Is Vancouver Overtaxed?

Stacking up the proposed Mobility Pricing and Provincial Surtax

ANDREW YANG // CONTRIBUTOR

There are two things that we are all guaranteed, “death and taxes,” as Benjamin Franklin would have put it. Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities to live in Canada. On top of the PST and GST British Columbians pay $35 per tonne of emissions in Carbon Tax. In 2016, the BC Liberals introduced a Foreign Buyers Tax and an Empty Home Tax, which equates to 15 per cent plus an additional one per cent on property value for those who don’t live here. Now to add to the burden, NDP Point Grey MLA David Eby is proposing a Provincial Surtax – an additional property tax targeting houses worth over $3 million. In Vancouver, that’s a lot of houses.

For example, owners of a $3.5-million home would have to pay $1,000. While owners of a $4.5-million home would need to pay an additional $4,000.

The surtax’s purpose is to generate enough revenue to alleviate the housing crisis that Vancouver is facing. Although the surtax is called a “school tax,” it’s actually the provincial portion of property taxes to generate revenue and then redistributed it to our public services. Yet this tax has the unfortunate implication of discriminating against homeowners regardless of their financial standing. Retired seniors and low-income homeowners with large mortgage payments can’t fend for themselves when there’s practically no breathing room. Fortunately for eligible homeowners, which include seniors over the age of 55, persons with disabilities, widows, and families with children, they can defer all or part of their property taxes, including the additional school tax.

Speaking of breathing, we are practically paying taxes just for taking a deep breath of fresh air. As of April 1, BC’s carbon tax rate was $35 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. The tax rate will increase by $5 per tonne each year until it reaches $50 per tonne in 2021. According to the BC government website, revenues generated from the Carbon Tax will be used to improve affordability and keep industries competitive through emissions reduction. While it is important to generate clean initiatives to attain the “Greenest City 2020” milestone, the Carbon Tax is a hole in every driver’s wallet. Some drivers have taken to crossing over into the United States to purchase cheaper gas.

Last fall, the new NDP government scrapped the unpopular tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges. However, traffic congestion in Vancouver continues to pose a problem for commuters daily. TransLink’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission suggests a decongestion charge in an effort to reduce the number of cars on the road, which could add up to $3-8 per day. Mobility pricing isn’t a popular trend considering how in 2015, the a referendum question posing a new 0.5 per cent sales tax to fund infrastructure fell through. Voters saw the proposed tax as nothing more than a cash grab.

Without funding, there’s no answer to the gridlock. We face degrading infrastructure and gutted government programs without tax revenue. But by increasing taxation, the government is putting even more of a strain on the average Joe’s wallet. There’s no guarantee that every increase will show an uptick of accountability in how our money is being spent.

Instead of creating new taxes, BC should come up with a comprehensible and affordable  streamlined tax system. We also need a new accounting system that ensures politicians can’t spend our hard earned money on personal vanity projects. It’s only a matter of time before Vancouver bites off more than it can chew out of its own citizens.

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