Taxing Canadians' patience: Corporations need to pay their fair share

Jo Davies says she's fine with paying her share to keep schools open, roads paved and parks beautiful. But, she says, some of the wealthiest in Canada aren’t paying their fair share — and she's crying foul.

Middle-class Canadians are shouldering a disproportionate tax burden and that needs to change, says Jo Davies

Jo Davies says she's fine with paying her share of taxes to keep schools open, roads paved and parks beautiful. But, she says, some of the wealthiest in Canada aren’t paying their fair share — and she's crying foul. (James Kost/Shutterstock)

Tax time is over, and I'm stuck paying. Again.

Thanks to our government eliminating deductions faster than Drake drops hits, it's getting harder each year to avoid owing. Funny — I thought the government taxed things they didn't want you to do: smoke, drink, have fun of any kind.

Being penalized for working the equivalent of two jobs to keep my bills paid seems just a wee bit counterintuitive. 

What really gets my goat is that some of the wealthiest in this great nation aren't paying their fair share. Some use tax loopholes to avoid paying anything, while simultaneously receiving tax rebates.

Call me a few sammies short of a picnic, but just because something is legal doesn't mean it's right. 

Don't get me wrong: I'm grateful to live in a country where I can fall on a fork and be able to receive medical treatment, all without opening my wallet. I get that everything comes at a price. I'm fine with paying my share to keep schools open, roads paved and parks beautiful. 

In spite of increasing profits, not only did Amazon not pay the statutory 21 per cent income tax rate on its U.S. income in 2018 — it reported a federal income tax rebate of $129 million, according to the American Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

What twigged me to this ridiculousness was what I read online last week. Apparently, U.S. mega-corporation Amazon doesn't pay a dime in taxes. In fact, it's now in the enviable position of having a tax rate of negative one per cent.

This according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which reported in February 2019 that despite doubling its profits to $11.2 billion in 2018, not only did Amazon not pay the statutory 21 per cent income tax rate on its U.S. income last year, it actually reported a federal income tax rebate of $129 million. This sweet deal is due in part to a variety of tax credits, in addition to a tax break for executive stock options.

At first, I just shook my head and pitied my American friends. I didn't think that kind of blatant inequity could happen here. A gander at the world wide web enlightened me otherwise.

Not just an American problem

Back in 2017, a Toronto Star investigative team tried to discover just how Canadian corporate taxation (or lack thereof) has evolved since 1952. In case you didn't know, that was the last year corporate and personal income tax were equal in our great land. Since then, the Star report says that gap has widened, with personal income tax adding up to $145 billion in 2015, when corporate taxes were a relatively modest $41 billion.

What else did the Star's team find after examining the tax filings of Canada's 102 largest corporations? Disgustingly, these companies used complex techniques and tax loopholes to avoid a whopping $62.9 billion worth of taxes between 2011 and 2016.

What bugs me the most about this baloney is that the money being squirrelled away by all these corporations isn't going where it should: to benefit the citizens of the country where these galoots are fortunate enough to operate.

Their profits are going through the roof while average Canadians work multiple jobs and struggle to provide their kids with the necessities of life.

We watch hospital wait times increase, roads fall apart, and child poverty soar, while Canada's corporate CEOs are earning bonuses larger than the yearly incomes of multiple families.

Not only is it morally reprehensible for this to go on, it just doesn't make fiscal sense at a time when federal and provincial governments are struggling to balance their budgets while still providing services to Canadians. 

A heavy burden on average families

It's not like we aren't paying our fair share. When you add up sales, property and income taxes, as well as all the other taxes we pay, the Fraser Institute says the average Canadian family paid a breathtaking 43.1 per cent of its total income in tax in 2017.

The think tank went on to say that "since 1961, the average Canadian family's total tax bill increased by 2,112 per cent, dwarfing increases in annual housing costs (1,480 per cent), clothing (732 per cent), and food (625 per cent). Even after accounting for inflation, the tax bill has still increased 166.4 per cent over this period."

Canadian corporations are using tax loopholes and offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes, while tax deductions for average Canadians are disappearing faster than ice cubes in August. I used to be able to deduct my year's worth of monthly bus passes, but that went the way of the dodo two years ago.

Most Manitoba families will receive more in rebates than they spend under the federal government's new carbon tax. But those rebates don't make up for other tax breaks that have been cut, says Davies.

We now have the carbon tax rebate, which rewarded individuals with a whopping $170 this year. Pardon me if I'm not all dewy-eyed over that drop in the bucket when the previous transit deduction was worth hundreds more and translated into me taking the bus every day. I'm pretty sure that reduced my carbon footprint, but hey, I might be wrong. 

To be clear: it's not about "making the rich pay." It's about ensuring that our country's tax burden is apportioned equitably, rather than balanced on the backs of middle-class Canadians who are already struggling on the daily. 

As a single mother of three who's given up eating meat, getting haircuts and drives a second-hand 2006 Chevy to make ends meet, I'm damned if I'm going to get stuck with a tax bill when there are billions of dollars hidden away in corporate Canada's coffers, earning interest. 

I'll pay my fair share. As long as everyone else does, too. 

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.


Jo Davies

Freelance contributor

Jo Davies is a freelance writer who enjoys rocking the boat on the regular. She is working on a collection of short stories about dating in middle-age, a topic with which she is intimately acquainted.


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