Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A Very Taxing Problem

Taxes have been at the centre of the world’s problems for centuries. Wars and revolutions have started because of them. The left wants more taxes and the right wants less.  Riots and protests about the government’s appropriation of wealth continue to be a major conflict about the fairness of taxation.  At the heart of the political move to the left, is the increasing use of higher taxation to either redistribute wealth or to fund increasing government spending.

The 2008 recession continues to affect the world economy. During the Obama presidency we have seen the growing hand of government take a firm grip over the economy.
The illegal release of Trump’s tax return is now a major issue in the presidential campaign. It is reported that he did not pay taxes for at least 18 years. The reality is that in the middle of a real estate collapse he lost $916 million, which he used to offset gains in following years. The U.S. Income tax code section 469, states that people who spend at least half of their working time developing real estate, can use tax loses to offset other income.  Other people may not do so, but that is the law. The left will use this report as a wedge between the rich and the poor. Ignored is that corporations have losses which they write off against profits. Even Warren Buffet and the Clintons do the same thing. The fact remains that most people would try to mitigate their taxes if they could; why would anyone give their hard earned money to the government if they could reduce their tax burden, only a fool will not do so.

Taxes are not only at the centre of the 2016 U.S presidential election, but they have become a universal issue. With the increase of governments who support multilateralism, there seems to be a trend towards regulations and treaties that will see taxes go up. For example the climate change treaty will affect prices and costs on virtually everything as governments adopt a carbon tax, and of course the increase costs will be passed to consumers.

As the Canadian federal government imposes carbon pricing to fulfill its ideological commitment to the U.N’s climate change Paris Agreement, Canadians will see federal and provincial governments impose new taxes. In a move reminiscent of his father’s NEP, Justin Trudeau just imposed a minimum price of $10 a tonne of carbon emitted in 2018, rising $10 each year to $50 per tonne in 2022.
In the midst of a severe recession due to collapsing oil prices Alberta, following British Columbia and Ontario, is imposing a carbon tax. All these governmental edicts claim that the revenue collected will be redistributed in one way or another. Reality is that revenues collected are never reduced or equitably redistributed in reality most of the revenue goes to administrative costs and arbitrarily chosen political projects.

Taxes are raised to pay for services and programs, however taxes have become the preferred method to control market forces, and to manifestly redistribute wealth and control consumer behavior. In addition more jurisdictions like local authorities and municipalities are seeking more powers of taxation, adding to the burden of the taxpayer who has only one wallet. Politicians opine that they are improving the middle class, but in reality by their actions are only making the situation worse. The middle class is shrinking, the lower class has become more dependent on government and of course the rich can use tax loopholes to avoid the increasing taxes.

According to the Fraser Institute, the average Canadian family pays 43% of its income in taxes. This burden includes income tax, payroll tax, health tax, fuel tax sales tax, property tax, import tax, vehicle and driving tax, profit tax and of course ‘sin’ taxes on a variety of goods. In effect Canadians work at least half a year for the government, before they can even start enjoying their hard earned income.

As an accountant I learnt that tax evasion is illegal, and that avoidance was legal. Today, governments especially those from the left, would have you believe that if you do not pay enough taxes that you are not contributing to society. They discard the notion that they squander the revenues and continue to overspend. Increasingly governments view themselves as the arbiter of your wallet.

The latest debate about Trump’s taxes is just the beginning. The left always believes that people should pay a fair share. The question is: what is a fair share, 20%, 50% or even 75% of your income?  Remember that when GM and the Banks incur massive losses the government uses your tax dollars to bail them out.  Governments do not create wealth, entrepreneurship does; and Trump is not a genius, he is astute and most people should acquaint themselves with tax laws and do what he does.

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