taxes

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If you live in Calgary and you check your property tax bill this month, rest assured you are not imagining things: property taxes really are on the rise and way above inflation.

Some background: Calgary's property tax bill has two components, with the city's share at 56 per cent and the province's at 44 per cent.

Since 2007, the earliest year for which I have statistics, the province has hiked its rate beyond inflation in five of seven years. But the provincial government also dropped its taxes twice, in 2011 and this year.


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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.


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If business leaders ever wonder why a chunk of the public disdain business and call for higher corporate taxes or sector-specific increases (higher royalty rates for energy and mining, higher stumpage fees in forestry) or just increased business taxation in general, here’s a clue: too many companies are addicted to corporate welfare.

Crony capitalism is problematic all on its own. Addiction to it only reinforces the perception that businesses can’t be bothered to compete on merit, in an open market, but prefer to plead for political favours and protection at taxpayers’ expense.


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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.