B.C. VIEWS: Tax my car, not my income

Opponents of the HST can't seem to resist making the tax sound worse than it really is.

The NDP has been surfing on a wave of indignation about the introduction of the HST for nearly two years.

VICTORIA – I recently bought a used vehicle. Bitter experience with used cars sold privately led me to make the purchase at an established, reputable dealership, and I’m pleased with the result.

The first car I ever bought was a private sale. A young man showed off the old car he had painted himself, while his mother smiled and offered homemade lemonade. Sold for $600.

The choice of drink proved appropriate when the engine clattered to a final halt a week later. It was then I discovered that the crankcase contained mostly STP Oil Treatment, to conceal the engine’s true state.

At the dealership this spring, the harmonized sales tax was not a hot topic. Like most goods, new and used vehicles were subject to 12 per cent PST and GST before, and they are subject to 12 per cent HST now.

When I mentioned this in a news report last week, an astute reader in Nanaimo reminded me that it’s not quite that simple. Vehicles, boats and aircraft sold by private individuals are exempt from GST. This was one of the populist concessions the Mulroney government made in an effort to placate angry voters 20 years ago. In B.C., prior to July 2010, private sales were subject to seven-per-cent PST only.

During the hubbub over the implementation of the HST in its 2010 budget, the B.C. Liberal government also increased tax on private vehicle sales by five per cent, from seven to 12 per cent. The stated reason was to provide “comparable treatment” for private and commercial sales of used vehicles.

This provoked an exchange of partisan accusations that typically passes for debate in the B.C. legislature. It’s a payoff to car dealers, the NDP screamed. You guys opposed all of our income tax cuts and now you’re pretending to support lower taxes, the B.C. Liberals yelled back.

Out in the real world, one can observe the effect of a tax structure that gives an advantage to private sellers.

Municipal governments call them “curbers.” They use their garage, driveway and street to repair and market an endless series of used cars. Whether they are crooks or not, their efforts are every bit as appealing to the neighbourhood as the guy with multiple illegal suites whose tenants plug up the parking for the whole block.

In each case, they violate zoning rules and hog services for personal benefit. And if you think they pay income or other taxes on their home businesses, I have a 1973 Pinto you might want to test-drive.

The subject of used cars came up last week when NDP leader Adrian Dix belatedly launched his own anti-HST tour. Apparently he’s having second thoughts about letting Bill Vander Zalm set NDP tax policy based on a world government conspiracy theory.

Dix’s first media event was staged in a Burnaby kitchen. The homeowner dismissed the $350 HST rebate he has been offered to offset costs such as summer camp for his two kids, saying that will be gone several times over if he buys a used car.

This clearly implies that HST has been extended to used cars. This is the sort of claim that drives much of the rage against it, as people simply scan their bills for those hated three letters.

There are signs that people understand their taxes better, however. An Angus Reid poll last week found that 58 per cent of British Columbians now prefer to pay taxes on their consumption rather than their income.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

twitter.com/tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

PHOTO GALLERY: Malicous Monster Truck Tour

The Malicious Monster Truck Tour sold out to crowds of 2,500 people… Continue reading

North Coast fishing grounds key to orca recovery: DFO

Plan marks waters from Langara to Rose Spit as critical habitat for northern resident killer whales

Chris Green, mother of scouts, passes away

Green, who was born near Kitimat, spent more than 60 years volunteering with Scouts Canada

Intertidal Music Festival back for round two

More than 20 performances throughout the day at the North Pacific Cannery on July 21

Alberta man missing on Kitimat River found dead

Body found on July 11 after going missing on July 7

VIDEO: Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

Justin Trudeau shuffles his front bench Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election.

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Evacuation alert issued due to Dog Creek Trail Wildfire

An evacuation alert has been issued by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako… Continue reading

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Canadian Tire delivers toys to ease kids’ street play pain in B.C. neighbourhood

It’s like Christmas for 11 kids who are supposed to be confined to their yards by strata bylaw

City orders largest Kinder Morgan protest camp to leave

Residents of Camp Cloud near the Trans Mountain work site have 72 hours to leave

Most Read