I came across this article from the Montreal Gazette;
I strongly recommend that you take the time to read it. It is brief, but very informative as it tells the story that I have been trying to tell for the past 20-plus years! There is that there is a significant percentage of, not just Quebecers, but Canadians who leaving money on the table because they don’t understand the tax system, according to a report released by the C.D. Howe Institute last week.
The report — which bases many of its conclusions on a survey of 1,000 Quebecers — suggests that lack of knowledge is one of the reasons many people don’t take advantage of credits and savings vehicles, like RRSPs, which could reduce their tax burden.
“People might be missing out on benefits that they’re entitled to,” said Antoine Genest-Grégoire, a tax policy researcher at the Université de Sherbrooke and one of the authors of the report.
“It can take various forms, people can simply not know about the existence of the credit … sometimes, they know it exists but they don’t know how to use it or they find it too complicated.”
Survey participants were asked a series of questions about how the tax system works and the average score was just 55%.
It wasn’t just tax credits that left participants stumped. Respondents scored poorly on questions about progressivity — the idea that people with higher incomes pay a higher tax rate, a core principle of the Canadian income tax system.
While almost 90% of respondents knew that income tax rates differ based on how much people make, many struggled with the concept of bracketing — when different segments of an individual’s income are taxed at different rates.
“We hear a lot of people thinking that once you reach the top income brackets, you essentially pay close to 50% of your income in taxes,” Genest-Grégoire says, when in reality, it’s only the income above the cut-off for the highest tax bracket that’s taxed at the highest tax rate.
Only 26% of survey respondents were able to answer a question about that correctly.
While survey respondents generally had a good sense of whether they pay sales tax on everyday purchases, like groceries, prepared food and clothing, there were some exceptions.
For example, Quebec provincial sales tax doesn’t apply to books, a decision made to encourage literacy and support book publishers in the province. Only 21% of survey respondents knew that.
The result, Genest-Grégoire said, is that the public policy objectives of the tax exemption are unlikely to be realized.
The lack of tax literacy doesn’t just affect individuals pocketbooks, Genest-Grégoire said.
“People who don’t understand taxes tend to have lower trust in the tax system. The Canadian tax system, even though you’re obligated by law to produce a tax return, works on trust. The government doesn’t audit everyone,” he said. This lack of trust “makes tax avoidance, tax evasion more probable.”
Genest-Grégoire said the provincial and federal revenue agencies have taken steps to put more information online, but the system itself remains complex. One solution would be to make benefits that are currently provided through the tax system more accessible and for government to automatically enrol people, as is already the case with many benefits for children.
Warren Orlans, a former CRA Collections Employee turned Taxpayer Advocate has been saying for over a decade that the CRA needs to continue putting out information on the Internet, however it needs to be available in many different formats in order to be most effectively accessed by Canadians everywhere. “Not everyone learns the same way, so having a concept explained in text, showing steps, and possibly with an example and even with little videos would expose the greatest number of Canadians to the message at once.”
“Every day, I deal with Canadian taxpayers and corporations of all sizes as they try to understand and interpret the CRA. My 11-year’s experience at the CRA and 10-years outside the CRA have afforded me the ability to diagnose and resolve even the most complex of tax matters”, Orlans said.
If you need help understanding the CRA, or interpreting their letters or actions, contact the best, at inTAXicating. Email: info@inTAXicating.ca. Or call us at 416.833.1581.
Toronto-based, Coast-to-coast tax liability expertise.