Carson Binda: Raising taxes on used cars hits taxpayers dealing with soaring cost of living

Opinion: Instead of paying the provincial sales tax on the actual price of a used car in a private sale, now folks will pay the amount determined by ICBC’s black book of car prices

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You remember your first car.

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Maybe at 16-years-old, you spent a summer flipping burgers and mowing lawns to save-up every dime you could for your first beater. Maybe it was held together with duct tape and chewing gum, but you probably loved that car.

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This fall, the government of British Columbia made it more expensive for people to buy used cars.

Instead of paying the provincial sales tax on the actual price of a used car in a private sale, now folks will be at the mercy of ICBC’s black book of car prices to determine the tax rate that they pay.

Instead of recording what people spent on their used car and taxing them on it, the provincial government is charging them whatever PST it sees fit.

Let’s imagine a young family with baby number three on the way. The Prius worked well when mom and dad had two kids, but with the new baby due any day, and a golden retriever to squeeze in, it’s time to start looking for something bigger.

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The costs of gas and groceries are shattering records and the interest on their home’s mortgage suddenly shot up this fall so the family can only afford to buy a second-hand minivan.

A friend reaches out and offers the family a great deal on his old minivan. It’s a bit dinged up with 250,000 km on the odometer. The family is ecstatic. For $5,000 they get a good deal on the vehicle that they need for their growing family.

Up until last month, that meant the family would pay 12 per cent on the sale price of the used vehicle. That 12 per cent tax bill is $600. That’s the cost of about a month’s worth of groceries for the family.

The Canadian Black Book is for broad-based vehicle value assessments. It can’t take into account realities on the ground or deals offered. So, to the family’s surprise, the bureaucrats at ICBC slap them with a tax bill for the average value of their vehicle instead.

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If the Black Book lists their vehicle’s average value at $12,000, the family would wind up paying $1,440 in PST.

The provincial government says these tax changes are to help crack down on fraudsters, but it’s a cash grab that is going to hurt people looking to save money on a second-hand vehicle. If the government suspects someone of cheating the system, it can already launch an investigation. It’s ridiculous to assume everyone who is buying a used car in the province is committing fraud until proven otherwise.

This tax is a punishment on those who can least afford it — people who are shopping for used items so they can save money.

To challenge the evaluation by ICBC bureaucrats, the family with the minivan would have to pay up to $350 privately for an appraisal. Even if the family wins their challenge, they end up paying hundreds of dollars that are badly needed for diapers, food and gas to get the kids to school.

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Folks who are shopping around for used goods are doing it because they want to save money. With around 20 per cent of Canadian families skipping meals, why is the province going after many people who can’t afford to put food on their tables?

Carson Binda is the British Columbia director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Letters to the editor should be sent to [email protected] The editorial pages editor is Hardip Johal, who can be reached at [email protected].

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