Quebec Single Tax Return: Don't be fooled by the Conservatives

August 12, 2019

I am pleased to announce that the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) is launching today the campaign “Quebec Single Tax Return: Don't be fooled by the Conservatives" to denounce the Conservative Party of Canada's desire to implement a single tax return in Quebec, administered by Revenu Québec, if it wins the next federal election to be held in Canada this fall.

The campaign includes social media, print and radio ads.

The Conservatives’ dubious offer

With this campaign, we wish to vehemently denounce this highly dubious proposal from the Conservatives. To tell Quebeckers that they will be treated the same as other Canadian citizens with the introduction of a single tax return in Quebec, administered by Revenu Québec, is simply not true since in the rest of the country, it is the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) that administers taxes for the federal government AND for the province and not the other way around

The Conservatives also say that their proposal will not result in any job losses. They claim that the 4,000 UTE members working for the CRA in Quebec, who would lose their current jobs, could simply be reassigned to audit functions to fight tax evasion. Is this realistic? Unfortunately not!

This makes no sense. It's completely ridiculous. Indeed, you must have a university bachelor's degree and successfully completed several taxation courses to work at the CRA as an auditor specializing in fighting tax evasion. In addition, you must have several years of experience working in audit at the CRA before being able to hold a position specializing in combating tax evasion. The majority of UTE members do not perform audit functions and do not have the same training as required for audit. It is ridiculous to believe, and even more so to claim, that a Conservative government would allow these people to go back to school full time for several years while continuing to pay their salaries. In any case, there is no reasonable chance of 4,000 new audit positions being created.

  • 5,500 jobs abolished
    The truth is that, if the Conservatives win the next federal election, their proposal would eliminate 5,500 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) jobs throughout the province, including 1,200 in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region et 1,500 in Mauricie.

In fact, Quebec’s Premier, François Legault, has publicly acknowledged that his plan to introduce a single tax return managed by Quebec would result in many job losses at the CRA in the province.

The Liberals cite these many jobs to justify their opposition to the single tax return in Quebec.

The NDP also abandoned the idea of a single tax return for the same reasons.

The Bloc québécois obviously supports the Conservatives' proposal.

  • $300 million in payroll wages lost
    The truth is that the Conservatives’ proposal would result in the loss of over $300 million in payroll wages in a number of Quebec regions. The loss is estimated at roughly $75 million in Mauricie and $50 million in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. With such amounts no longer being reinvested in the local economy of these regions by the federal government, local merchants would be hard hit and it would definitely result in further major job losses. It would be a real catastrophe for Quebec as a whole and especially in the regions that are far removed from major centres.

In addition, the Conservatives claim that the Government of Quebec would save hundreds of millions of dollars per year if Revenu Québec were to administer a single tax return. Is this true? Not at all!

The truth is that this statement is not backed by any studies. In fact, the only study on the matter states the exact opposite. Indeed, in its report published in June 2015, the Commission de révision permanente des programmes, better known as the Robillard Commission, concluded that transferring the tax administration activities from Revenu Québec to the Canada Revenue Agency would result in direct annual savings of approximately $400 million for the Quebec government. Moreover, the Commission’s main recommendation was that the Government of Quebec should seriously consider the option of transferring the tax administration activities to the federal government.

Why are the Conservatives making this offer to Quebeckers?

It’s simple. The Conservatives are making this proposal in order to charm Quebeckers for the sole purpose of getting their votes in the next federal election.

An unrealistic proposal

The Conservatives’ proposal of creating a single tax return in Quebec administered by Revenu Québec is not realistic because the project will not come about in the short or medium term. In fact, the negotiations between the two levels of government would take many years and would be very complex due to the many tax policy differences between the two levels of government.

This is not the solution

Creating a single tax return would not be the solution, according to Quebec tax experts, who met in May at the Longueuil campus of the Université de Sherbrooke. According to these experts, this solution is not applicable for several reasons. Among these, it should be noted that international practices would prevent Quebec from doing part of the federal government's work in this area.

Anyway, the real problem does not lie there.

According to these experts, the bulk of the additional costs of tax compliance in Quebec doesn’t arise from a redundancy issue. It comes from the tax policy differences between the two levels of government. The experts therefore suggest that Quebec and Ottawa harmonize their tax policies before thinking about creating a single tax return.

Finally, experts say that if the aim were solely to reduce redundancies and achieve efficiencies, it would make more sense to entrust the work to the agency that is most capable of achieving large-scale savings, namely the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The Union of Taxation Employees is not opposed to the idea of having a single tax return in Quebec. However, if we really want to help people by making their lives easier while saving them nearly $400 million per year, it goes without saying that the single tax return should be administered by the federal government, not by Quebec.

The Union of Taxation Employees has nothing against the political choice made by Quebeckers. We hope that the federal government and the Quebec government talk together to find a solution to simplify the lives of taxpayers and companies operating in Quebec instead of slashing thousands of jobs at both the Canada Revenue Agency and the Agence du revenu du Québec.

The Canada Revenue Agency in Quebec

The CRA’s Tax Services Offices (TSO) in Quebec are located in Brossard, Chicoutimi, Gatineau, Laval, Montreal, Quebec City, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivieres. The CRA also has a National Verification and Collections Centre (NVCC) in Shawinigan, a Tax Centre in Jonquiere and a regional office in Montreal.

A threat to the jobs of UTE members not only in Quebec but across Canada

Despite the fact that the Conservatives' proposal is only presented to Quebeckers during the next federal election campaign, there is nothing to suggest that the same thing could not happen in the rest of the country in the future. Indeed, if Andrew Scheer is elected Prime Minister of Canada and he carries out this unfortunate initiative in Quebec, what would he say to his Conservative allies such as Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta, or Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, if they ask him to do the same in their province?

Why take the chance that such a thing would happen?

This is why I ask all members of the Union of Taxation Employees across the country to consider not voting for the Conservative Party of Canada in the next federal election in order to protect your jobs in the future and in solidarity with your sisters and brothers in Quebec whose jobs are currently threatened.

Thank you.

In solidarity,

Marc Brière
National President
Union of Taxation Employees