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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kwick’kanum (Eric Pelkey), a hereditary chief of the Tsawout Nation, addressed the crowd that gathered at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway reopens after rally supporting Mi’kmaq fishing rights

Supporters call on government to recognize Indigenous treaty rights

Sooke man Rik Downer spent two weeks in the Royal Jubilee Hospital after contracting flesh-eating bacteria. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Sooke man’s bumped knee leads to fight for life

Man unknowingly contracts case of rare flesh-eating disease

Const. Graham Walker of the Saanich Traffic Safety Unit recreates an incident involving a driver who police say attempted to film the scene of a crash while driving up Highway 17. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Police track down driver caught filming accident scene on Pat Bay Highway

Driver issued $368 ticket, points on their licence

The 21st annual Japanese Cultural Fair streams online Oct. 24 from noon to 3 p.m. (Facebook/Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society)
Esquimalt’s Japanese Cultural Fair takes tastes, experiences and cultures online

21st annual free event streams Saturday, Oct. 24 starting at noon

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Most Read