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Death and taxes

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"Nothing is this world is certain but death and taxes." Benjamin Disraeli.

While the former British prime minister and buddy of Queen Victoria may not have been the most cheery of souls, he did have a point. Like it or hate it, paying tax is the reality of every worker in Canada, except perhaps that under-the-table workforce comprising Australasian overstayers and Mexicans who wandered too far north. As for the former subject, Disraeli must surely have the answers but the rest of us are still very much in the dark.

However what we do know is that as of last week, taxes in this province came down. As announced by B.C.’s shiny new Liberal government, by the year 2002, provincial income taxes will be slashed at all income levels by 25 percent. That represents an extra $1.35 billion in the pockets of B.C. taxpayers by 2001/2002 and another $1.5 billion in 2002/2003. It all sounds impressive but before you start mentally planning a big spending spree, consider a moment what this means in real terms.

According to financial analysts, if your annual gross earnings are, say, in the league of $200,000, this translates to an extra $7,700 or so in pocket in 2002. A nice little wad of extra cash. However since most of the Whistler workforce fall screaming into the lower income bracket, these tax cuts are not as exciting as first appears. If you earn $20,000 per annum for instance, this year you can look forward to a savings of $9 a month, rising to an almighty $16 a month by 2002. Four extra bucks a week — don’t go too crazy now.

Those high rollers tipping the income scales at $30,000 can anticipate an extra $9 a week.

Naturally this topic set off a flurry of discussion in the office over how one should spend such a tax bonus since $16 a month is nothing to sneeze at — if you live in Disraeli’s 19 th century that is.

To make matters even more depressing, modern Whistlerites must also throw in the inflated "fat cat resort prices" factor which diminishes your spending power by an additional 50 — 80 percent. As the saying goes Down Under, it’s enough to rip your nightie mate.

But take heart — the Pique team has come up with ways for Whistler’s low income multitudes to spend their government-backed bonus this summer. In a matter of a few short months, golf fanatics may be able to scrape together enough cash for a round of resort-style golf. Mountainbikers can pick up a monthly treat such as a chain loop, water bottle, spoke wrench or band aids and disinfectant. And swimmers can treat themselves to snazzy new pair of goggles. If you build up an appetite from all this activity, give it one more month and you can follow up with a chaser pizza slice and can of coke. Whatever you do, make sure you spend that tax cash bonus otherwise you may ruin the Liberal’s theory of economics, in that the more money you have, the more you will spend.

This theory is that your carefree consumer ways will translate into increased investor confidence and a stimulated economy. It also follows that doctors, lawyers and other highly paid professionals will also lose the urge to scamper off to other more tax friendly provinces. The end result of this economic game of roulette remains to be seen but some opponents fear it may just mean shrinking government coffers and therefore cuts to social services.

After all, it happened in New Zealand. Generous tax cuts there had to be reinstated to a degree, after a fall in government revenue led to service cuts.

People like me don’t help matters much. Instead of pumping the economy by spending at home, I choose to use my hard-earned funds to help finance a wee jaunt around the world (four years now and counting). And I’m not alone. According to a statistics I’ve read, there are some six million Kiwi passports issued in the world. A curious thing given that the entire population of New Zealand is just over three million. One can logically assume that more than half the country is out travelling and who knows, there could now be a "Sorry We’re Not Home — Come Back Later" sign at Auckland International Airport. The only thing that salves my guilty conscience is that travelling is a compulsory part of Kiwi culture — the official name for it being the Big OE ( Overseas Experience). Plus I am doing my bit to keep Canada economy’s ticking over — any excuse will do to go shopping.

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