Sunday, December 10, 2023

Jack M. Mintz: Liberals’ fixation on class war doesn’t make for good tax policy

Time to get back to basic principles like equal treatment of equals, reducing economic costs to promote growth and helping the most vulnerable in society

Must every tax policy be put in class-war terms by federal ministers?

The latest is a comment made by Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault regarding the application of GST/HST to charges made by foreign digital companies. To quote: “I think that’s about fairness. Everybody is paying the GST in Canada; I don’t see why some of the richest companies in the world shouldn’t pay GST in Canada.”

Now I suspect that Mr. Guilbeault, who was the founder of the Quebec’s environmental organization, Équiterre, is not economically illiterate. But if he thinks that the GST/HST is paid on profits earned by large digital companies like Netflix and Amazon, he is living in a dream world. The big multinational companies won’t be paying the tax. It will be Canadian consumers like you and me, as GST/HST is simply added to our bills.

In fact, most past Canadian studies have found that consumption taxes like the GST/HST are fully shifted forward onto consumers as higher prices, especially when it comes to imported goods and services. After all, Canada is a small part of the international market and companies like Amazon and Netflix won’t be doing us favour by absorbing the tax as lower profits. They will make Canadians pay more.

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