Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tax toothache

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In a survey conducted several years ago by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, some 52 per cent of Canadians said they would sooner take a trip to the dentist than fill out their income tax returns.

So far this year in Manitoba, 30,000 low-income people used a free service to fill out their returns because most of them found the task too complicated. In fact, only about one-third of Canadians calculates their own taxes, according to a study by the Fraser Institute.

Older Canadians remember the days when filing a tax return was a relatively simple affair that usually involved a two-page form. Anyone with a pencil and some basic math skills could do the job.

The task of satisfying the federal and provincial governments today, however, involves multiple forms and tax tables, with numerous deductions and credits.

The Fraser Institute study estimated Canadians spend up to $6 billion a year preparing and filing tax returns. That's money taken out of the hands of ordinary Canadians and given to experts and accountants.

The Taxpayers Federation and other consumer groups have called for a simpler tax system, particularly rates that are flatter and lower.

Everyone can agree the system is too complicated and should be simpler, but there's less agreement on how to reach that goal.

Canadians should be able to deduct the cost of paying someone to prepare their tax return. That's the least the government can do for the toothache it gives Canadians once a year.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 1, 2014 A8

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