Here’s a dreary but essential thought: The HST referendum is a month and a bit away. Have you formed your opinion yet?
If you have believed all the bull that's been thrown around about the HST and really believe that it is “bad” for the province – and not just for you personally – then your mind is probably already made up. You’re going to vote it down.
But if you’re like most of us, in that you don’t personally like it, but have an inkling that killing it is probably one of the dumbest things we can do, than you may want to look at a few realities.
1. No one likes taxes. Go ahead, find me someone who loves to pay a tax to some -- any -- government. But anybody with any maturity recognizes that as part of a society, we have to reduce our selfishness just a touch, and contribute.
2. It’s a heck of a lot fairer than income tax or the old PST system.
There is real fairness – and then there is the me-centered fake kind. The old PST system encouraged the latter.The HST is a straight-forward consumption tax in that the more you buy, the more tax you pay. There are no hidden taxes included in the price. So, unless you store all your money in a suitcase under your bed, the richer you are, the more tax you pay and are seen to pay. Bet you can’t say that about income tax.
3. It’s just more visible.
Under the old PST/GST, we all paid the same amount of taxes as we do now on purchases, except for a few exceptions. The big difference is that under the old system sometimes that PST was often included in the price. Under the new one, it shows on your bill. So you get upset and think you’re paying more. Most of the time, you’re not.
4. It is not a transfer of money to big business.
Let’s take that concept apart. First, more than 90 per cent of B.C. businesses are small, not big. So there’s no windfall there. Second, any big business could reclaim input tax credits – or transfer money – under the PST system just like they can under the GST system. The important difference here is that most small businesses couldn’t get input tax credits under the PST because the paperwork was too complicated. So they had to eat the PST they paid or built it into their price (for example: under the old system I had to pay PST for various things I needed to run my business – but couldn’t charge it to my clients. The result: I earned 5% less). Under HST, they can claim input tax credits, so if anything, it’s a (rightful) transfer of money to small businesses.
5. Rolling it back to the old system will be horrendously expensive.
You think the HST is biting now? Wait until they have to re-institute the much flawed old system and we have to start shelling out billions to pay back the federal government, re-create a bureaucracy to administer a stupid and overly complex system, and eliminate income tax breaks for the poor that were part of the HST changeover. Where do you think that money is going to come from? Your pocket. It always does.
6. The entire world uses the system.
Every country except the United States has recognized that some kind of VAT (Value Added Tax) works better – for taxpayers and governments – than other methods of taxation, and so have systems similar to the HST. So, sure let’s go back to a retail tax system that has been discredited everywhere, except in the ultra political U.S.
7. Gordon Campbell is gone, dammit!
Most of the antipathy to the HST came because of the sneaky way it was introduced. The people, goaded by political enemies and self seekers, rose up and revolted. As a result, Campbell left. But if there can be such a thing as a good tax (or, to be more correct, a less worse one), the HST is it. Don’t let your anger at how it was imposed cloud your judgement about what it is.