Fax machines live on in some small businesses solely to communicate with government departments that have not updated their procedures, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. (Flickr)

B.C. employer health tax wins ‘paperweight award’ for red tape

Businesses forced to estimate payroll, pay new tax quarterly

The B.C. government’s new employer health tax has made the Canadian Federation of Independent Business 2020 “paperweight awards” list, an annual contest for “the worst examples of useless and excessive regulations.”

The tax that took effect in 2019 to replace B.C.’s Medical Services Plan premiums is assessed on payrolls of more than $500,000. Small businesses such as restaurants are facing a March 31 deadline to pay smaller amounts for 2019, and most businesses have been required since last year to pay the tax quarterly.

The tax “forces business owners to pay quarterly instalments based on estimates of their payroll, not their actual payroll,” the CFIB said in its announcement of the awards.

B.C.’s union-only public construction regulation also won a paperweight award, “for forcing employers and employees to comply with 336 pages of complex, inflexible union rules that go as far as outlining what kind of meat and condiments are acceptable in sandwiches.”

RELATED: Full weight of employer health tax to be felt in 2020

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The awards are part of the CFIB’s 11th annual Red Tape Awareness Week, which includes an open letter to all governments calling for them to take “at least one meaningful step to modernize in 2020.”

A symbol of the 2020 government reform effort is the fax machine, with a social media hashtag #axethefax.

“It’s crazy that in 2020 some business owners keep a fax machine solely to deal with governments, or have to stand in line for a simple business licence application,” said Jordi Morgan, CFIB’s vice president for Atlantic Canada. “This kind of red tape costs Canadians and small businesses countless hours of wasted time and frustration.”

Other paperweight winners include Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis, which forces small brewers that outsource their brewing to a contract manufacturer to ship all of the final products to one of two official warehouses near Edmonton before they can sell at their store-fronts, “even if the contractor is located right next door.”

Several federal government departments make the list, including the Canada Revenue Agency for its collection of federal carbon tax. It requires truck drivers who drive through multiple provinces to fill out and return forms every quarter, “with complex math to show how much fuel was bought and used in each province.”


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