Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tax Fairness For The Rich

Income Trust investors were given the bums rush last fall when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced that the Conservatives were breaking their promise and taxing this lucrative tax loophole. But wait it was just an announcement they still haven't come up with a policy yet. Canada's income trust bill not ready yet

And so the reason for the rush to judgement on Income Trusts? Why they booted Garth Turner out of caucus only the week before. And then they adopted his policy on Income Splitting which they had denied was a priority prior to October 31. It is all political optics.
In an attempt to appease upset investors, the government said it will increase the seniors tax credit and allow income splitting. “Pension income splitting is a major positive change in tax policy for pensioners and seniors,” Flaherty told the committee.

Because so far Flaherty has not come up with any more evidence of Income Trust impacts on the tax system than what his Liberal predecesors had found. Suspicious that. Of course the rush by big Canadian corporations to become income trusts and avoid corporate taxes caught the Tories off guard.

The boys on Bay Street gave them the bums rush so they returned it in kind. Caught off guard they rushed to judgement and gave Bay Street a Halloween trick while promising retirees and seniors a special treat; income splitting.

This is the key element of the Conservatives tax fairness plan; Garth Turners idea of Income Splitting. Which is neither fair nor good policy, but like the GST cut it is good political optics. However like the Income Trust policy it is still only speculative. Income Splitting is not a reality, yet.

Lobbyists suggest the signals are strong that the minority government could muster enough support for pension-splitting plan. But getting it passed may be complicated because it is likely to be treated as part of a package of measures that includes its controversial plan to phase out tax breaks for income trusts.

Those advocating for income splitting are the same right wing lobbyists like REAL Women, who lobbied for the Tories Child Tax Bonus and opposed daycare funding. They want tax credits for living at home moms with kids. That is they want taxpayer to pay for wealthy folks who can afford not to work two jobs. They do not want to pay for other folks daycare being the greedy parasites they are.

A 34-year-old Kemptville, Ont., woman with three kids at home and a husband commuting to a computer job in Ottawa is the chief organizer for the Parliament Hill conference Turner hosts Tuesday.

Sara Landriault, national coordinator of Care of the Child Coalition, says spouses who care for children at home, the vast majority being women, should be paid through the tax system for their work.

She acknowledges a sobering fact a sobering fact Turner himself discovered in a research paper he commissioned from the Library of Parliament. Though he calls the income-splitting scheme a tax reform for the middle class, the library document shows it is actually the upper - maybe upper-upper - classes that would benefit most.

"Sure, they pay more taxes, they're going to get more of it back," says Landriault.

And that doesn't even take into account lone-parent families, the majority of whom are headed by a woman and many of whom live below the poverty line, says Martha Friendly, one of Landriault's staunchest opponents and co-ordinator of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit at the University of Toronto.

"Low-income single mothers, they don't get anything out of this," says Friendly, noting with apprehension that Turner's own research shows the move would take $5 billion out of federal revenues when it's combined with income-splitting for pensioners. "It's cutting taxes for people who have more money."

Critics of the idea also point out it will do little or nothing to help low-income singles or couples who arguably need help the most.

But John Williamson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation stresses that higher-income couples shoulder a disproportionate share of the tax burden.The weight is especially heavy for single-earner families.

Well duh they earn more they should pay more taxes. But of course that's the right wings definition of class warfare, taxing the rich. Because only those who are wealthy can afford to have an unemployed spouse living at home.

You may have heard the recent news from the Census Bureau that as of 2005, and for the first time in recorded history, more than half of all adult women are living without a spouse. There are plenty of implications that arise from this latest finding, but as the New York Times points out, contrary to popular perception, this so-called “marriage gap” isn’t about gender, but instead, it’s about education and social class -- women with lower socioeconomic attainment are less likely to marry than women with higher socioeconomic attainment.

And to add insult to injury the folks who will benefit the most from income splitting of pensions will not be widows, the largest group of single pensioners in Canada and the poorest, or the average working class family but those who can afford to retire early or retire and continue working.

Tax relief -- at what cost?

Income-splitting is a vote-getter that would save middle-class families billions of dollars a year in taxes, but experts say that doesn't make it sound fiscal policy. MPs inside and outside the Conservative party are urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to lower taxes in his upcoming budget by allowing couples to combine their incomes and divide the tax load. Some experts are saying the cost of income-splitting -- anywhere from $3 billion to $5 billion a year -- could blow a hole in the nation's finances.

Tax fairness is rhetoric for tax breaks for the rich and wealthy in Canada.

Rules for this year's biggest financial-planning treat will discriminate in a tricky and illogical fashion among those who have yet to turn 65. That the treat is tricky may explain why Finance Minister Jim Flaherty chose Halloween to announce his plan, but not why he used the term "tax fairness."

He plans to let many couples save taxes by splitting income more equally between the two partners, starting with 2007 tax returns. This golden opportunity will not be restricted in a simple fashion to those of a certain age, income or work status. Instead, eligibility will depend on the type of income.

This is unfair. At one extreme, we could have a former deputy minister splitting pension income as early as age 55, while also collecting a pay cheque from a new job. Yet, an unemployed retiree who never contributed to a pension – or was forced out before qualifying – would have to wait until age 65 to split income.

Basically, you would need to receive monthly payments directly from a registered pension plan, or be receiving income as the surviving spouse of a deceased member of a pension plan in order to split income with a spouse or common-law partner.

Here's how a finance department spokesperson explained the rationale for discriminating on the basis of income type, rather than a person's age, employment status or, say, one's eligibility for a lifetime income.

"The purpose of the age 65 requirement is to target the pension income credit to retired individuals. Individuals have much greater personal control" over when they withdraw money from registered retirement savings plans, registered retirement income funds and life income funds as opposed to registered pension plans.

"Without the age 65 eligibility rule, many individuals who are not retired could gain significant tax advantages well before they attain age 65 by arranging to withdraw money each year as RRSP annuity or RRIF income while still saving for retirement.

"Individuals in receipt of (registered pension plan) income, on the other hand, generally have little control over the timing of their pension payments; they usually only receive such payments when they are retired."

The problem with the line of reasoning is that many pension recipients can and do retire before age 65, and they can and do find new jobs. That can particularly include former police officers, teachers, armed services personnel and civil servants. They collect both a pension and a paycheque or consulting fees.

Meanwhile, others who do not collect a pension could find themselves unemployed and having to rely on their savings.


Income Trusts

Tax Avoidance

Tax Fairness


Garth Turner


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Sara said...

You know I've seen plenty of arguments for all of these things, but yours has no merit.

Lets see you think we shouldn't get a tax break for being at home because the rich will too... yah that is a sound reason to me. Screw the lower and middle class tax break just because the rich will get money too...

eugene plawiuk said...

Actually if you bothered to read my numerous articles on taxes you would see I advocate abolition of all taxes on the working class.