Tuesday September 19, 2017

Open letter signed by 300 doctors supports federal government tax changes

Dr. Ritika Goel, one of more than 300 doctors who signed an open letter in support of the Liberal government's tax changes, argues doctors who are high earners should pay the same tax rate as others as part of a fair and equitable system.

Dr. Ritika Goel, one of more than 300 doctors who signed an open letter in support of the Liberal government's tax changes, argues doctors who are high earners should pay the same tax rate as others as part of a fair and equitable system. (Shutterstock)

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Ever since the Liberal government proposed changes to the tax system in July, there has been a surge of resistance.

One of the changes the government is proposing would expect those who set up private corporations — including doctors who incorporate their practices— to pay more tax.

A number of doctors' groups, including the Canadian Medical Association, have come out against the changes.      

But this week, 300 doctors signed an open letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau expressing their support for the new tax plan.

"While we have had some concerns with the government's approach and language used in the rollout, we do fundamentally support an equitable taxation system as a pillar for a just and healthy society," say doctors in an excerpt from the letter.

Dr. Brenna Velker, a family doctor who runs her own practice in London, Ont., doesn't support the tax changes.

She tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti, she has read the open letter and says fundamentally she doesn't disagree with it.

stethescope

'We're feeling really beat down. We're feeling really targeted,' says family doctor Brenna Velker of the government's proposed tax changes. (Wikimedia)

"The part that troubled me is the lack of data that the government is providing us, the lack of information about how these changes are actually going to lead to the kinds of improvements in health care that we all want to see."

Velker says for physicians it's understood that those who make more money pay more tax.

"That just how our society works. The problem that I think a lot of us are running into is that we're feeling really beat down. We're feeling really targeted and we're being told 'just give us more money and don't worry we'll take care of it.' And that's a really difficult thing to trust."

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She argues if the tax changes go through, many doctors will likely cut back on their hours.

"There's no incentive to work more if you're taxed at such a high rate."

Dr. Ritika Goel, also a family doctor, signed the open letter. She supports a fair tax system where physicians in the same high income bracket pay the same tax rate.

Goel argues physicians, often self-employed without benefits or pensions, will not be hindered by the proposed changes since they "are specifically only available to certain family structures and to the most high-income earners."

"They're also not available to Canadians with the same incomes, and in fact not even equitably available within physicians."

Goel explains that without changing the tax system, a single mother who is a physician would be paying a higher tax rate than a mother with a spouse who would be able to income sprinkle — "We don't believe that that's fair."

Doctor and patient

Dr. Ritika Goel says the rhetoric from the Canadian Medical Association and the Ontario Medical Association against the tax plan has been 'extremely one-sided.' (Shutterstock)

While there has been some backlash for those physicians who signed the open letter, Goel tells Tremonti she added her name because "it's important for us to hear both sides."

"I think there have been so many physicians that feel uncomfortable by the way that our professional associations are representing the issue, and in fact feel that it's fine for us to remove certain tax mechanisms that are inequitably available to certain physicians."

The Canadian Medical Association and the Ontario Medical Association have come out against the tax changes.

Goel suggests their rhetoric has been "extremely one-sided."

"I would also argue ... it has been inaccurate in its portrayal at times. So there has been a lot of conversation about, for example — this being a feminist issue or this being about access to parental leave — that leaves out certain pieces in the conversation."

Listen to the full segment near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson and Pacinthe Mattar.