experts: real estate column Friday, October 01, 1999


For the fifth year, Iím sending you a note along with our family remittance for the ruining Ė sorry, that should be running Ė of the country.

By Marty Douglas

The Honourable Paul Martin
Minister of Finance
Ottawa, Ontario
101 010

Dear Minister,

For the fifth year, Iím sending you a note along with our family remittance for the ruining Ė sorry, that should be running Ė of the country. The reason Iím late is Iíve been waiting for my refund. Thatís right. A refund. When a Realtor is getting a refund it usually means one of two things. He or she was over expensed and under produced or theyíre returning empties. Either way, it hasnít been a lot of fun on the left coast. Thatís the place where the Canadian economy is not recovering as it is in the ROC.

Enough whining. When I get my refund I will have paid no tax for 1998. Something called Ďalternative minimum taxí. When I paid the tax originally, my accountant, Murray the Mauler, explained, ďMarty, youíve made too much money. But just in case thereís a time in the future when you donít make too much money, the government will take some now.Ē

Turns out they were right. Hence the refund. Iím an embarrassment to the high bracket creeps. Imagine lapsing into the refund category instead of having to schedule quarterly remittances. Itís like being sent down to Triple A for rehabilitation.

So for the fifth consecutive year our contribution to Canada has declined. But if our gross pay is less and, due to all levels of taxation, our take home pay is less, shouldnít yours be less? But youíre getting more money, arenít you? The surplus youíre running now isnít because of cut backs in spending is it? Itís because of more revenue. From taxation.

Oh, sure, youíve done some token cutting, but on average, government spending is up. Youíve shuffled off some costs of governing to the provinces, who, following your example, passed it along to the municipalities, who will show up on my front door any day now to ask for the money you owe me.

We have a very high level of taxation in our country. The river has only one source. Lack of action in reducing taxation is driving economies underground. Whatís the point of job creation if the wage earner of entrepreneur lacks the incentive to increase their effort?

And itís not as though I havenít pointed this out before. Consider these excerpts from past REM columns:

ďSince 1992, our provincial and federal tax burden has been increasing. How about incremental declines for the next six years? Okay? You promise? And be very public about the decrease. In the past, federal reductions in taxes have been followed by corresponding increases by the provincial government so that the difference to the taxpayer was, to quote Socrates, ĎSmaller than the spark in a fireflyís ass.í Or was that Edison?Ē

ďMy concern is that Iím approaching the Ďenough is enoughí stage in my attitude toward taxation and that so are my partners in this free enterprise. Karl Marx, Grouchoís little known brother, thought to have been separated at birth, was of the opinion that the end of capitalism would be near when the middle class were taxed into revolution. Now donít get me wrong, I am an historian, not a supporter. My preference in Marxist philosophy hedges toward slapstick and beautiful women.

ďBut you have to know that you have reached the maximum. Donít you? Please nod your head and encourage me. The problem is, if we give up, where will the money come from? Iím paying more than my share and thatís okay for now if an end is in sight. But we have to see progress and be confident that we will see that progress reflected in a reduction in our taxes. Our total tax bill has been more than 40 per cent of income and climbing since 1981. And donít say you werenít in power then, we donít care.Ē

ďI figure Iíve got another 10 years or so of peak earning power. You tell me that your pension fund is a little shaky so I have to look after myself for my retirement. Iíve been doing that. But what if your tax rate is in the stratosphere when I retire? Part of my personal pension plan has been by business and real estate. On paper, the business looks like a million dollars. Until itís sold. Then it looks like about half of that. You get the other half.

ďSo I was wondering what you did to earn half of my effort, stress, and risk? Was that your signature beside mine and my wifeís on the personal guarantee? I must have missed your sacrifice when we reduced our incomes in order to pay employees and creditors. And your note of congratulations when we came out on the other side of the Ď80s recession must have been lost in the postal service (pardon the oxymoron). And the letter of thanks for 25 uninterrupted years of tax paying, job creation, and citizenship is, I trust, in the mail.Ē

Thanks for your attention. Iíve got to take another load of empties to the recycling depot. Iíll check the mail on my way out.

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Recent Articles by this columnist:

Surviving in a slower market
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The downside of teams
Saturday, October 02, 2010

Thank you, FINTRAC
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Snapshot of Alberta
Thursday, January 03, 2008

No song and dance for weighty housing issues
Monday, October 29, 2007

All articles by Marty Douglas

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