VANCOUVER—The average Canadian family spends more on taxes than on food, shelter and clothing combined, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.
“If you asked people to name their household’s biggest expense, many would likely say housing, but in reality the average Canadian family spends more on taxes than all basic necessities including housing,” said Charles Lammam, resident scholar in economic policy at the Fraser Institute and co-author of the Canadian Consumer Tax Index, which tracks the total tax bill of the average Canadian family from 1961 to 2013.
In 2013, the study finds that the average Canadian family earned $77,381 and paid $32,369 in total taxes (or 41.8 per cent of income) compared to 36.1 per cent for food, shelter and clothing combined.
By comparison, in 1961 the average family earned approximately $5,000 and spent much more of its income on food, shelter and clothing (56.5 per cent) while $1,675 went to taxes (33.5 per cent).
The total tax bill represents both visible and hidden taxes paid to the federal, provincial and local governments. This includes income taxes, payroll taxes, health taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, import taxes, alcohol and tobacco taxes, and more.
Since 1961, the average Canadian family’s total tax bill has increased by 1,832 per cent, dwarfing increases in shelter costs (1,375 per cent), clothing (620 per cent) and food (546 per cent).
“Over the past five decades, the total tax bill grew much faster than the cost of basic necessities, so now taxes eat up more income than any other single family expense. With more money going to the government, families have less to spend on things they care about, to save for education and retirement, and to pay down household debt,” Lammam said.
Even after accounting for changes in overall prices (inflation) over the period, the tax bill shot up 147.0 per cent.
“While there’s no doubt that taxes help fund important government services, the real issue is the amount of taxes that governments take compared to what we get in return. With almost 42 per cent of income going to taxes, Canadians should ask whether they get the best value for their tax dollars.”
The Institute has also produced a short, animated video that graphically shows how the average family’s tax bill has changed.