Jack Brezina: Sharing the burden
|By Jack Brezina - Contributing Writer | March 9, 2017
I think I am like most Canadians … while I find paying taxes irksome, I also realize taxes grease the wheels of a civil society.
Taxes provide the roads, police, armed services, health services, education and a host of other services, obvious and hidden, that make Canada what it is. I hear the cries for lowering the tax burden, but then see jurisdictions where taxes have been indiscriminately slashed and services start to falter, or user fees are initiated or services are sold off to private enterprise.
I also have empathy for those who object to certain expenditures they do not approve of. Everyone wants to see their taxes spent with care and to achieve best return for value. Some expenditures, especially those that have little relevance to one’s personal circumstances, can seem frivolous or a waste. Not every administration, no matter what the level, will mirror an individual’s aspirations, but for the most part, Canadians accept that as part of the overall good that results from government expenditure. Furthermore, every four years we have the opportunity to change the decision makers and the policies they propose.
So, starting from that base, I am just burning with outrage with the CBC Fifth Estate’s report that super rich Canadians bought into a scheme offered by KPMG Management Services that allowed the participants to hide millions of dollars offshore and then repatriate it without paying a cent of taxes. Oh, KPMG made a bundle selling and managing these packages, but presumably less than the taxes owed. The accounting firm determined the plan was “legal”, and their clients accepted them at their word. It may have passed some legal test in its time, but from my perspective dodging their responsibility as citizens leaves me cold.
These multi-millionaire families (the entry participation level in this scheme was $5 million, with many throwing in a lot more) had earned their wealth in the thrust and parry of the marketplace. Their hard work had been rewarded and they deserved their rewards. But in creating this massive wealth, they had enjoyed the infrastructure provided by all three levels of government, funded by Canadian taxpayers.
As the Fifth Estate program noted, these people felt no need to support the government infrastructure that allowed them to succeed so that other entrepreneurs might succeed as well. They were prepared to take the money and run. Reporters for the program blew the whole scheme wide open, forcing Canada Revenue Agency to recoup the missed taxes and fine KPMG for its part in the scheme. However, even in this enterprise, the free-loaders got a break. Their identity was not to be revealed. The CBC reporters were able to root out the names and revealed them on the program and the minimal fine levied against the accounting company. No wonder everyone wanted to keep the deal under wraps.
So, where does that leave us everyday taxpayers? Picking up the slack for the wealthiest freeloaders in the country. How cheated do you feel now about paying your fair share? The federal government needs to ensure this does not happen again.
Jack Brezina is a contributing writer for The Highlander.