The GST Cut and Fiscal Imbalance
The federal government is reducing its GST rate from 7% to 5%. We examine a broader reform in which this reduction in federal tax rates and revenues is accompanied by a similar reduction in federal transfers to the provinces. At the same time, the provinces may if they wish increase their own sales tax rates to make up the difference, while some provinces, including Ontario, reform their retail sales taxes to emulate the federal GST more closely. We analyze the likely impacts of such reforms on provincial revenues, tax incidence, and business investment. The result of combining these measures would be (1) a better ‘balanced’ federation, with less room for ‘blame-shifting’ between levels of government and consequently greater accountability at all levels, and (2) owing to the removal of the present surprisingly heavy tax on investment imposed by the provincial retail sales taxes an expansion in investment and, over time, in productivity, employment, and perhaps economic growth.
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