Canadians Must Hold Governments Accountable For Their Spending of Tax Revenue

The average Canadian family’s largest expense is taxes.

Therefore it should not be unreasonable that Canadians expect all levels of government to not waste their tax dollars, money taken off their paychecks and paid into the system.

Whether tax dollars are wasted when a government pays a negotiation bonus to unions, or if they have to pay private companies a fine after breaking contracts with them, governments must do a better job at keeping the optics above-board and avoid $200,000 moving expenses or $1300 a person dinners altogether!

But they don’t, or they can’t, and we, as Canadians have come to expect that from our elected officials.

If governments want to spend fast and loose with money, let it be their own, or at the very least taxes off of non-Canadians – like withholding taxes, or something of the like.

But if we, as Canadians do not hold these governments accountable for their spending of our taxes, we allow them to continue to do this and they will continue to do so.

If we held our elected officials to a higher standard and used the opportunity to remove governments who wasted taxpayer dollars immediately, it would send a message to the next government that they have to spend wisely.

This information came out in the late summer months from the Fraser Institute, an economic think-tank.

To clarify, when referring to taxes, its not just income taxes, but all the taxes Canadian Taxpayers make to all levels of governments (federal, provincial, and local), including both visible and hidden taxes— everything from income taxes, which are less than a third of the total, to payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, health taxes, fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, import taxes, alcohol taxes, and much more.

In a recent report published by the Fraser Institute, they tracked the total tax bill of the average Canadian family from 1961 to 2014.

For 2014, they estimated that the average Canadian family (including unattached Canadians) earned $79,010 in income and paid $33,272 in total taxes—or 42.1% of income—while just 36.6% went to food, clothing, and shelter combined.

Indeed, Canadian families spend more on taxes than the basic necessities of life.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Back in 1961, the first year the Fraser Institute started tracking this data, the average Canadian family paid a much smaller portion of its household income in taxes (33.5%) while spending proportionately more on the basic necessities (56.5%).

Since 1961, Canadians’ total tax bills have increased by 1,886%, dwarfing increases in shelter costs (1,366%), clothing (819%), and food (561%). Even after accounting for inflation (the change in overall prices), the tax bill shot up 149.2% over the period.

And now taxes eat up more income than any other single family expense.

So why should Canadians care, aside from the fact that we work really hard to earn an income, and pay these taxes?

With more money going to the government, families have less to spend on things of their own choosing, whether it’s a new car, technological gadget, or family vacation. They also have less money available to save for retirement and their children’s education, or to pay down household debt.

While there’s no doubt that taxes help fund important government services, the issue is the amount of taxes that governments use compared to what we get in return.

To make an informed assessment, you must have a complete understanding of all the taxes you pay. Unfortunately, it’s not so straightforward because the different levels of government levy such a wide range of taxes—with many taxes buried in consumer prices and hard to discern.

Armed with this knowledge, we can hold our governments more accountable for the resources they extract and continue a public debate about the overall tax burden, the amount and scope of government spending, and whether we’re getting our money’s worth.

Otherwise, taxes will continue to increase.

So why is this important to us?

It is important because we understand that taxation is a necessity in order to have a healthy, wealthy, productive society for everyone, and in paying taxes there are circumstances which arise that make the system disadvantages to some Canadians.

Unlike our neighbours to the south who shoot elected officials for spending money, we are much more in control of our emotions (plus, no guns, eh?) so we need to hold them accountable in different ways, such as, not re-electing them. and going to public debates, and letting the officials that we elect know that they can no longer waste our money!

We can fix this.

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Auditor General Report Points Out The Obvious: CRA takes too long to resolve tax objections.

In some not-news of the day, the Federal Auditor General has found that the federal government takes months — sometimes years — to make decisions, costing Canadians time and money when it comes to resolving tax disputes.

Audits of the Canada Revenue Agency unveiled exceedingly long delays which fall short of public expectations in an era of advanced technology and instant communications.  He noted that departments, like the CRA, assess the time it takes to make decisions against their own internal benchmarks, giving little heed to what the taxpayers they serve might consider a timely decision.

The Canada Revenue Agency often leaves taxpayers waiting for months after they file formal objections to their tax assessments.  Appeals officers seeking help from other parts of the agency often wait a year or more.

Over the last 10 fiscal years, the inventory of outstanding cases at the CRA grew by 171%, while the number of employees dedicated to resolving them grew by only 14%, the audit found. The backlog of unresolved cases as of March 31 represented more than $18 billion in federal taxes, the audit said.

But the solution here is not necessarily to grow the public service, but rather a review of the internal policies and how the union impacts the employees ability to do their jobs might need to be reviewed and revamped.

I remember when I started working in the CRA and was “advised” that I should be working 7 accounts per day.  I can tell you this, when you begin your day at 7:15, and are completed your work by 8:30 there is only so much coffee you can drink per day.  I wound up holding several inventories of accounts, and assisting my teammates in order to keep busy.

Eventually, as rules loosened, I was in charger of a collections / compliance team and we were working upwards of 90 accounts per day each which made such a significant dent in the total amounts coming into collections that they disbanded the team.

Our office had to take on work from other tax offices in order to have enough work for each employee and as stay left, took on other positions outside of collections or took leaves they were not replaced.  Our tax office at 50% less staff was resolving 400% more accounts…

But like everything else in life, there was a downturn, contracts up for renegotiation, people moved on (like myself) and now the Auditor General reports there are too many accounts which cannot be handled at current staffing levels.

Ahhh, government.