Robyn Benson, PSAC

April is the cruelest month

Taxes money.JPG

Tax time.

We’re grumbling, or we’ve already grumbled and filed, but few of us, I suspect, smile at the prospect of paying taxes.

I know who’s smiling, though—some of the folks who don’t. Not the increasing numbers of people who make too little to pay any, but the folks with their offshore tax havens, tax shelters and armies of accounting wizards.

But to be fair they aren’t the only ones. I pay my taxes, and I smile too, if sometimes through tears. Taxes don’t go into a hole. Federal taxes, for example, are in effect deposited into a national chequing account, which the government draws from to pay for national necessities: infrastructure (like roads and bridges), food inspection, border security, search and rescue, national defence…

The list is lengthy, and like most Canadians I don’t like everything that’s presently on it. The Harper government’s priorities are not mine. I would rather fork over a few dollars to preserve the internationally-recognized Experimental Lakes Project than host a couple of panda bears. Like many, the super-expensive F-35 purchase strikes me as a major boondoggle. I would prefer government ministers to find their own way to and from their fishing lodges rather than using publicly owned and operated helicopters. I’d put more into First Nations infrastructure, instead of funding expensive legal battles to deny their children equal treatment.

Every Canadian, of course, has his or her preferences. The expenditure of taxes, however, reflects government priorities, which may or may not be yours or mine.

The collection of taxes, too, reflects the government agenda. Low corporate taxes, for example, mean that personal income tax must pick up a good deal of the slack. Those tax breaks for the wealthy cost us, too, as well as the offshoring of their wealth to avoid taxes. (The Harper government’s response? To lay off thousands of workers at the Canada Revenue Agency, which is responsible for tax enforcement.)

Finally, the way we talk about taxes is at least partly conditioned by the government of the day. The Harper government promotes the idea that taxes are a regrettable thing. It has cut taxes all over the place, choking the public services that Canadians rely on. Just ask any unemployed person waiting for an EI claim to be processed. Or watch the holes grow in our border security.

Taxes? Good in principle. They help to keep our country strong, prosperous and safe. The devil is in the details, which I hope we can fix in the next election. Let’s not confuse one with the other in the meantime. Get your returns in—and keep smiling.

[Illustration credit]

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on April 16, 2013 11:06 AM.

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