Some people say “tax season” the way a middle-aged man might say “annual prostate exam” — as something that is at once invasive, unpleasant, and inevitable.
It’s true that Canadians pay some of the highest taxes of any industrialized country. We pay income taxes, property taxes, federal and provincial taxes on goods and services, and taxes on our relatives’ estates. Companies are taxed on their income, and their investors are taxed again on the dividends they make from the income of said companies, which qualifies as double taxation.
A good number of people are fed up with taxes.
To listen to the Canadian Federation of Taxpayers, we’re getting our pockets picked to inflate civil service numbers and salaries, and fund refugees and welfare programs. Our high taxes stifle industry and investment, they say, and keep the small businessman or -woman down.
Our hatred of taxes is so intense that all levels of government have been promising and delivering tax cuts and more tax cuts, using lower taxes as an incentive to win votes. The exceptions are the municipal governments out there who ironically find themselves in the position of having to raise taxes to fund the growing number of programs and responsibilities downloaded by provincial and federal governments to cover their own revenue shortfalls.
As a result of all this negative tax talk, we have a tendency to look at taxes as a problem rather than a solution. People forget why we pay taxes in the first place, and are blind to all the sometimes invisible benefits.
As much as some free market fanatics would have us believe, it’s never been every man, woman, and child for his or herself. Human beings are not grizzly bears, lone hunters in the wild, but have always existed in socialized communities that promote the common good. These days communities are sustained by tax dollars, which is why I’ve always viewed taxes as a good thing.
When you’re young, tax dollars fund the hospital you were born in, the doctors and specialists that keep you well, the schools that provide you with an education, the libraries that fuel your imagination, the arenas and fields where you play your sports, the pool where you learned to swim. As you grow up you come to realize that taxes also fund the safe water you drink, the neighbourhood park you frequent, the collection of garbage and waste you create. Taxes subsidize universities, student loans, and transit systems. They provide our government with capital to back our banking system and institutions like our airports and airlines. They fund utilities like B.C. Hydro to ensure we have some of the lowest power rates in the world. They protect the environment, regulate industry, and ensure a measure of social, economic and ecological sustainability for future generations.