Sunday, July 15, 2007

Time to switch to head tax - Brampton Guardian

Time to switch to head tax Time to switch to head tax
Thursday July 12 2007

In the July 11 edition of The Brampton Guardian, Don Joshua and John Rossetti both complain about neverending property tax increases.

I know how they feel because in the 18 years I've lived in Brampton, I've never seen anything but a higher property tax rate every year, be it two per cent or six per cent.

There is a very simple solution to this intolerable situation, however, it requires our spineless provincial government to make a decision that is fair, but politically unpopular amongst their most fervent supporters.

The provincial Liberals would never take a stand on an issue like this, and even if they did, our local politicians would be too terrified to support it. What we need is a head tax, not a property tax. What does that mean?

It means homeowners pay taxes based upon the number of people living in a residence, rather than the supposed value of that residence. Think about it: if you have two people living in a home why should they pay an extra percentage every year even if they're consuming the same quantity of services? If you have four people living in a home one year, but eight the next year (for whatever reason), why shouldn't your taxes double?

You're using twice the amount of services, so why not pay twice the taxes?

Isn't that 'democratic'? Isn't that 'just'?

Of course this was the suggestion that doomed Margaret Thatcher's term as Prime Minister of Great Britain. However, that does not mean it isn't fair.

I am fully employed and I can 'afford' the irrational tax increases to which I am exposed, but why should a 75 year old widow who can hardly get by on a fixed income be forced to pay for the increasing pressures put upon our infrastructure by seemingly unlimited population increases and new development? I believe this notion could improve Brampton immeasurably, what do you think?

Ian McVay, Brampton

Some readers may consider what I am about to say as being a racist opinion. As a member of a visible minority group, I believe I see this issue from a point of view which is more sensitive to racial issues than the average person. I will not entertain comments and accusations that I am a racist.

Continue reading at your own risk.

Most taxes are fair. Income taxes are calculated based on the amount of money you make - those who have lower-paying jobs pay less than those with high-paying jobs. The more you consume, the more you pay in sales tax. The more you drive, the more you pay in gas tax. If you count municipal services, the more water, gas and electricity you use, the more you pay. Even transit is fair. In general, the longer you have to travel, the more you pay. However, property taxes are less-than-fair. As the article points out, it is mainly external factors that dictate how much you pay for property taxes. A quiet neighborhood with small, inexpensive housing might experience a real-estate boom, and suddenly property values jump, taking property taxes with them, sometimes out of the range of what residents can afford.

It is not only the resident who gets the short straw if property taxes are calculated based on property values. Although there exist maximum occupancy laws, there is little enforcement. Effectively, there is nothing stopping a family of eight from residing in a home designed for four. This is a drain on the municipal services, because the house is assessed and taxed for the family of four - effectively, the extra four people are receiving municipal services for free. For this very reason, you cannot fund a city on property taxes alone.

Here's the part of this blog post that may seem controversial:
In many cultures, it is customary to have large families and to have those large families (often several generations) live in one house. An argument can be made that this is a lifestyle choice. We live in a country, where for the most part, an adult has a choice when it comes to participating in a group and its traditions. For example, I am a member of a visible minority group, but my choice in lifestyle (including the music I listen to, the friends I keep, the ways I spend my spare time) is not defined by that group. Because of this belief, I place the choice in having large families on par with the choice between living downtown or in the suburbs; between driving an SUV or a small car; between driving everywhere and taking transit. I'm not saying that having large families is a bad thing - I'm saying that for a society to work, everyone must contribute their fair share.

This idea is a political non-starter, mainly because there is a significant number of people who (either due to individual choice or cultural value) have large families and would pay more taxes. However, I'm glad that others are voicing their opinions and encouraging public debate on the subject.



At 1/15/2008 8:28 a.m. , Anonymous J. said...

Interesting comments. Couple of points though:
1. Canada is only growing through immigration, so to tax those who choose to have more kids sort of disincents people from having a many children, thus propogating the reliance on immigration for growth.
2. Head taxes do not mean that there would be a fair distribution of taxes for service usage. e.g. A family of 3 who each have a car and water their grass for 2 hours every evening could arguably consume more municipal services than a family of 6 who share a single vehicle and hardly water their grass.
3. Its a great argument if you are a multimillionaire living in a mansion, because you'd cut your tax bill down to almost nothing.


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