Tax education

Don’t worry:  I am not going to go on about the stunned response we had to our income tax(es) situation this year. The Readers Digest version of that would be a wordless stare.

However, Carole asking after what HST means anyway has forced me (finally) to go read up on it and how it differs from GST and what GST is and so forth. I’ve been avoiding plumbing this area because on the face of it, tax computation and collection both seem confusing here and in the end I pay it anyway.

The confusing part for me is the huge number of stores that forego collecting tax on any umber of promotional occasions.  Since the sales tax rate here is in the neighbourhood of 14%, that’s a chunk to not collect from your customers and then have to pay to revenue services. Much less confusing, of course, is figuring out tips, since virtually no math is involved.

Also different, although not confusing, is how many goods and services are taxable.  In California, coin-operated photocopiers don’t charge tax on top of the copying charge, especially in a publicly supported place that gets certain tax exemptions.  Here that’s a math problem, too.

Our property tax bill just arrived this week and I noticed on the way to work the other day that I could, should I be so foolish, drop the corresponding check into a very beaten up metal box in the ferry terminal, affixed to which with an amazing degree of sloppiness, is a sheet of paper noting that all payments to HRM–dog license fees, property taxes, etc.–can be dropped through its slot.  As can, I will note, a coffee table sized lighter.

There was a time…no, not when I walked five miles up hill through the snow to get to school and another five miles up hill to return home…BUT, way back in first grade, my school collected tax stamps.  These were little tissue paper green squares imprinted with colored blocks denoting the amount of sales tax paid on any occasion.  The purple was deeply purple and the orange was deeply orange, while the red was kind of pale and yucky against the green.  We were all told to save our families’ tax stamps in a shoe box and then, at some magic time in the spring, we brought in those shoe boxes and what looked to me like so much confetti was turned into…what?

The next year, tax stamps had disappeared from the landscape. The school lost its second janitor.  Were these two things related?


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