Idea alert -

Idea alert


The NDP pitches tax reform for artists.

The NDP called on the federal government to implement income averaging, an income tax policy they say would benefit artists. It would allow artists who have a good year financially one year, followed by some bad years, to average their earnings over a prescribed period so they are not always in a higher tax bracket.

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Idea alert

  1. I can’t see the government having any principled argument (principled being the operative word) against this particular initiative, as it appears no less irrational than the million other tax breaks this government puts forward every time their pollsters tell them there is a voting block available.  Indeed, at least this plan benefits from something approaching its own internal logic.

    But I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to express my perpetual flabbergastedness with respect to the notion that, for any reason whatsoever, tax payers who don’t care about a certain exhibition of “culture” or “Canadiana” or “art” or what have you should under any circumstances subsidize the activities and obscure interests of some niche group of Canadians, be they hipster musicians, indie film directors, model airplane enthusiasts or symphony orchestras.  I haven’t once heard anything close to a compelling reason.  The only exception I’d make is for publicly owned museums, but mostly because you have to store that old crap somewhere.  But I’d make those busloads of school children pay through the nose for the pleasure.   It’s a central plank in Olaf’s deficit reduction plan, tentatively entitled: “Get a job, you little punks”. 

    • All that remains of most civilizations is their art, not their balance sheets.

      • What if you add the words “government subsized” to your sage rejoinder? Was Shakespeare subsidized by his neighbours? And I don’t care if Canada’s Medicis want to fund Canada’s Michelangelos. I just don’t care to myself, thank you very much. But if you’d like to, feel free to be as generous as you want in making your contribution to Canada’s legacy, to be enjoyed most of all once our civilization has collapsed.

        • Yes, most of them were. See…other people value their culture. Only philistines like yourself are cheese-parers. 

          • I enjoy many incidents of ‘culture’. I pay for them. I don’t expect others to do so on my behalf, any more than I expect them to pay for any other leisure activity I personally enjoy that are not certified ‘Canadian’ by the government. If so many people “value their culture”, they can fund it themselves with my most heartfelt blessings. I don’t know why this is so perplexing to you.

            Speaking of which, I’d pay a significant amount of money to know what you get out of being so eternally obnoxious. Surely that’s worthy of a SSRC grant or something, if any fledgling psychology prodigy had the patience.

          • Hockey teams get subsidized, so don’t use that excuse.

            And keep the rudeness to yourself. You haven’t earned the right to use it to me. 

          • Everyone has the constitutional right to be rude to everyone at any time. That awful old free expression thing, y’know?

            What you perhaps mean to say is “I can’t logically defend my many and frequent non sequiturs from even cursory attack, so you’re a big meanie.”

          • You have no such ‘constitutional right’…perhaps you’re thinking of some other country. The culture here is one of politeness, not yahoos. 

        •  Yes, he was.  Shakespeare was a member of the King’s Men, whose patron was King James.  King James obviously got his money from taxes.

          • Thank you Alex. 

          • Yes, well, King James had a lot of crazy ideas, subsidizing the arts was merely him at his most insane – but I regret drawing a parallel between an ostensibly democratic system and a monarchical one, as if the former should mimic the latter. Slavery isn’t a good idea because it facilitated construction of the pyramids, either. Good luck with that strawman, Alex, if you’re so smart.

          • The pyramids weren’t built by slaves. Wth university do you go to anyway? 

          • “Wth” isn’t an word, Emily.

          • I thought a university student like you would know it meant… What the hell…. 

            Maybe you should demand your money back.

          • I’ve tried, many times, with the aid of incontrovertible evidence that I learned nothing. They categorically refused to refund my tuition. I think I’ll write a musical about my plight. You never know, it might be the next “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, or more manageably, “Cats”. The least you could do is fork over a few bucks involuntarily. Unless you hate culture, that is.

          • In your case it would be ‘Spiderman’ 

          • Before that they were The King’s Men, they were the Lord Chamberlain’s men, and indirectly in the employ of Queen Elizabeth.  So it wasn’t just crazy King James.

            If you’d like examples of famous playwrights being subsidized by a representational government, Arthur Miller and Orson Welles were members of the Federal Theatre Project, a New Deal project.

            I understand your criticism of subsidizing art through tax dollars.  I even appreciate it, and part of me agrees with it.  Historically speaking, though, a great deal of important art has been subsidized by government.

          • First, Queen Elizabeth was also crazy, as far as I’m concerned. Second, such projects were subsidized by taxpayers – the vast majority of which derived no benefit – not governments of independent means and altruistic motives. Third, a great deal of important “art” (i.e. important to those fortunate souls who have been raised in circumstances where such high minded leisures are deemed important), and indeed, many other important contributions to culture, have been managed without forcing non-beneficiaries to forgo their own pleasures to fund it.

            And fourth, and most important of all, I’m just being pissy because I don’t like being directly proven wrong on even minute details. That’s just impolite… and on an internet comment board no less. Shameful, sir. Just shameful.

          •  I was going to mount a rousing defense of art as beneficial, even necessary, even if people don’t directly benefit from it. 

            But then you had to go and be all adorable in your last paragraph.

    • I don’t support wars but I don’t complain about paying for the military.  There is nothing obscure about art.  In fact, the biggest opera lovers I’ve ever met were truck drivers and my old janitor who knew everything about opera, could sing the Rigoletto role without missing a beat.  Our most famous opera singers started in very working class jobs:  Maureen Forrester was a secretary, Quillico used to repair bikes in his father’s store.  It’s a strange prejudice to think that art is for the elite.

      • I don’t support wars but I don’t complain about paying for the military.

        Why not? I would. And the point is that everyone engages in leisure activities, only some of which are deemed worthy of government support. The “we all pay for wars” analogy would only be apt if you supported a war in Darfur, and paid for your own private army to prosecute it, while the cost of the war in Afghanistan was distributed equally amongst the populace.

        However, your anecdotal evidence has convinced me once and for all that, by a significant margin, opera lovers are more readily found amongst the working classes than say, the wealthy (I’m looking at you, Paul Wells).

      •  I don’t support wars but I don’t complain about paying for the military.

        Why not?  I would.  And the only way your analogy would be apt is if you, and everyone else, supported some war (the way all people indulge in leisure activities), but that because you supported an offensive in Darfur, you had to pay for its prosecution by a private army entirely with your own money, while those who supported the war in Afghanistan were able to defray the costs of the war they liked across the entire tax paying population.

        That said, your anecdotal evidence has entirely disabused me of my wild and unfounded prejudice that the wealthy are more likely than the working class to partake in the opera, or wine and cheese art gallery openings, or what have you.  You’ve given two examples, while the only opera-loving member of Canada’s wealthy elite that I can think of is Paul Wells.  So your experience has been converted to fact, despite an almost universal impression to the contrary.  The truck drivers and janitors populating Cannes will appreciate your mythbusting.

        • Not all art is viewed at wine and cheese openings. You’re more likely to
          see Mrs. Harper attending something like this. But if you were at a cinema
          last weekend where they were broadcasting Die Walkure live from the Met you
          wouldn’t have seen Mrs. Harper or the Rosedale crowd but working, middle
          class people, maybe Paul Wells. I tried to buy tickets more than a month
          ago and it was sold out, so I listened to the Saturday opera on radio like
          thousansds of opera lovers worldwide, like my parents, a tailor and a
          stay-at-home mom, did all their lives. It is not
          anecdotal evidence that Dame Joan Sutherland started as a secretary, Jon
          Vickers as a choir boy, Anna Netrebko as a waitress, etc., or that there are
          not only box and parterre seats in an opera house. I visited the AGO last
          week and saw parents showing the awesome prayer beads in The
          Thomson Collection to their children who were totally amazed by what they
          saw. Obviously, you don’t go to museums or the opera house often. But if
          you do go, wear jeans or something very relaxed otherwise you’ll stick out
          like a sore thumb.

          Loraine Lamontagne

          2011/5/18 Disqus

  2. I assume that Jack is also promoting income averaging for all of those other groups out there that commonly experience huge, wild swings in income:  e.g., investment bankers, stock promoters, forex speculators, etc.

    After all, Jack’s all about tax fairness, right? 

  3. It’s a slippery slope. Many entrepreneurs, sales based employees and as such might find that they too should enjoy income averaging in regards to income taxation.
    We should be cleaning house on tax exceptions and focusing on bringing the core taxation rate in line with what is needed to run essential government services. No more, no less.

  4. Hmmm…..the following paragraph from the linked article “The party couldn’t say how much the income averaging measure would cost”.   Look forward to seeing that particular phrase often from the “arts caucus.” the next four years!!

    As for increasing funds for the Canada Council, I worked for a moving company in Ottawa years ago, that had a contract to warehouse many of the items created by artists funded from said council.  To borrow from Olaf, “because you have to store that old crap somewhere”.

    Is the giant brown ‘turd’ sculpture still sitting somewhere outside Ottawa City Hall?

    • Great, we now have a government and an official opposition that  doesn’t like to cost things.   

  5. This is a good idea.  It takes years to write a book, and then it becomes a best-seller….. 

  6. So does that mean that on years that oil prices are high and I get a really big bonus, I can average it out with the years I don’t get the big bonus?

    If that’s the case, I’m all for it.

    Or do I have to be able to perform an interpretive dance to qualify?

  7. I’m not a big fan of taxpayer-funded art/artists, but I can appreciate the idea.

    However, I can foresee problems.

    Besides assuming that artists are honest about declaring their revenue, aren’t there already a plethora of subsidies, credits, etc being exploited by the artists? Do they need even more help? Also, where do you draw the line when defining artist? For example, I’m an architect and my buildings could be considered art. If my firm has a bad year, do I qualify for Jack’s idea?

  8. Income averaging for the calculation of income tax is not new.  I recall applying it to my income tax many years ago, when I could include several years as a student to reduce my taxable income as an educator.  It can be a benefit to many with wildly fluctuating income levels.  The CBC story gives no indication that the NDP policy would be limited to a particular category of employment.

    It’s similar to the proposal for income splitting the Harper government has brought forward for some time in the future, except you are splitting your income with yourself from another year. 

  9. The government would have to implement something like this very carefully in order to avoid opening the door to abuse from the financial sector.  And by abuse, I mean market-manipulating book-cooking.  What would happen to the stock price of RBC if they suddenly decided to pay all of their executives $10,000 for three years immediately after paying them $1,000,000 the previous year?  “Our operating costs have been reduced by 50%.  Praise be to our stock price, at least until year five of this cycle!  Boom!”  I can see the Conservatives liking this idea…

    Even on a smaller scale, averaging the tax code would have implications for industries that offer signing bonuses and performance bonuses or commissions.  Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly does need to be costed.

    •  They could just cut their pay to $343k and achieve the same effect. I’m not sure those execs are keen on the 66% pay cut.

      • I’m not thinking of the individuals, but of the annual reports.  Three solid years of lowered operating expenses!  Buy our stock!

  10. Income averaging makes much more sense from a tax fairness perspective than income splitting with a spouse. Go with this and dump spousal income splitting.