Federal budget 2013: Tariff measures bring relief to Canadian wallets

It wasn’t as uninspiring as, say, a lump of coal, but when it came to gifts for every day Canadians in the 2013 federal budget, the pickings were slim.

Unless you are a parent planning to buy hockey or ski equipment for your kids, clothing for your newborn, or a couple planning to adopt a child, there were few breaks for Canadian families in “Canada’s Economic Action Plan.”

In a budget speech that mentioned the word “families” 18 times (the same number of times it used the word "taxes"), Finance Minister Jim Flaherty championed “tax fairness” as the government's biggest offering to everyday Canadians.

The good news for the average Canadian household: No new taxes. The bad news: No new tax cuts.
“It was a mid-election budget with no real goodies,” said Jason Safar, a tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“There really weren’t a lot of advantages to the majority of taxpayers other than to say, taxes didn’t go up.”

Thursday’s budget includes $76 million in annual tariff relief on baby clothing and sports equipment to help reduce the gap between retail prices in Canada as compared to the U.S.. However, it will be up to Canadian retailers to pass on the savings.

To try to ensure that Canadians pay their fair share of taxes, the government said it plans to close tax loopholes and enforce tax compliance to save $6.7 billion over six years, and set up a “snitch line” for people that want to report international tax evasion or avoidance of at least $100,000.

 “If you are a tax cheat be careful. Life with get a lot tougher,” said Patricia Croft, an economics consultant and former chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management.

Croft said the budget does have some indirect benefits for families, including spending on infrastructure that will help to improve quality of life and job grants to help get people, in particular Canada’s youth, into the job market.

The budget also introduced temporary “super credits” for those making their first charity donations to encourage young Canadians, presumably once they get a job, to start giving back.

“I think there are a few surprises,” Croft said of the budget’s contents.

Deborah MacPherson, national leader of KPMG enterprise tax, said there is a tax hit for some higher income earners that make dividend payments from their private companies. There's also a small change, that seems a bit out-of-the-blue, to drop the tax deduction for a safety deposit box.

“Still, for the average working person filing out a tax return next year I don’t think there are any major changes,” McPherson said.

Check out what Yahoo! Finance Canada Senior Editor, Ashleigh Patterson, had to say about the federal budget earlier on Thursday: