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EDITORIAL: Unfair audits target servers

Canada Revenue Agency targets tips for servers, waitresses

File Graphic
Canada Revenue Agency targets tips for servers, waitresses File Graphic - The Guardian

The CRA should apply its mantra that all income is taxable as diligently to the rich and their tax shelters

It’s a natural tendency to cheer for the underdog. In this case, they are low to minimum wage earners like food and beverage servers and others who receive tips and gratuities from appreciative diners. Most customers add a tip to their bill, and without thinking too much about it, just assume it will go in its entirety to their server.

We know the Canada Revenue Agency is always lurking to claim HST on food or beverage bills. But few of us ever think that when we add a tip, that gratuity is taxable income for the server. Any income is subject to applicable taxation. And as law-abiding, dutiful citizens, we should pay up. If only it was that simple.

How many times have we heard that hundreds or thousands of Canadians – both individuals and businesses - are evading billions in taxes by hiding their money in off-shore tax havens? The wealthy are able to pull off this scam because they are rich; and can afford lawyers and accountants to stash their money in tax shelters.

Charlottetown Sen. Percy Downe has long lobbied Ottawa and the CRA to recoup those staggering amounts. Unfortunately, there is little response from the CRA and minor lip-service from government. There might be a few charges laid, but the vast majority go undetected.

Is it any wonder that many Canadians are outraged at this crackdown on low and minimum wage earners? Really, how else would these kinds of optics play out?

The CRA should apply its mantra that all income is taxable as diligently to the rich and their tax shelters, as to the 60 servers being audited in the Charlottetown area. We shake our heads in disbelief at the examples of large wealthy corporations which pay no tax. Yet, students trying to pay off loans or single moms struggling with day care are fair game.

These minimum wage earners have no shields, no protection, no accountants or lawyers. Their income is there on receipts for all to see. They are an easy target; but it’s more difficult to bring a Bay Street tycoon to justice. So, the CRA applies the low-hanging fruit axiom to the average Canadian – they are easy pickings.

Yes, we all need to pay taxes. But the present system is unfair. Law-abiding citizens are being audited and harassed. The CRA is engaging in a double standard, auditing the poor while the rich go free.

It’s incumbent for the government to call off this CRA witch hunt and order the agency to redirect its energies to reveal plotters and schemers who are hiding billions in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere.

Canadians remember how the federal government backed off tax reform efforts in late 2017. The idea was to require all Canadians pay their fair share of tax. Instead, the wealthy are still allowed to sprinkle their income to reduce taxes payable.

The wealthy got a Christmas present while CRA Grinches sprang into action on low income servers. It hardly seems fair.

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