There is zero appetite in Alberta for a provincial sales tax, despite recent suggestions by a tax expert that it would lure investment and benefit businesses, says a small business advocate.
“In theory, consumption taxes are more efficient and less distorting than taxes on income and capital,” said Richard Truscott, Alberta director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
“In theory, you could do a tax reform that was revenue neutral. But we live in the world of political realities,” said Truscott.
“There’s a reason why people in Alberta call the PST the political suicide tax.
“There’s no absolutely no political interest to bring in a PST or an (harmonized sales tax) or any sales tax.”
But just to be sure the idea doesn’t catch on in Edmonton, the CFIB launched a campaign last week to draw attention to the negative impact any provincial sales tax would have on small businesses and consumers.
Truscott said there is no support for such a tax to be found among Albertans, and especially small business owners.
While the number crunching done by University of Calgary tax expert Jack Mintz suggests a 13 per cent harmonized sales tax — based on a five per cent GST plus an eight per cent provincial sales tax — could allow personal income-tax exemptions to be raised and corporate tax rates rolled back, small business income taxes would remain untouched under the plan.
“That means a small business would effectively see a net tax increase under his proposal.”
But the biggest stumbling block to any tax changes — even if the province promises they will be revenue neutral — is deep seated distrust in the government.
“Quite frankly, the taxpayers and business owners don’t trust the government to take the money out of one pocket with the promise they’ll put more money back in the other,” he said.
Truscott said tax reform discussions take the focus away from the more important issue: government spending.
“The provincial government has grown from a $20-billion enterprise to a $40-billion enterprise in a span of decade. And the politicians can’t seem to restrain themselves.