It’s Sneaking Up On Us: Tax Time

It’s April, and I don’t care how many elections are going on Canadians are tons more interested in The Playoffs (In Canada, you don’t really have to say “hockey”) and taxes. Both come around every year, and both leave us vaguely disappointed.  Personally, I don’t mind paying taxes.  I think we get a lot of cool stuff for our tax dollars; actually, way more than we deserve given the level of participation we-the-people have in our country.  Don’t get me wrong: I still think the government — any government — squanders most of our money.  We could have a virtual utopia around here with the coin we shell out every year — if those circus clowns in Ottawa would quit paying for crap nobody needs.  But that’s the people, not the system.  I kinda think, in general, our tax system is relatively fair.  (How’s that for a qualified statement?)  I’m not just sucking up to Revenue Canada, either.  I’m still pissed that when you phone the 1-800 number, they never seem to understand your question, and, regardless, you never get the same answer twice, anyway.  There’s really only one major flaw in our tax system, and every April it drives me nuts.

My problem is, for the life of me, I can’t understand why the Federales make it so bloody complicated to take my money.  You can decipher Bohr’s Theory of Atomic Structure faster than you can figure out your Income Tax.  And it doesn’t have to be that way because — wait for it – the government’s already got your money.  In Canada, the majority of people who work, work for somebody else, and the tax on their income (thus, “income tax”) is taken off their paycheque before they ever see it.  Am I the only person in this country who thinks it’s beyond stupid to sit down every April and figure out how much money you owe the government when they’ve already got it?  They’ve had the cash for months; actually, they’ve probably already spent most of it.  But there we are — every April 29th — scrambling around with T4s, T4As, RRSPs, and on and on and on, trying to figure out which percentage of what amount from Box A goes on which line on Schedule Q.

This is insane.  Why are we even involved?  We don’t do that with the GST.  We buy something, they charge us 5% more than it’s worth, and everybody walks away happy.  We never think of it again.  Chances are good we never even thought about it in the first place.  Doing our own taxes every year is like getting robbed and the robber suddenly stops in the middle and asks for some assistance to put bullets in the gun.  Asinine doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I realize the entire spectrum of our brand of taxation without representation is a lot more complicated than this.  Modern taxation methods and applications are an integral part of any national economy.  For example, adjustments within the tax system can be used to stimulate growth or harness inflation and even minor variations can produce disproportionate effects.  There are also other factors that ordinary people seldom see — like depreciation, energy credits, exploration expenses, security option deductions, etc. etc.: all have a bearing on taxation levels.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  My point is most ordinary people never see these things.  Okay, if your name’s Lululemon and you need that kind of stuff – fine.  You’ve got a room full of lawyers and accountants who can handle it.  But if you work for Lululemon and get paid every two weeks, why does it even come up on the panel?

Honestly, 90% of the Federal Tax Package is useless to most people.  Besides, everybody already knows how much money you made and how much income tax you paid.  It’s on your T4!  It would be a lot simpler if the government just factored in all their phony-baloney expenses and deductions and came up with a real percentage.  They could deduct it off your paycheque — just like they do now.  Then, instead of dickin’ around with Schedules, Guides and Bulletins every April you’d be home and dry and watching the hockey game — your civic duty done – and everybody’s happy.

Here’s how Canada’s tax system should work.  There’s an average Canadian: we’ll call her Janey Canuck.  Janey has two dependents: Jane Jr. and Jack.  Janey works for Infinite Scoundrels Law Offices (It doesn’t matter where: anything from corporate lawyer to sweeping the floor.)  Janey owns a condo in a medium-sized city.  She takes the bus to work, and her kids go to public school.  That’s all you and I and the federal government ever need to know about any average Canadian like Janey.  Every April, Janey gets a letter in the mail:

Hi, Janey!

How are you?  Infinite Scoundrels Law Offices just sent us your T4.
You earned _________ dollars last year.
You paid __________ dollars in income tax, at a permanent rate of ______ percent.
Did you earn any other money we don’t know about yet?
If so, enter the amount here ___________.  If not, don’t worry about it, and skip down to the end.

Multiply that number by ________percent.
Enter that amount here___________ and send us a cheque.
Thanks, Janey.  See you next year.
Your friends,
The Federales
P.S. If anything changes, let us know.

By the way, if Michael Ignatieff or Jack Layton wants to take the Express Bus to 24 Sussex Drive, believe me, all he has to do is make something like this the cornerstone of his party platform, and the election will be as good as won!