Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer unveiled a new tax cut plan Sunday that he says will save taxpayers hundreds of dollars a year, a key plank of the Tory platform to make life more affordable.
Scheer said, if elected, a Conservative government would cut the tax rate on taxable income under $47,630 to 13.75 per cent from 15 per cent.
Based on the party's calculations, the average single taxpayer would save about $444 a year. A two-income couple earning an average salary would save about $850 a year.
"We're going to deliver a tax cut targeted specifically at taxpayers in the lowest-income tax bracket. This means that every Canadian will see their income taxes go down and those in the lowest tax bracket see the biggest benefit of all," Scheer said at a campaign stop in Surrey, B.C.
"This means more money to pay the bills, to save up for your kids' education or maybe even finally afford a family vacation," he said.
Cut will be phased in
The party said the tax cut will be phased in over the course of a four-year mandate starting with a reduction to 14.5 per cent on Jan. 1, 2021, then to 14 per cent by Jan. 1, 2022 and then to 13.75 per cent on Jan. 1, 2023.
Based on Canada Revenue Agency data from 2017, about 34 per cent of country's 27.8 million taxpayers have taxable earnings over $47,630 and thus will be able to claim the maximum benefit of this cut.
The other 66 per cent of all tax filers have lower taxable earnings and will see proportionally less of a benefit from the cut.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), the agency of Parliament that provides independent, non-partisan financial analysis, said the Conservative promise will cost the federal treasury about $14.075 billion in lost revenue between 2020-21 and 2023-24.
In subsequent years, the tax cut will mean roughly $6 billion less a year in federal revenue.
The costly cut is similar to a major tax change made by the former Conservative government.
Under Stephen Harper, the government cut the Goods and Sales Tax (GST) to six per cent in 2006 and then again to five per cent in 2008. According to PBO calculations, the cut cost the federal treasury about $14 billion a year in lost revenue.
Still committed to balancing the books
Despite the price of his proposed tax cut, Scheer said he is still committed to balancing the federal budget in a "responsible" timeframe.
"We're going to get back to balanced budgets while we find ways to lower taxes and put money back in the pockets of Canadians," he said, while adding a Conservative party would not cut social transfers to the provinces for programs like health care and education.
While initially promising an accelerated schedule of getting back to fiscal balance in two years, Scheer has since said he will balance the books within five years.
The tax cut announced Sunday is not unlike the Liberal government's "middle class tax cut," which was implemented after the last federal election.
However, that cut targeted the middle-income bracket — which applies on taxable income between $47,630 and $95,259. The Liberals reduced the rate of that bracket to 20.5 per cent from 22 per cent.
Taxpayer's federation likes it
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an advocacy group that lobbies for lower taxes and smaller government, praised the Conservative plan Sunday, saying it will deliver "broad-based tax relief."
"Affordability is a key issue in this election campaign and leaving billions in the pockets of Canadian taxpayers is a great policy," said Aaron Wudrick, the federal director of the federation. "This income tax cut is exactly what taxpayers need: it would save Canadian families about $850 a year."
However, it's not just the first income tax bracket rate that would change with this proposal.
The Conservatives have already recalculated their previously announced tax credit proposals — for public transit and maternity and parental leave benefits — to account for the lower overall tax rate that would be in place as a result of this income tax cut.
Scheer did not say how it would affect other federal non-refundable tax credits — such as those for volunteer firefighters, search and rescue volunteers, home buyers, people with adoption expenses and for interest on student loans, among other eligible categories — which are all currently based on the lowest tax bracket of 15 per cent.
On the affordability theme, Scheer and the Conservatives recently unveiled a campaign ad featuring the party's election slogan: "It's time for you to get ahead."
More tax promises coming
The Conservatives are expected to unveil a series of campaign commitments in the same vein as this tax cut. Already, they have promised a non-refundable tax credit on maternity and parental leave Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. They've also vowed to remove the federal GST from sales of home heating fuels.
Scheer has also promised to reinstate the federal tax credit for transit passes, which, according to party estimates, would save a family of four transit users in the Greater Toronto Area nearly $1,000 a year.
Like his provincial conservative counterparts, Scheer has railed against the federal Liberal government's carbon tax and he has vowed to scrap it if elected. The Liberals maintain the initiative will lower greenhouse gas emissions and will be rebated to most families at tax time.
Canada's tax system is a progressive one with graduated brackets, meaning rates vary according to the amount of income you earn — and you pay different rates on different portions of your income.
In 2019, the income tax brackets are as follows:
- 15 per cent on the first $47,630 of taxable income, plus
- 20.5 per cent on the next $47,629 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over 47,630 up to $95,259), plus
- 26 per cent on the next $52,408 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $95,259 up to $147,667), plus
- 29 per cent on the next $62,704 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over 147,667 up to $210,371), plus
- 33 per cent of taxable income over $210,371