It’s time for a royal com­mis­sion on tax­a­tion

Winnipeg Sun - - COMMENT - JIM WAR­REN War­ren is a Lib­eral strate­gist who has worked for On­tario pre­mier Dal­ton Mcguinty

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau should ap­point a royal com­mis­sion on tax­a­tion and have the re­sults and rec­om­men­da­tions ready be­fore the next fed­eral elec­tion, so we can have a proper de­bate about how we tax all Cana­di­ans.

It’s time for a “Carter 2.0.” It’s been 55 years since then prime min­is­ter John Diefen­baker ap­pointed Ken­neth Carter to re­view Canada’s tax­a­tion sys­tem and more than half a cen­tury since it re­ported in 1966 that “a buck is a buck.”

Given the mas­sive and trans­for­ma­tional changes to our econ­omy and tech­nolo­gies since then, and the very com­pli­cated tax planning that it now re­quires, we must plan for what our tax sys­tem should look like in the 21st cen­tury.

A royal com­mis­sion would be a pow­er­ful tool to in­ves­ti­gate that sys­tem and pro­vide a path for­ward to­ward real tax fair­ness.

Such a pub­lic in­quiry would pro­vide con­crete, work­able rec­om­men­da­tions for one of the most im­por­tant things gov­ern­ment does — col­lect taxes from all of us to pay for the al­limpor­tant pub­lic ser­vices we re­quire, such as health care.

Chang­ing tech­nolo­gies, grow­ing con­tro­ver­sies about off­shore tax havens re­vealed by the Par­adise Pa­pers, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau’s small busi­ness tax re­form de­ba­cle, as well as the in­creas­ingly com­pli­cated na­ture of the tax sys­tem it­self, are all rea­sons we need a royal com­mis­sion on tax­a­tion.

The use of the in­ter­net, for ex­am­ple, has trans­formed how we ac­quire and con­sume many goods and ser­vices today.

To cite one ex­am­ple, why has it taken so many years for govern­ments to start col­lect­ing HST on uber fares?

Scalp­ing tick­ets is now done on­line, as are short-term rentals of your condo or house through var­i­ous apps.

All of these on­line ser­vices are con­ve­nient, but they also cre­ate an on­line record of trans­ac­tions govern­ments can use to col­lect taxes.

As more and more busi­ness and com­merce moves on­line we need to be in­vest­ing in tech­nol­ogy to prop­erly col­lect and process taxes.

Stud­ies have shown many mil­len­ni­als are go­ing cash­less.

We are see­ing all gen­er­a­tions of Cana­di­ans em­brac­ing dig­i­tal wal­lets to a far greater ex­tent than ever be­fore.

With a dig­i­tal wal­let, we can track trans­ac­tions, which means we should be do­ing a bet­ter job of track­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate pay­ment of taxes, too.

Par­adise Pa­pers

The re­lease of the Par­adise Pa­pers has demon­strated how many among the su­per-rich in our coun­try are us­ing off­shore tax havens to re­duce their Cana­dian taxes.

They have lifted the veil on how the wealthy can legally — and per­haps also il­le­gally — avoid pay­ing taxes.

A royal com­mis­sion on tax­a­tion would give the Trudeau gov­ern­ment op­tions to ad­dress this is­sue be­fore the next elec­tion in 2019.

The pro­posed Morneau small busi­ness tax changes were ini­tially por­trayed by the Trudeau gov­ern­ment as a way to close tax loop­holes and en­sure tax fair­ness.

But the gov­ern­ment mis­tak­enly pit­ted Cana­di­ans against each other.

The com­mis­sion would look at all taxes and fees paid by all small and large cor­po­ra­tions and de­velop a com­pre­hen­sive plan for tax fair­ness for all Cana­di­ans.

Fi­nally, as a small busi­ness owner, I am amazed at the cost of ac­coun­tants to keep up with all the rules, codes and con­fus­ing de­duc­tions in our cur­rent tax sys­tem.

Per­sonal taxes are of­ten equally con­fus­ing when it comes to health levies, fam­ily de­duc­tions and other is­sues.

Part of tax fair­ness is be­ing able to un­der­stand — in un­der­stand­able lan­guage — what taxes you have to pay and why.

In 2017, there must be a sim­pler way for all of us to pay our fair share of taxes.

It’s been 55 years since the gov­ern­ment ex­am­ined tax­a­tion.

It is long past time for a royal com­mis­sion to do it again.

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