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Month: April 2015

Parties and Charities: The Tale of Two Tax Credits

“..lowering the charitable credit recognizes that people give for other reasons than tax rebates.” – Department of Finance Spokesperson, Metro News

It’s probably quite true that most donate to charity without expecting anything in return. The more sharp tongued of individuals might publicly ask if the same can be said of larger political contributions. Regardless, with Budget 2015, the tax credit for donations to political parties remains unchanged while that for charitable contributions over $200 drops to one of the lowest rates among provinces and territories. Falling from 21% to 12.5%, only Ontario (11.16% and Nunavut (11.50%) will have a lower rate.

My close-up charitable experience comes from volunteering with a food bank. To collect and distribute food across a city requires putting trucks on the road. So you can also factor in the rising gas tax as an increased price of doing business, and a driver of food bank demand as transportation costs raise the price of food. As I’ve mentioned before, food bank use is rising, in bad times and good.

How will the cut to the charitable tax credit impact food banks, and everyone who provides the services and supports that are used more and more as the economy sputters?

But D.D. Coutts, manager of communications for the Calgary Food Bank, said she believes many organizations, particularly those in the human services field, will be hurt by the move.

“We’re not concerned about people’s generosity because people were donating before there was any tax credit and are very generous to donate,” Coutts said. – Calgary Herald, Calgary charities worried about drop in donations after province cuts tax credits

The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, Calgary Chamber and Volunteer Alberta would agree, having launched their “Now is Not the Time” campaign:

Budget 2015 asks Albertans to pay more in taxes and fees at a time when many will have reduced earnings. Less disposable income means less money available to donate to charity.

When the economy slows, all forms of revenue for charities are reduced. Alberta charities are already seeing reductions in corporate donations and government funding continues to stagnate. At the same time, many charities are called upon to respond to increased community needs.

The tax credit reduction follows on the heels of the elimination of the Community Spirit Donation Matching program, which was also designed to incent charitable giving.

http://www.nowisnotthetime.ca/

A petition has also been launched at http://www.albertans4giving.ca.

This leaves Alberta’s charities and non-profits to do what they’ve always done. Maintain minimal admin costs, provide services and supports that the government does not, and do more with less as demand for services increases.

Lend them a  hand by continuing to be generous with your donations, and throw a letter to your MLA in with that as well.

Election 2015: Voting Today on next Year’s Budget

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The problem with trying to be the first out the door with a budget analysis, is that things can change significantly in 24 hours. In the time it takes to hold a spring election you can still go without a detailed look at how a budget will play out – how provincial administration implements the budget, the real funding cuts or increases when you factor in a department’s deficit or surplus from the year before. The impact on individual programs, fees, contacts, etc, takes months to become clear.

For example, the Department of Human Services accumulated a $50 million deficit last year. The likely impact is that a 6% increase in funding for Persons with Disabilities is more likely to be a 1% increase in real dollars. This is certainly not enough to provide a promised pay increase for woefully underpaid disability workers, and most likely not enough to cover uptake in the system. But it’ll be months before the disability sector has a clear look at how this will affect contracts and front-line services.

Budget 2015/16 largely holds the line on spending, and there’ll be some blood letting in most places where you’ll find growth pressure. Not a lot, but it’ll be there. It’s not the worst that could be. Certainly not in a province that’s failed to accumulate savings despite forty years of selling in large quantities, the most valuable energy resource on the planet. That stripped billions from the treasury and potential savings to implement a flat tax, voted in on ideology and high resource revenues, rather than seemingly any kind of evidence-based fiscal plan for the decades ahead.

It’s the budget Premier Prentice, along with a Ten-Year Strategic ‘Plan’, will use to justify an early election.

The Premier’s Ten-Year Plan, is 30 pages (36 if you count the index and blanks) of not much content or specifics.

That nurses, doctors, and teachers will face a hard line in bargaining in the years ahead is not new. They endured this in the 90’s and will again. But we have no specifics and can hardly judge whether the Premier’s future collective bargaining tactics are worthy of a four-year mandate until we’ve actually seen specifics come out in a contract negotiation.

The lack of any real mention of corporate tax would seem to make it fairly certain, combined with the Premier’s statements to date, that corporate Alberta won’t see any additional tax increases on profits earned. So go ahead and judge the Premier on that one.

User fees will be rising. “We’re all in this together”, except I’ll refer you to the last paragraph.

The rest of the Ten Year Plan isn’t much more than you’d find reading government news releases. We know we’re over-dependant on energy resources. We’ve known that the hard way since Getty. We know the government has committed to building new schools. When they’ll be completed and when school boards will be able to staff them isn’t quite as known. You can go ahead and read the document here, it won’t take you long.

As for the Budget, it’s not this one that you should be voting on, but the next, as his government moves to cut $8.6 billion over three years.

Is there waste and overspending in gov? No doubt. If you’ve seen the AHS wage grids for upper management and executives, they’re enough to make you rethink your career choices if you’re not on the list.

But to essentially cut out something twice the size of the Department of Human Services over three years? Probably doable. But probably not without creating another massive infrastructure deficit, driving nurses, teachers and other professionals from the province and cutting deep into front-line services.

I don’t envy the Premier’s task, he’s been handed a mess and left to climb a mountain with little gear and old ropes. But it’s those around him who put him in this situation, his party that’s proven unable to manage the good times, save for the bad, and overcome infrastructure and economic deficits of their own creation.

When times are tough, people need help more than ever. They’ll find the price of food rising with a rising gas tax, and hopefully our food banks won’t be impacted much by a cut to the charitable tax credit. The political tax credit staying the same won’t do much for Fred and Martha. They’re more likely to drop a bad of food in the bin at Safeway than to renew their PC memberships.

The knife is coming to Alberta’s budget and public services. We’ll lose more blood than we pump in. Is this the surgical team that you want to trust for the next four years?  I’d like to ask Rachel Notley, Laurie Blakeman and Greg Clark for a second opinion.