Payroll Taxes in Canada Revisited: Structure, Policy Parameters and Recent Trends
This paper extends earlier work by updating the structure and policy parameters of payroll taxes in Canada. Drawing from a newly available dataset, it also reports trends on the level, growth and role of each component of these taxes in recent years. Finally, it compares Canadian payroll taxes to those of the world's leading developed countries. The following highlights the main findings. Payroll taxes in Canada have grown considerably since the early 1980s, constituting an increasingly important source of revenues for both the federal and provincial governments. However, the rapid expansion observed in earlier years has in large part slowed down in the early 1990s. Payroll tax revenues collected from employees and employers in the country have stabilized at around 5.7% of GDP or 14.0% of total federal and provincial government revenues since 1992; the effective total payroll tax rate has levelled off at around $12.20 for every $100 of wages and salaries since 1994. The structure, level, growth, and role of each component of payroll taxes vary considerably from one province to another. Yet, EI premiums have remarkably been the largest component of these taxes in every province in both the 1980s and the 1990s, regardless of whether there are provincial payroll taxes; rising EI premiums have also consistently been the leading contributor to the expansion of total payroll taxes during this period. Despite rapid growth in the 1980s and early 1990s, Canadian payroll taxes remain one of the lowest in the world's major developed economies. According to data compiled by the OECD, total payroll tax revenues in Canada amounted to 6.0% of GDP in 1996 --- that is 14% lower than that of the United States (at 7.0% of GDP); the lowest in the G7 nations; and the 9th lowest among the 29 OECD member states.
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