Canadian public discourse suffers no shortage of tax policy discussion. Politicians campaign on tax policy, think tanks publish reports on tax policy, advocacy groups demand changes to tax policy; coffee-shop sages ruminate on the subject. We’re awash in policy talk. To borrow a phrase – we’re soaking in it.
Certainly, good tax policy is one of the underpinning pillars of a healthy economy, reliable government services, and a sustainable social safety net. Thoughtful consideration and discussion of tax policy is critically important to maintaining a world-leading economy. But there’s a danger in all this discussion. It’s a hidden danger that has escaped even our cleverest minds.
It is the peril of discourse disconnected from the day to day administration conducted by Canada Revenue Agency. Yes tax policy governs the types of taxation we will live with, the rates of taxation, the products and services that will be taxed, even who will collect taxes, and of course these things are important… but for the taxpayer who has to deal with Canada Revenue Agency, the esoteric considerations of tax policy are almost completely irrelevant.
Most Canadians can’t afford the luxury of pondering the subtleties of the Income Tax Act.
Chances are, if you have a tax problem, you’re more likely concerned with whether an auditor is going to deny your deductions, increase your taxable sales, or assess gross negligence penalties. If you’ve got a problem with the Collections Division you’re probably going to be mulling over exactly how you’re going to get the collections officer to release the garnishee on your bank account.
Unfortunately – the greatest tax policy in the world isn’t going to help you if you’re up against a government institution without any meaningful oversight, and whose sole purpose is the extraction of money.