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Breaking it Down For you

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Buy in Canada, baby

Tired of wondering why that adorable baby bathrobe is so much cheaper at Target in Grand Forks than it is anywhere in Winnipeg? Or why it costs you $200 more on average to outfit your kid for the hockey season than a parent in Minnesota? Wonder no more.

Last year, Ottawa increased the duty-free exemptions on goods purchased while travelling outside of Canada. This year it's trying to keep Canadians shopping at home.

Ottawa is eliminating all tariffs on baby clothes and sports equipment as it tries to find a way to end the price gap between goods in Canada and goods in the United States. The tariffs added up to 18 per cent on the cost of imported baby clothes and ice skates, and between 2.5 to 20 per cent on the cost of other sporting equipment. The tariffs add an estimated $76 million to the cost of the items in Canada, an amount Canadian consumers can now save if retailers actually pass on the savings to their customers. The government plans to use this step to see how well the move actually does narrow the price gap for Canadian consumers. Chances are if it works, they just might find other tariffs to cut.

Parents of this country, you can actually have reason to thank the Senate for this one. It was a recent study by the Senate examining the price differential on consumer goods between Canada and the U.S. which identified import taxes as one of the main reasons Canadians pay more for the same items.

Give generously and prosper, young person

Canadians are a generous bunch. But the federal government wants young people to have more reason to give to charity. The budget introduces a First Time Donor's Super Credit, increasing the amount of charitable donations which can be used as a tax deduction to 25 per cent of a maximum of $1,000.

If you haven't donated to charity -- or at least haven't claimed a tax credit for doing so -- since 2007, and you're not married to someone who has, you're eligible for the tax credit.

In 2011, 5.7 million Canadians donated a total of $8.5 billion to charity. The government already spends $2.9 billion a year to support charitable donations, mainly through the tax deduction available.

Perhaps Finance Minister Jim Flaherty felt the next generation needed a little boost, so he swooped in superhero style, to offer the super credit. It will cost an estimated $25 million a year to do so.

Workfare, coming to a reserve near you

It won't be mandatory unless your First Nations agrees. But if you're young, living on reserve, and surviving on social assistance, you might soon have to undertake personalized job training in order to get your cheque every month.

The government calls it "investing in training" for on-reserve income assistance through a First Nations Job Fund. The $109-million, five-year program will provide job training that will coincide with available economic opportunities near reserves. Another $132 million over five years will be offered to First Nations to create supports such as counselling, to ensure compliance among recipients of the training funds. First Nations have to agree to implement the mandatory training in order to receive the funding.

Tax evaders beware, but no rogues please

Call it Crimestoppers for tax evaders, a new program encouraging Canadians to snitch on people they know are avoiding taxes in Canada by shifting money out of the country. The Stop International Tax Evasion Program will pay rewards to people who tell the Canada Revenue Agency about such people, if it leads to the collection of outstanding taxes.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who is counting on getting $4.4 billion from closing tax loopholes and going after international tax cheats over the next five years, said you won't get the money if you were part of the deal. "We will not pay anyone who was part of the deal," he said. "We're not looking for rogues to turn in other rogues."

The program could pay a reward of up to 15 per cent of the tax collected from the tip, when the tax evasion includes foreign property or transactions conducted partially or entirely outside of the country.

And of course, before you go spending those big bucks, prepare to hand over your share to CRA yourself. The reward money is itself taxable.

How much this will net the federal government? Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has no idea.

"We don't know how much evasion there is until we go after it," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2013 B1

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