A 10 per cent Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) will cost an average British Columbia family $255 a year less than returning to the former provincial sales tax, according to a new study.
David Murrell, professor of public finance at the University of New Brunswick, released the first version of his study last year, examining the switch to the HST in B.C. and Ontario. He calculated a 12 per cent HST would cost an average B.C. family an extra $490 in new sales taxes paid. Factoring in low-income tax credits and grants, the B.C. HST would mean a net $320 tax increase.
After the B.C. Liberal government announced it would reduce the HST rate to 11 per cent next year and 10 per cent in 2014, Murrell updated his calculations and released the results last week.
“If I were a B.C. voter, based on this evidence, I would vote ‘no’ in the HST referendum,” Murrell said.
Murrell did a similar study in 1997 when Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland expanded their provincial sales tax to include services, and cut the rate to eight per cent. He also found a net saving to taxpayers in those provinces.
B.C. consumer savings come from three sources, Murrell said. Goods that were subject to PST would have it reduced to five per cent. The government has offered personal income tax credits to help compensate for the new HST. And businesses pass on savings from writing off taxes on material inputs and capital spending, lowering the price of products and services, according to the report.
Jock Finlayson, vice-president of the Business Council of B.C. [Smart Tax Alliance member], said Murrell’s study is the first independent academic analysis he has seen since the HST rate cut option was announced in May.
Finlayson said he has heard many times that people don’t believe prices will be reduced as a result of HST tax breaks. But independent researchers have looked at the switch from retail sales taxes to value-added taxes around the world, and “without exception” they find that lower prices result, he said.