I quite agree with the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's that the tax forms should be as simple as possible. At the same time I do not see how we can avoid asking the taxpayer to fill up this whole form. It is true that in respect to his municipal taxes he does not do it, but in that case he does not make his own assessment; the assessor
does it for him and advises him how much his taxes are. I do not see how we can follow the same principle in regard to income tax. I think the minister should hold to the practice which he started this year of making the taxpayer himself compute his income tax. I know it is difficult in a great many cases, but any man who paid his tax last year has his receipt before him, which tells how his tax has to be computed, and he can easily make it up for himself with the assistance, as my hon. friend from Sherbrooke (Mr. McCrea) said, of a local book-keeper or accountant. While it may be vexatious, there are thousands of business men throughout the Dominion who by reason of having had to make up their own income tax returns and' compute the amount of tax payable by them know a thousand times more about their business to-day than they ever did before.
a whole is in the right direction. I cannot agree with my hon. friend who has just sat down that it is desirable we should make up our own bills. I have had a good many dealings with people in the course of my life and I have never yet been called upon to make out my own bill in payment of any purchase. In every municipality the taxes are computed by the assessor or the tax gatherer, and I cannot see why individuals should be compelled to worry about computing their income tax as I know a great many have done. Of course, there may be some who do not worry much and do not want to put in returns, but I know many honourable people have felt it a very great responsibility to be called upon to make up their own bills. They are told that they must not make them up too small or they will be fined heavily; they must make them big enough, and in doing that they may overtax themselves. It is desirable in all matters of taxation that absolute justice and fairness should be sought, and I believe the minister is desirous of . moving in that direction. It seems to me that there should certainly be no penalty if a man or woman fails to make out an absolutely correct return. I doubt if there are ten men in this House who can make up their returns and say absolutely: These are correct returns of my income this year. I certainly could not do it. I spend a great many days on my own return, and finally I referred it to one of the experts of the department in my city. My figures came very close to his, and I accepted the figures given me and paid on them
vary, some investments that I thought were good may turn out bad, and some that I thought were bad may turn out good. It is very difficult for a man who has an income from eight, ten, or twenty varieties of stocks, debentures, bonds, and so forth to make these computations. I know the minister is doing all he can in this measure to help those who have struggled in this regard. I have considerable sympathy With the contention made by my hon. friend from Sherbrooke. He is a good business man, and I think the point he has drawn attention to is one worthy of consideration by the minister, namely, that there should not be taxation levied upon taxation. But that is what is being done under the Bill now, as the member for Sherbrooke has pointed out. For instance, a man's municipal tax must not be deducted from the return made for income tax. Now, surely a man who is taxed upon his income $500, $600 or $1,000 by the municipality cannot count that as "income". His income is what is left after he has paid all his just debts and liabilities. On the one hand a man has a right to include all his outgoings, such as repairs, insurance, taxes, and so forth, and on the other hand all his revenule. The reply made to me was that this Government comes (first,, and therefore the municipality and the province must come in their order, so to speak. I think there is a good deal in the point raised by the member for Sherbrooke, and I hope the minister will give it consideration. I am pleased that he has seen fit to relieve the taxpayer to a large extent of the responsibility in connection with these income tax returns. A great many citizens in my own city were fined very heavily last year for faults which I do not think were theirs, although, I must say, the department when I brought the circumstances to their attention, reviewed those cases. But at the same time small fines were collected from many citizens who had sought to do right. In levying these taxes, which are certainly pretty heavy on a great many people, the Government should proceed in a spirit of fairness and justice. Every precaution should be taken against unfairly regarding a person as dishonest whose
return has not been quite accurately made up. I feel that the majority of the citizens of Canada are honestly anxious to make out their returns in accordance with the Act.
The hon. member for Middlesex (Mr. Glass) mentions the case of the commercial traveller, who is allowed his expenses, but I am inclined to think that there is this difference: the commercial traveller is allowed only those expenses which he actually pays out, but by the generosity of Parliament and the good Canadian people, members of Parliament are allowed to collect sums by way of expenses which they do not pay out. However, that is not the main point.
I agree that they form no part of his salary, but he is not allowed anything for expenses unless he actually pays the money out of pocket. As I say, by the generosity of the Canadian Parliament and people, members of Parliament are allowed expenses which they do not pay, because they get free railway transportation.
What any individual gets, I do not know; that is not my business. But I say the law permits a member of this Parliament to get travelling expenses, so much a mile from his place of residence to Ottawa and back.
As I am resident in Ottawa I have no occasion to get travelling expenses and I am not familiar with the practice of recent years. But I had the impression that we all got free railway transportation and could also collect travelling expenses on the basis of mileage. However, if I am wrong in that respect I desire to withdraw the remark. That certainly was the practice.
Then the law has been changed. Now, a question was raised some time ago by provincial ministers in Quebec
that neither their salary nor indemnity as members of the Quebec Government or Legislature was liable to taxation. I do not say that I agree with the point thus raised, but I see it stated in the press that the Department of Finance has given some qualified assent to that principle, so far as to permit the question to be raised in the courts. I should be glad if the minister would tell me just how that matter stands.
The position of the Quebec ministers is this: On advice of counsel they have refused to pay, and action in the matter has been taken in the Exchequer Court. I believe that the case was to come on for trial about the fourth of May; I do not think that judgment has yet been given. The procedure which has been taken is that contemplated by the Act, which provides the right of action in such cases or the submission of definite questions to the Exchequer Court. My own view is that the point is quite improperly taken, but some gentlemen of standing have very strong opinions with regard to it.