, an estate trustee will begin administering the deceased's assets, only to realize that the deceased had failed to properly file and pay taxes during the later years of his or her life.