Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

Pope Ropes a Dope, Does Boffo Box Tax Free

April 17, 2008

The pope is in North America on his latest concert tour.  This is one tour I won’t complain about not coming to Vancouver, as it covers the U.S. only.  The easily impressed flock to see him so that they may feel graced by his presence.  They buy up all the souvenirs and concert T-shirts and hold up their lighters shouting, “Yaaaaahhhh!”

Seriously, this is big business.  A papal tour is worth hundreds of millions.  I mean, $695 for a porcelain statue of the guy?  The mark up on these mass produced mementos is – dare I say it – a sin.  Well, it would be if there was a god for it to qualify as a crime against, but, you get the idea.  The pope has criticized Canada in the recent past for not doing enough to narrow the gap between rich and poor.  Then the church gouges its own followers like this?  Talk about excessive profits.  Is a ‘toy pope with your Happy Meal’ McDonald’s deal next?

Ever since they were introduced by his predecessor, papal tours have been a nice little earner for the Catholic church.  Souvenirs of all kinds have been sold at extortionate prices to the suckers – I mean, faithful.  Remember the famous John Paul II pope-on-a-rope soap?  I wonder if it washed away sins.  His tours turned him into a larger than life personality – rivaling Jesus, himself – that the church capitalized on.  Well, who could blame them?  There was a lot of money to be made.

But, what about all that money?  Couldn’t all those good Catholics have used it to feed hungry people instead of the church and their own pride?  Let’s face it, those souvenirs will be shown off as proof that they’ve seen the pope.  Bragging rights will be theirs.  Bragging will ensue.  Some might say the profits are used to feed the hungry.  Are they?  I’m not so certain of that.  The Catholic church is a large organisation with broad financial interests.  They invest on the stock market and are probably one of the great institutional investors of the world.  At one point, I believe,  they were the largest – possibly the majority – shareholder of Coca Cola.  That’s pretty big.

They know how to market the pope like a rock star.  Pretty savvy.  They know how to exploit their star to turn a healthy profit.  That’s entertainment.  They know how to invest and manage huge sums of money.  That’s rich.  And, they don’t pay a penny in taxes.  That’s really rich.  Even Hollywood couldn’t hide profits that well.

I’ve written before about how the church doesn’t use nearly all the money it takes in for charity.  In fact, the crumbs they give out to the truly needy along with their prayers are probably nothing compared to what they have available to them.  This is a very large corporation with vast assets that generates huge revenues and profits, but doesn’t pay tax.  It’s time that came to an end.

The Government Giveth and the Government Taketh Away

April 8, 2008

A couple weeks ago, I received a very unwelcome letter from the government.  More specifically, it was from the Canada Revenue Agency, that branch of the government that is just one word short of a really funny acronym.  The ones formerly known as Revenue Canada.  You know, the people you pay taxes to.

Anyway, the Canada Revenue Agency people told me they had reassessed my tax return from 2006 and that I now owed them money, PLUS INTEREST, for the year or so that I hadn’t paid them, even though I had just been informed.  They said they had adjusted my Canada Pension Plan contributions downwards and that I now owe them $114.26.

I phoned the CRA and it was clear the person on the other end of the phone didn’t have a clue.  That didn’t stop him from being adamant the mighty agency employing him was right, even though he couldn’t tell me why I owed them money.  He put me on hold while he checked.  He came back and said the “system” said I had claimed more than I actually had.  He didn’t have my actual return in front of him.  If he did, he would have seen the correct amount.  Well, I did have my copy of the return in front of me – a photocopy  of the relevant page I had sent, as it happens.  He conceded that it was probably a clerical or data entry error that led to the wrong number being entered but maintained that I still owed them the $107.73.  The good news, though, was that I could probably appeal the interest of $6.53.  Yay.

I was sick with the flu at the time so my brain just wasn’t putting things together.  Fortunately, when I was in better shape to walk all the way up that hill to the mailbox to mail the bastards a cheque, I was also more mentally alert.  Something wasn’t right and I knew it.

I dug out the letter they sent and the reassessment notice.  I also dug out my tax return and supporting documents, including the original assessment that didn’t find this ‘underpayment’.  I added up the CPP contributions on the T4s.  Yep.  They added up to exactly what I claimed.  No overstatement on my part.  Then I looked at the reassessment.  Wait a minute.  This doesn’t say I claimed more than the amount on my return.  It says they adjusted it down from that number.  How can they do that?  I did actually make the contributions and I’ve got the documents to prove it.  They can’t just say I didn’t.  And, why does the “system” have a completely different number?  They can’t seem to get their facts straight and they don’t seem to be able to tell me why I owe this money.  The only thing they seem to be certain of is that I do.  Rather than sending a check, I sent a letter pointing out all of this and stating that if they still claim I owe them money they’ll have to give me a detailed explanation and justification for it.

Just a mistake?  Maybe, or maybe the government was spending money when they were swimming in it but, now that things have turned sour south of the border and there are signs of a slowdown on this side of it, there just isn’t as much money coming in as expected this year so they’re looking for ways to get some of it back.  So, maybe they’re sending out reassessments hoping people won’t question the government and just pay up.  That should help the books.

You may be thinking I’m a conspiracy theorist, but this isn’t the first time something’s gone wrong with the tax people and me.  A few years ago I decided to try their new direct deposit payment method for my refund.  After six to eight weeks, when it still hadn’t been deposited, I phoned them.  I was told it had been deposited into my account weeks earlier.  After telling the person that it hadn’t he checked my account details.  They had the right account number, but it had been deposited into a different account number entirely – one that wasn’t mine.  This happened about the time the financial scandals broke out in Ottawa, which only fuelled my suspicions further.  Either they get up to some fishy stuff with our taxes in that agency, or they make an awful lot of mistakes – with my money.

The Canada Revenue Agency People.

Beijing-Style Censorship in Canada

March 1, 2008

Yesterday, there was a story in the news about changes to the Income Tax Act that will allow the government to deny tax credits to Canadian films it decides it doesn’t like, after the fact.  The bill, C-10, is now in the Senate, having been passed by the Commons unnoticed.  Now that it’s become public knowledge, some opposition MPs who voted it through the minority government first house are suddenly protesting.  It makes you wonder if they even read the legislation they vote on.  It also makes you wonder why the media didn’t pick up the story before it was passed.

This bill is a form of censorship.  There aren’t any criteria to determine which films will be rejected.  It will be entirely at the discretion of a panel set up by the government.  David Cronenberg says it’s the kind of thing you’d expect from Beijing.  This is clearly open to abuse to further political or social agendas.  For evidence you don’t have to look any further than who takes credit for making it happen.

Charles McVety is a clergyman and the president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, a fundamentalist evangelical group that seeks to restore “Judeo-Christian moral principles” in Canada.  He seems to be as interested in American social politics as Canadian, if not more, because on his Word.ca website you will find an ad for his new book, rather grandly entitled ‘Earthism’, which appears to claim that the disgrace of fellow clergyman turned gay crackhead Ted Haggard fits nicely into the ‘great falling away’ prophesied in the bible.  It doesn’t seem to matter how hypocritical and wrong these people are shown to be, they’ll still find a way to claim it proves they’re right.

His group lobbied for years to get these changes.  His contacts included people in the PM’s office, fellow fundamentalist Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, and like minded backbench MPs.  Although he didn’t meet with Stephen Harper or Heritage Minister Josee Verner personally, the government finally agreed with the group.  Verner replied to his written materials by saying said she didn’t want to fund movies like ‘Young People Fucking’, for instance.

Conservative MP Dave Batters also cites ‘Young People Fucking’ as an example, despite not having seen it.  In a committee meeting with Michel Roy of Telefilm Canada, he said the purpose of Telefilm is to “facilitate the making of films for mainstream Canadian society, films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families…”  He doesn’t seem to understand what a mainstream movie is.  A commercially successful movie is mainstream, because it appeals to a wide audience.  A film can be mainstream and be unsuitable for a seven year old.  Many mainstream movies have ‘mature’ content.  Although I agree the decision makers at Telefilm annoyingly seem to have their own preferences, and I’ve heard the evidence myself at trade forum seminars, this kind of censorship is not the answer.

I haven’t seen ‘Young People Fucking’ yet, but I will.  What I have read about it indicates that the title is probably the most shocking part.  It might just be shocking enough to get it noticed and help it break through to the mainstream – an achievement for a little Canadian movie in a Hollywood dominated marketplace.  Good marketing.  The easily offended moralists may unintentionally help that cause.

If McVety and the government want to talk about ending offensive tax credits or breaks, let’s talk about ending the free ride for religious organizations.  Churches and their affiliates don’t pay taxes even though they profit from investments.  Not all the money they receive is used for charity, and their idea of charity is often actually tied to recruiting new members and spreading the word.  They have also been havens for paedophiles.  Talk about offensive.

The long feared appearance of the moral right wing of the Conservative government may have come.

There Goes the Neighbourhood

January 16, 2008

I found out a while ago that the building being constructed a couple hundred metres down the road is a Catholic church.  I groaned.  Just what the world needs – more churches when the existing ones are empty, in every sense.

Then I wondered how they pay for it.   If the churches are largely empty, the collection plates must be too.  Besides, shouldn’t that money be used for good causes?  I mean real good causes – like charity, feeding the starving, housing the homeless – as opposed to building unnecessary churches.  They’re not cheap – especially these days in Vancouver, where the superhot construction sector often hits cost overruns.

Some time later, a thought crossed my mind.  I’d heard that most of the money given to charities like the Red Cross to provide aid after the Asian tsunami a couple years ago hadn’t been distributed yet because they basically didn’t know where to begin.  The Red Cross has Christian affiliations, doesn’t it?  I gave them money to help those people.  They better not be using it to further the aims of the church, by building churches, for instance, or sending out missionaries to spread the word and convert people.

There was a story in the news the other day about abuse of aboriginal children by clergymen at government run schools they’d been sent to for conversion.  Apparently, the Catholic church has refused to pay $10 million compensation, their share of a settlement.  They claim they didn’t take the kids away from their parents and put them in those schools, the government did.  I suppose the government made them penetrate the children, too.  The church will not take responsibility.  They seem to think they’re above blame.

Incredibly, a new deal was struck in which the government would pay for the church.  Where does the government get the money?  Taxes.  Your taxes.  Money taken away from you is being used to pay a penalty the Catholic church refuses to.  How can the church get away with that?  Why would the government do that?

Although the church denies responsibility, they aren’t necessarily unaware of what their priests get up to.  A while back, on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart talked about a similar abuse case in the U.S. where the settlement was a whopping $600 million.  But, in that case, believe it or not, the church had SEXUAL ABUSE INSURANCE that covered the bill.  If you buy insurance, it’s because you know there is a reasonable risk of something happening.  To even consider something like sexual abuse insurance, you’d have to think it was likely.

The Catholic church seems to be very good at getting others to pay their bills.  They’re also a large organization that seems to think it has limited liability.  Sounds kind of like a corporation…  Maybe it’s time they started paying taxes…