Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Calculate Your GST Tax Break in 3 Easy Steps

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Martin's said cutting the GST is peanuts, giving one 50 cents on the purchase of a new toaster. Ignoring the irony and apparent partisanship of him not wanting to cut the GST when he said in the 90s it had to be done, let's calculate what Harper's GST cut amounts to, in tax break dollars, for average Canadians.
Stats Can has the average family income, from 2003 (the most recent I could find; anyone with mor recent data is invited to comment), at about $60,000. It may have changed significantly since then, but I doubt it (the economy's strengthened, so if anything, the tax cuts will be slightly greater than shown here).
Anyways, here's how to calculate one's break under Harper's GST cut.

1) Calculate your after tax income. My mom earns about 60,000 as a teacher here in Quebec (though I think they're trying to cut it, but that's another post for another time), and for her that means $35,000 after taxes. It may be slightly different for families totaling 60,000, but it won't be anything drastic.

2) Estimate and then deduct the percentage of your income that goes to GST-exempt things. This primarily includes savings and investments, and most groceries (anything essential, GST is charged on junk food). *Update: health care, prescription drugs, rent, daycare, and public transit are also exempt.* My mom spends 30-40% of her income on groceries, and I guessed 10% goes to savings, which is probably more than the national average (statscan says we're spending more and saving less, though I couldn't find exactly what the averages are). It makes for easy calculations though: 40% for food plus 10% for savings means 50% goes to GST-exempt things. My mom spends $17,500 on items taxed by the GST.

*Update: 2.5) Add your debt and savings withdrawals to your post tax and post GST-exempt-spending income. To save money through the GST tax break, you have to have money to spend. In the previous steps, we deducted money that was used or invested in places beyond the reach of the GST. Here, we're adding non-income dollars to our tally of spendable dollars, to get the real total of what we spend on things taxed by the GST.
In the above example, my mom has $17,500 of such spending. With a mortgage and a student loan averaging $750 a month of payments, this would come out to a total of $26,500 of GST-taxed spending. If one withdraws another $200 a month from savings, it comes to $28,900. Thus debt and savings reduction are an important factor. In only considering salary as the only source of money, I committed a serious oversight, which StatsCan helped me correct. Click the link above to see what I'm talking about.

3) Multiply the remainder of your income by 0.02 (2%). This should show you how much of your income will be saved by the tax cut. Rather than going to the government, it stays in your pocket. In my mother's case, 17,500 x 0.02 = $350.

My mom, and the average Canadian family gets a tax break of a few hundred bucks.

While we're crunching numbers, I'd like to point out that Harper's way out front in the EKOS polls. Notably, they're saying we Canadians believe he's most able to articulate a vision for the country. I'm proud to say that I said he was leading, before the polls came out, because of policy. Fellow commentators, besides pundits and people taking and calling odds on the election might care to check it out when I said on Dec. 26 that Harper's in the lead

Articles relating to calculating your taxes:
GST cut savings: a few hundred for the Middle Class
Tories scrap the Liberals' tax cut
Green Party review with discussion of alcohol, junk food taxes
Tax subsidies for the trades (in the context of the Tory program)

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