Monday, March 14, 2005

Our Tax System - Obese and Out of Control

I have a problem with our tax system. Yeah, I know - me and about 30 million other Canadians. But with me, it’s different. I really hate it. And not a mild “I hate my ex-wife” type of hate. No. More like when my daughter says “I hate you” when I send her to bed or make her eat her vegetables. Now, that’s a serious kind of hatred. But I just can’t help it. Our tax system brings out those kind of feelings in me. I’m not proud of it, but I cannot deny it either. It is a part of me.

But while I hate the tax system, I cannot bring myself to hate its servants - the tax collectors and assorted professionals who feed and worship this monstrous organism. Was it Jesus who allegedly said – “hate the sin, but love the sinner”? Well with me it’s kind of like that. (Incidentally, whether you believe in Jesus or not - as I understand it, the tax collectors hated him. This, in itself, is enough for me to really, really like him.)

Anyway, I subscribe to Jesus’ philosophy. I don’t hate those who have become priests in the church of the almighty TaxGod and who collect the offerings and perform bloody sacrifices on its Altar. No. Rather, I am bemused by them. They have dedicated their lives to a false god – a man-made god that is obese, staggeringly powerful, utterly consumed with its own self-importance and drunk with authority. What’s the most terrifying word in the English dictionary – “audit”. Displease the TaxGod and he’ll lay an audit on your ass. And you’ll be sorry.

Why do we need a tax system that so few Canadians understand? There are offices in every village, town and city in Canada staffed with people who do nothing but taxes for other people. Fifty years ago there were no such services for the average taxpayer and everyone was able to file their taxes correctly and on time. So why do we need these tax services now? Are Canadians stupider today than they were in years past?

Well, in a way, yes.

We are not stupider math wise, or knowledge wise. No. We are stupider in a far more harmful way. Our brand of stupidity is one where we allow government agencies and services to grow beyond our control. And once such an organism reaches a certain size and influence, it becomes independent and self-sustaining, with its own priorities. And its focus turns inward. It no longer cares about the needs and desires of the citizens that created it and feed it. It only cares about its own ego and cravings. The servant has now become the master. And a harsh master it is. Anyone who does not kneel and present it with its due is severely punished. In fact, tax delinquents are often fined more and imprisoned longer than violent offenders.

So here we are, far more educated a society than we were 50 years ago. And yet, pathetically unable to do something as routine and fundamental as our taxes. Seems to me that taxation is a pretty simple concept. Government collects money from wage earners and then redistributes it as needed. Why, then, have we taken such a seemingly simple concept and turned it into something that your average person cannot understand?

Income tax, sales tax, goods and services tax, excise tax, property tax, estate tax, surtax, liquor tax, hospitality tax, security tax, health care premium tax, gas tax, insurance tax, transport tax, import tax, land transfer tax, capital gains tax, corporate tax, mining tax, the list is endless. So is the one for regulations, interpretations designations, assessments, adjustments, computations, deductions, exemptions, exclusions, exceptions, limitations, presumptions, depreciations, renunciations, allocations, deemed dispositions, interpretations (that’s another kind of interpretation) appropriations, acquisitions, RRSPs, RPPs, DPSPs, RESPs, PAs, ……and on and on and on.

I’m getting dizzy.

Someday, someone with a little common sense will take control of our great nation and have a good, old fashioned book burning. But it won’t be the Bible, the Koran, pornography or Catcher in the Rye that will be thrown on the fire. Oh no. It will be the Income Tax Act and all the insanely incomprehensible documents associated with it.

The fire will burn high and long into the night. And I will dance around it.


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