Opinion

COLUMN: Take it from me – keep on top of taxes

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the great American Supreme Court Justice of the early 20th century, once stated that “taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.”

Whether it is the roads we drive on, the schools we send our children to, the law enforcement that keeps our communities safe, or our universal access to health care, taxes are the lifeblood of what makes Canada the best country in the world to live.

As a former member of Parliament, who proudly served as a public servant, I understand the essential nature of what taxes can accomplish in terms of nation building.

Canada Revenue Agency statistics show there are a significant number of small-business owners who do not stay on top of their filings, and in the years I served in Ottawa, I also encountered this difficulty.

While there was absolutely no malice nor intent behind the unfiled tax returns for a company that I served as a director of, this in no way lessened my obligation to adhere to the Income Tax Act.

Last month, I appeared in B.C. provincial court to take responsibility for this lapse and move forward. I pled to my mistake, paid the allotted fines, and demonstrated that all filings are now up to date and settled.

However, as someone who served constituents for several years in my time in public life, I have asked myself whether there is some way that the lessons I have learned through this unfortunate experience can benefit others.

First and foremost, there is no substitute for awareness and education. I have just taken a brief introductory course offered online by the Canada Revenue Agency (www.cra-arc.gc.ca) about Canada’s tax system, responsible citizenship and the basics about income-tax returns.

This has led me to look into a wider variety of courses offered by the Chartered Professional Accountants Association (www.cpd.cica.ca/incometax.cfm).

For small-business owners, these courses are a fantastic resource, and I encourage everyone in business for themselves to make use of them.

These are steps that I am taking not to wash away the past but rather to ensure that I build a better future in terms of my conduct. This is a process to improve myself, and make sure that previous mistakes are never repeated.

I am immersing myself in the above-mentioned efforts, and remain humble in my resolve to chart a new path.

In the midst of tax filing season, I cannot think of a more timely topic for discussion, and I am looking forward to continuing to participate in public dialogue on financial literacy in the months and years ahead.

My example is one that I feel many Canadians can learn from.

A reliance on accountants, or income-tax software, doesn’t prevent individuals like myself from learning more about how taxation in Canada works, where exactly these taxes go, and why they are so important for the benefit of all Canadians.

Sukh Dhaliwal is a former member of Parliament who served the riding of Newton-North Delta from 2006 to 2011.

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