Ugly Taxes

I have assembled:

  • A calculator;
  • A pen and pencil;
  • My best reading glasses; and,
  • A considerable pile of paperwork

It’s time to do my income taxes!

On the one hand I rather enjoy doing them and get them done as soon as I have all my T4s in hand, because I always get back a little money and I figure I might as well get is back as soon as possible.

On the other hand I have to see, in big round numbers, how much of my income the government gets to keep. It never seems right that I have to support myself and my child on only two-thirds of my income while the government gets a third of everybody’s income to conduct their business. And why do they get to keep our money? Because they said so, that’s why. It sort of feels like having the dessert stolen out of my lunch every day by the school bully in exchange for him not beating me up.

And then the government gets to do all sorts of stupid stuff with my money like giving it to people who didn’t do their jobs very well (automobile manufacturers, banks) or funneling it into programs that have no hope of ever working (war on drugs). I don’t think anyone would give me extra money for doing my job extra poorly or for coming up with harebrained schemes that required larger and larger amounts of funding every year and which, instead of solving problems,  create even bigger problems.

And you know what else seems really wrong about taxes? I’ll tell you what.  The fact that taxes punish you for doing good stuff.

For instance, the harder I work or the better my business does, the more of my money I have to fork over.

Sales tax isn’t right either. Here I am out being a consumer, keeping the economy rolling along and I get punished by having to pay an additional percentage of the cost of everything I buy.

And what about homeowners? The nicer they keep their properties and neighbourhoods, the more they have to pay in taxes.

You’d think the government would want us all to work hard and make more money. You’d think the government would encourage, not discourage us to buy lots of stuff. You’d think the government would applaud, not penalize us for fixing up our homes and neighbourhoods, wouldn’t you?

I think they should stop taxing us on all that good stuff we do and start taxing us on the bad stuff we do — the stuff they don’t want us to do. Because the current system isn’t working out to well for either side, is it?

I’m thinking we could extend the alcohol/tobacco tax idea and start taxing other undesirable goods, behaviours and systems. For instance:

  • A tax on bad  environmental practices (motor-vehicle emissions; industrial pollution; use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers; usage of water by corporate agriculture; fishing depleted stocks; all use of carbon fuels including manufacturing; any use of non-renewable resources; etc)
  • A heftier tax on non-nutritious foods and no tax on nutritious foods (I know there’s already something of a wishy-washy policy like this in place)
  • Decriminalize recreational drugs and prostitution and levy a hefty tax on users.
  • A tax on crime. I haven’t worked out how exactly that would be implemented but I’m sure some smart tax lawyer types can figure something out. We could start with taxing parents of young offenders and parents of kids who vandalize, terrorize and commit other acts of hooliganism.
  • Tax on poor customer service. A complaint centre can be established for every province/state which collects customer complaints. Businesses are then taxed according to percentage of complaints per customer base or something.

Anyway, that’s the general idea. I think with a little creativity, vision and ingenuity we could come up with a lot of little things to tax that we, as a society, want to discourage.

I’m pretty sure the government could make a heck of a lot more money by taxing vices and bad business and other ugly stuff than by taxing  stuff like my income.

Think of how much new business we’d attract if they weren’t taxed.  Think of how much more stuff we could purchase, thereby stimulating the economy, if we didn’t have to pay sales tax and if we could keep that other third of our income.

I don’t know why no one has ever thought of this before? Hmmm…  maybe they have and were laughed at long and hardily.

Oh well, for now I have to get back to my tax forms…

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33 responses to “Ugly Taxes

  1. Of course if you need to verify the taxes on stuff like bad service and crime we need another department to verify all these things which would mean a new tax to finance it all…..

  2. I have some:
    -Tax any radio station that plays the same song more than 4 times in a 24 hour period.
    -Tax a TV station/cable network if the commercials are louder than the show.
    -Tax chefs that send out a medium steak when a rare steak has been ordered.

    Those would make me happy and the government would get RICH.

  3. Taxes are definitely one of the things I am not looking forward to when I return to Canada. Here my taxes are about 10% and that includes pension contributions. There are also no sales tax on purchases – I’m sure it’s all hidden into the price, but I prefer that as it’s nice to know what something costs rather than calculating what an addition 14% is.

    Don’t even get me started on tipping which I consider to be one of the most evil inventions ever – and I worked in restaurants as a waiter at one time. Personally I would rather see service people paid a living wage and then have services priced accurately. There is no tipping here in Korea and I get much better service at restaurants and other businesses than I ever did in Canada.

    my apologies for going off topic.

  4. It’s taken me years to finally allow myself to do this. But now I pay someone else to do my taxes.

    I hand them my receipts, and they do the rest. End of story.

    Sure, it costs $60. But it more than makes up for the $60 of aggravation and high-blood pressure I get, when I try to do them myself.

  5. I like the tax on vices. That way the criminals who work the hardest at selling drugs or robbing people pay the most.

    And lazy prostitutes, drug dealers and muggers would have more incentive to work harder.

  6. Lebowski – It would pay for itself, I think. That’s the beauty of my new tax system. A lot of the stuff that suck up tax dollars would be paid for by the very stuff that sucks up tax dollars – fighting crime; environmental issues…

    Geewits – Absolutely. They could all actually fall under the Customer Complaint Taxation system. People just call the federal/provincial/state complaint department and complain about the restaurant or radio station or cable company and let the taxes accrue!

    Sean – I’m starting to wonder why you want to come back. Things sound pretty peachy over there! I’m totally with you on the tipping. Most civilized countries have done away with that and included it in the price of your meal/service and as a result are able to pay their staff properly. It is, as you say, evil.

    Friar – Mine are pretty easy. I have an extremely simple financial life. I can polish off my tax forms in about half an hour and have my refund within a couple of weeks

    MM – I know, eh? Yay me!! Under my regime, sick old people will be taken care of so they don’t have to ride buses to get a few groceries.

    Glen – Prostitutes won’t have to pay taxes. They’re not criminals. The customers will pay a user fee along with the usual fee to the prostitute. And criminals won’t be taxed according to their crime-generated revenue; they’ll be “taxed” when they get caught. All their assets will be seized to pay for the trial and their keep while in jail. If they have no assets they will have to work it off in indentured servitude until their obligations have been met. That way they learn a valuabel trade at the same time!

  7. You had to remind me of this, didn’t you? You just couldn’t leave well enough alone so I could keep ignoring the whole tax thing.

    At least you didn’t do this on Friday, that would’ve depressed me for the weekend.

  8. Taxes are one of the biggest downers of running your own business — I find it just eats up so much time and creates so much negative energy! I’ll vote for you when you run for PM, okay?

  9. Decriminalize recreational drugs and prostitution and levy a hefty tax on users.
    Yup – that’s the way to go.
    But I’m one of those freaks who really doesn’t mind doing taxes. I get uFile for free, gather up my stuff and it takes me all of a couple of hours to go through the process and double check things.
    Oh, and did I mention I’m getting a BIG refund this year? Two kids in daycare will do that!

  10. Between 2006 and 2008 I laid out 12k of what was my savings to hospital, doctors, etc. because I was stupid enough to sustain an injury to my leg and yes I have insurance that was my portion to pay. So, your taxes that include health insurance benefits sound okay to me.

  11. Jazz – Why are you depressed? Do you have such a complicated portfolio? It’s depressing to see how much money has been taken from you for taxes, but it’s nice to get some of it back – if you get some of it back, of course. If you have to pay more that IS depressing.

    Julie – That’s 2 votes already and I haven’t even started to campaign! Woot. The whole system really doesn’t make any sense. Another group I forgot to mention that should get heavily taxed are companies who outsource work to 3rd world countries. Vote for me!

    Trashy – I don’t mind doing them either. Single parent with a dependent. Mind you, she’s becoming less dependent every day and I have to declare meagre salary. So the refund shrinks accordingly. I find it sad that you’re happy about getting a small fraction of your own money back just because you’ve been paying through the nose for daycare.

    Cedar – I don’t pretend that we get no benefits from the taxes we pay. I’m just saying the wrong people are paying the bulk of the taxes and that there must be smarter ways to collect taxes than punishing those who are doing everything right while those who are doing everything wrong get off scot free.

  12. Meh.
    I don’t really mind too much. We are getting quality care and the price isn’t really that high. It’s just that last year, we were paying for two of them until September… and THAT was pricey… though not as pricey as the $$’s taken off my pay cheque… more than some folks net in a year…
    And I’m OK with that as well – I make more so I should pay more…
    I’m OK with just about everything today! It is a beautiful and sunny day!

  13. Too bad the Govt. coudln’t keep track of it’s own spending the way they keep track of ours.

    I got a letter from Revenue Canada. I still owe about $65 on income tax from last year.

    Imagine that. They were able to figure out I’m few tens of dollars short. They can keep track of Little Old Me to THAT level of detail.

    Yet when it comes to themselves (like the E-Health scandal or Gun Registry), they manage to lose track of millions (if not billions).

    Funny, how that is, eh?

  14. Pingback: Ugly Taxes « XUP « Taxes

  15. I usually go to h&r block, but I’m thinking that my return is probably pretty close to being what yours is. I’m going to do it myself and save the $100. I was always afraid I’d do it wrong and miss some crucial deduction.

    Has anyone used any of the tax return software packages like UFile? Are they good?

  16. XUP: True, but at least you are not paying for some war started by a little dictator that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Every time I see my paycheck I feel like “Hey there goes another few hundred for bombs.” Crazy ass world.

  17. XUP,

    I know there are several things, like taxes and tipping, that I don’t like about Canada, but there is a lot wrong with Korea as well. Hmmm, maybe my next post will be the reasons I’m leaving Korea.

  18. I have long thought the government should subsidize healthier food and sound environmental practices and penalize, through taxation, the things that damage our bodies and the earth. And while we’re at it, since children are tax burdens for the state, it might make more sense to give people a tax break on their first kid, but not on the second, and then an increased tax for extra children. That might help over-population a lot more than paying people to have more children.

  19. Scary stuff, taxes. I’m always afraid the government is going to find me and tell me I owe a lot more-like a naughty school girl. Your ideas sound good to me.

  20. Trashee – Spring is in the air la-la! I wonder if they arranged tax season in the spring deliberately so that people wouldn’t get too depressed?

    Friar – Same thing happens at work. If they somehow overpay us for something, they’re on our backs within hours demanding a refund cheque. But if they owe us money for overtime or travel expenses or acting assignments, we can wait months – sometimes a year for that money…without interest.

    Alison – I’ve never done mine online. I usually just fill out the paper copy and then do tele-file. It takes 10 minutes. I don’t trust my computer enough to attempt online filing.

    Cedar – We’re paying for your war, too, believe me – at least for another year. They just announced yesterday that after next year the Defense funding will be cut. So you guys will be on your own over there. Sorry.

    Sean – Excellent idea for a post. I can’t wait. How does your wife feel about leaving her family?

    SAW – I think other countries already do that to discourage people from having too many kids. Then they run into new problems. Germany for instance has been in a negative population growth situation for a couple of generations now and that’s creating some issues.

    Linda – I was audited once. I was only in my 20s and had no idea what was going on. They had me scrambling around for receipts and documents that I’d long since gotten rid of. When I finally got together as much of the stuff as I could they told me I’d assembled the wrong year – they wanted stuff from 3 years ago. Then they said nevermind and I never heard any more about it.

    Violetsky – No he did not! Silly government financial people.

  21. “We could start with taxing parents of young offenders and parents of kids who vandalize, terrorize and commit other acts of hooliganism.”

    Why would you penalize the parents but not the kids? Seems very unjust. Sure some parents aren’t fit for the role and end up having bad kids, but some do try and discipline their children, but to no avail.

    I say tax the teenagers money and make them do hard labour. Of course they would still have all their basic needs, but they would learn much faster if the consequences were stronger.

  22. Question:

    Why do we still have to fill out our taxes ourselves, and yet, Revenue Canada is quite easily able to cross check to see if we’re lying or not?

    Why not just send me a report that I can sign (if correct) or dispute (if not correct)?

    And if this doesn’t seem possible, it *is* possible and happening right now in several other modern countries.

    Some of them even do it completely ONLINE so there is no paper.

    So, why isn’t this available, free of charge?

    Well, a similar question was asked to the US government not too long ago, for you see, they ran a little “beta test” in the State of California doing just this very thing – several thousand people received a pre-populated form, which they just signed and returned.

    Result? The taxpayers were happier, and it saved the State of California money.

    I believe they are looking at expanding it.

    Anyway, back to the question before the US government as to why this couldn’t be country wide.

    Well…

    …there were some interested parties there who were quite vocally opposing this.

    One of the most vocal was a little old company called Intuit.

    Guess what Intuit sells?

    Yep, tax software, millions of copies every year, for $40 a pop.

    Oh, and there were other companies there too, you know, the ones that do taxes for people.

    I just love it when governments are in cahoots with private companies to create bullshit industries that do not need to exist – that exist for no other reason than to rip us off.

  23. This year, because of the AdSense blocks on my website, I need to file taxes as a sole proprietorship business. That’s a pain, due to all the paper work.

    One nice thing, however, is that I can write off web hosting as a business expense.

  24. Pauline – Because kids don’t have any money and if parents are leaving their kids running around until all hours of the night wreaking havoc, they need to take some responsiblity for what the kids get up to.

    Brett – Interesting. Sure would cut down on tax cheats. And would definitely cut down on how much this whole process must cost.

    Milan – Really? All that extra paperwork because of your blog? I hope it’s worth it.

    Sean – Yes! I’ve been.

  25. Brett: re: your comment “Why do we still have to fill out our taxes ourselves, and yet, Revenue Canada is quite easily able to cross check to see if we’re lying or not?”
    My experience with GST was this. I was an importer of equipment, and paid my GST on entry of the equipment. I had a particularly hairy 6 months and let my quarterly GST payments slide, and got a tax bill, and a freeze on all my accounts. Here’s how they calculated what I owed.
    (Last filed GST amount for quarter) X (3 months in a quarter) X (2 quarters missed) X (3 months in a quarter) = A mother f*cking sh*tload of money that didn’t exist.
    And that is why we don’t let the gov’t do our taxes.

  26. I’m sorry you hate paying taxes and feel like you should keep all your hard earned money. But those taxes pay my salary for protecting the country I love. We all have to sacrifice something to ensure our freedom and safety. Some make more sacrifices than others.

  27. Lebowski – I would wonder about stuff like that, too. I’m pretty happy doing them myself.

    SSgt Jones – You seem to have misread my entire blog post; or perhaps you just read the title. In any case, I guess you really just needed an opportunity to vent your anger and my blog was the easiest target. I hope you’ll visit again.

    Jay – I don’t do tax software. I have a pencil and a calculator and then I phone it in. It seems the easiest thing to me.

  28. @Lebowski,

    Well… as I had said in my comment, each person in those other countries has a chance to dispute what the government thinks you owe them (or are owed) – just like now, how it is up to us to find the loopholes, or mistakes.

    But see, the thing is, most of us are *not* importers of equipment, and so, we would all save a lot of time (and a lot of government money) if they’d do it for us.

    The State of California proved it, as have some countries – and I’m sure there are equipment importers there too 🙂

  29. i just started our taxes last week too, and my gosh it’s not fun. not a single bit.

    you make a lot of good points about taxes another way of looking at the whole paying thing. i support taxes on the vice use 100%.