Tag Archives: taxation

The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped!

Mulgrew: Costly Transit police force takes taxpayers for a rideBy
Emily Griffiths

The Transit referendum “Yes” campaign has been asserting itself all over Facebook, Twitter, neighbourhood news boxes, and I can’t help but ask myself, Since when is increasing a flat tax a leftist thing to do?

Oh! The word “transit” has been attached to the newest proposed consumer flat tax increase, therefore rendering it “left” and “sustainable”. Have we forgotten that the poorest members of our community are already shelling out $91-$170/ month just to be able to ride a crowded bus to work and back without risk of being detained by over zealous transit police (the only armed transit police in Canada)?

These transit thugs in bullet proof vests just love detaining non-white Lower Mainlanders, corroborating with Border Patrol, and imprisoning suspected immigrants. Heaven forbid one try to save some grocery money by risking the month without a bus pass. A lost profit of $2.75 for Translink can result in a $173 fine for the already struggling rider. Heaven forbid you speak English with an accent, for your fate could be much worse. (Read about Lucia Vega Jimenez).

In all this talk of “transit” improvements, where is the case for free transit? Instead, fellow “leftists” on our Twitter feeds are regurgitating Mayor’s Council propaganda to achieve an ongoing increase of our provincial sales tax. I’m not sure about every “leftist”, but I myself am not one to support Gregor Robertson and developer funded city council. Why would I trust the gash-grab excuses of the same folks who are destroying the DTES, China Town, and Grandview-Woodlands for unaffordable condo development?

Why would I trust that the Provincial Government, run by Christy Clark and made up of conservative “Liberals”, will funnel their new citizen-approved revenue stream into the promised area? I have heard more than my fair share of broken election promises. What makes the transit tax different? After all, there are no legal stipulations that this additional government income must indeed be invested in transit.

The “Yes” campaign rhetoric assures me that this cash will improve Skytrain infrastructure and increase bus service. Are we honestly expected to believe that the money Translink rakes in equals a benefit to transit riders? What about the $200+ million wasted on fare gates and Compass cards, an infrastructure that was already proven a failure in Chicago?

What about the salaries of transit cops? The minimum annual salary for a Transit Police officer is $75,000, with more than one third making over $100,000. What about the mere existence of transit cops? What about the salaries of Translink Officials? Translink CEO Ian Jarvis raked in $468,015 in 2013. Sure, this salary may be on par with other multimillion dollar corporation CEO’s, but should PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION really be rendered into a for-profit company?

I am confused as to why we are being asked to pay more money for transit. We already pay 12% provincial and general sales tax. What is this covering, if not basic infrastructure like transit, roads, and bikeways? I know some of it must go to other essentials like health care and education, but then why is our health system resorting to corporate sponsorship (#BellLetsTalk) or emotionally manipulative attempts at securing private donations (those tear jerker bus ads for Children’s Hospital), and why are schools being consistently underfunded, with ever increasing class sizes, less support for children with special needs, and teachers being bled dry when they try to stand up for their collective rights? If our tax money isn’t going to healthcare, education and infrastructure, where is it going? Perhaps it’s not more money our governments need, but better priorities.

And if it really is more money that our local and provincial governments need, why not lay off on all those corporate tax cuts (HootSuite, property developers) and we can get a little more money out of the multimillion dollar companies benefiting from the same infrastructural improvements that we residents will be. Doesn’t Telus need their employees to get to work? Doesn’t HootSuite want better bike lanes, to move employees and to enhance their green hipster branding? Won’t property developers be thrilled when new Skytrain stations pop up in Surrey, Guildford, Newton and Langley, providing perfect sites for new clusters of expensive glass high rises?

Our big corporate neighbours are all too keen on showing their sense of “community” and scoring the big tax breaks on their public philanthropy. What better way to show your dedication to the community than pay more taxes? Sadly, corporations don’t want to put their cash towards anything they can’t put their name on. Would Vancouver World of Science sound anywhere as good as Telus World of Science?

And what about income tax? There are residents of the lower mainland bringing in huge skrilla each year. Why can’t these folks contribute a little more towards the infrastructure that helps them get rich? A 0.5% increase of flat taxes hurts those earning $8,000/year a lot more than those earning upwards of $500,000. This is an old argument. It strikes me as incredibly odd that this criticism isn’t popping up more. Is Tax the Rich such an absurd slogan that no self-respecting politician will even mention it? What about any self-respecting “leftist”?

Emily Griffiths is a writer, performer, and child care worker, living on unceded Coast Salish Territories. Stay tuned for her upcoming book, Disney Dream Machine.

Corporate Personhood Alert!

We have to spend some time this week carefully watching BC business playing good cop and bad cop. The good cop is opposing the idea of a corporate tax rate of zero, while the bad cop says that corporations should be able to vote, like real human beings.

British Columbia Chamber of Commerce president John Winter has said … “I’m not so sure getting down to a zero tax rate is really the right place to be for business in British Columbia at any rate. I think that we should all be taxpayers and contributing to the economy.”

via Winter questions zero tax rate for small business – Public Eye Online.

This sounds great. The stunning tax cuts for corporations in BC and throughout the OECD world show that governments are largely just compradors for corporations. But to hear a BC business leader suggest that BC should not be a Cayman Islands tax haven, while encouraging, is somewhat suspicious.

But the other shoe did verily drop:

Last week, British Columbia Chamber of Commerce president John Winter … encouraged the Clark administration to give business back the right to vote in local elections – an idea that was rejected by a 2010 provincial task force. But Mr. Winter acknowledged there would be some barriers to making all of that happen.

via Business group pushes for local government changes – Public Eye Online.

I certainly hope there will be barriers to allowing these corporation frankenthings, these rapacious virtual human beings, entities whose legislated mandate is to maximize shareholder wealth, to vote in municipal elections along with me, you and all the other real human voters around.

It is wrong to argue that corporations should pay taxes so they could have the right to vote. Corporations are creatures of economics. Their operation should generate taxes for society.

Democracy, however, is a thing of, by and for real human beings…some of whom run corporations, people who do not deserve a double vote. Just as I’m reading about the potential end of Great Britain with Scottish, Welsh and Irish independence movements objecting to the monarch having more rights than other human beings just because of her ancestry, we should not be empowering certain people to have more votes than others by virtue of their involvement with corporations.

So, beware chamber of commerce presidents bearing gifts of rhetoric. They never give something for nothing.

Just How Galling is TransLink’s Taxation Without Representation?

I wince in pain every time I board a Skytrain car and see this sign reminding us to keep our transit system clean. The TransLink board is a 21st century example of 18th century taxation without representation as the draconian BC Liberal government altered TransLink’s existence to ensure an appointed board is not accountable to the civic officials who fund it with billions of dollars.

“It’s your transit system too, help keep it clean.” I like the sentiment, but it hurts to think that while we all pay for the transit system, we do not have authority over it.

Every time I see this sign, I am reminded of what the BC Liberal party has taken away from all of us.

So I’d like to begin a campaign to encourage TransLink to name its new electronic fare card “TWR: taxation without representation”. If you would like to leap on this bandwagon, please cruise by their website and enter that idea for the card. Vote early and vote often. You can enter the contest as many times as you like until November 8, 2010. And you can win an iPad or an electronic fare card with a year’s worth of transit on it. In fact, I’m going to go put in another entry right now. OK, I put in 3 entries.

And for you enterprising students out there looking for a class project, I submit this for your consideration. Let’s see if we can plump the votes up so that all other suggestions get voted off the island. But of course, there is no democracy in TransLink so even if some enterprising person built a little app/script to enter TWR until it gets billions of votes, I’m sure we’ll still get something embarrassing, or at the very least anti-democratic.

And while I’m remarking on how surreal it is to live in a world like before the American Revolution, I’d like to ask you if you have noticed how those expensive TVs on Skytrain platforms are full of adcreep, but they are missing the most essential piece of information in a transit system: the time.

Corporations Already Pay Virtually No Tax in BC

Do you find it to be a compelling argument whenever the BC Liberals claim we need to reduce corporate income taxes, for whatever reason they toss out on any random day?

I knew the BC Liberal government was a big fan of corporations, reaping millions in campaign donations from them over each election cycle. But did you know that corporations in BC pay virtually no income tax?

You might re-assess the state of the province if you knew that corporations pay only 10% of their taxable income in taxes, and a quarter of that for small businesses making under $500,000/year in taxable income. But more, in less than two years, small business will pay NO income tax [see this graph from the bottom of page 2 of the 2011 budget consultation document]!

The core data is at the bottom, but here’s a summary.

Small businesses pay 2.5% in BC income tax today. That number is down from 4.75% when the NDP left office, which itself was a tax cut from before the 2001 election, down from 8.5%. The drop from 4.75% to 2.5% happened leading up to the 2009 election as a gift from the governing Liberals.

So the NDP cut small business taxes almost in half before 2001, when they happened to lose the election: a wasted gesture.

The Liberals cut small business taxes almost in half before 2009, which paid off better for them.

The Liberals also gifted corporations with a back door tax cut by increasing the limit of what it takes to be a small business before the 2005 election from $300k to $400k, meaning business with income in that band saw a 50% tax cut because they were suddenly small businesses. Then as a celebration of being re-elected a second time, the Liberals increased the upper limit of small businesses by another $100k.

What about big business then?

We saw the same kind of reduction of taxes by the NDP, from 16.5% in the 1990s, or one dollar in taxes payable for every six dollars in taxable income to 10% in January 2011, when it will be one dollar in taxes payable for every ten dollars in taxable income.

If you had some utopian notion that corporations should pay a significant amount of taxes to support public services, your vision is not matched by reality. In fact, corporate taxes can’t be much lower in BC without being zero.

Did you plan to live in a society in which corporations paid no tax? When we think of Caribbean tax havens, that’s what comes to mind. And if we don’t change the trend, BC will be a corporate tax haven too, and not just for small businesses who will pay no corporate income tax in 2012.

By the way, since a few of my recent posts have included requests I’ve made under BC’s Freedom of Information Act, this topic is no exception. I asked for 70 numbers: for each of the last 10 years, how many corporations and individuals have paid no provincial income tax, broken down into seven categories of taxable income. So check back in six weeks to see the results of that request.

I encourage you also to make FOI requests under BC’s Freedom of Information Act of anything that intrigues you about how the BC Liberal party is destroying the commons in BC.

And for more random context, the BC government expects to collect more money from tuition fees starting next September than from corporate income taxes.

If that works with your notion of justice in BC, sleep well. If it doesn’t it’s time to wake up and get busy.

What can you do?

Until October 15, 2010, the BC legislature’s Finance Committee is accepting input from citizens and groups on next year’s budget.

It’s not a complex task. Click on the link. Read the consultation document while re-spinning in your mind the gratuitous self-promotion from the government in the document; don’t forget to look again at the chart on the bottom of page 2 showing how the government wants to stop collecting taxes from corporations as soon as possible.

Then put your ideas into the text boxes on the online form.

But one word of warning about the 3 horrible choices we are given for extra revenue: fund new programs and services, reduce the debt, or cut personal income taxes. You can choose o-3 of the choices. Don’t chose cutting taxes unless you want to help the government justify it’s decade-long reckless tax cutting spree. Also, don’t choose reducing the debt because that also gives cover to the government to avoid restoring the billions cut from programs and services to fund the previous tax cuts.

In the end, the BC Liberal government will do whatever it wants with our money. We elected them for a third time, after all. But by filling out your views in this online survey, you add new ideas to the debate that takes place in the Finance Committee and the media. The more people who submit progressive preferences for our budget, the harder it will be for the government to negate our priorities.

British Columbia has two rates of income tax – a higher rate and a lower rate.

The income eligible for the lower rate is determined using the British Columbia business limit. The British Columbia business limit is:

  • $500,000 effective January 1, 2010
  • $400,000 effective January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2009
  • $300,000 from April 1, 2002 to December 31, 2004

General Rate (higher rate)

Effective January 1, 2011: 10.0%

January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2010: 10.5%

July 1, 2008 – December 31, 2009: 11.0%

July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2008: 12.0%

January 1, 2002 – June 30, 2005: 13.5%

July 1, 1993 – December 31, 2001: 16.5%

The Small Business Rate applies for Canadian-controlled private corporations with active business income.

Small Business Rate (lower rate)

Effective December 1, 2008: 2.5%

July 1, 2008 – November 30, 2008: 3.5%

January 1, 2001 – June 30, 2008: 4.5%

July 1, 2000 – December 31, 2000: 4.75%

July 1, 1999 – June 30, 2000: 5.5%

January 1, 1999 – June 30, 1999: 8.5%

via Finance – Corporation Income Tax.