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What’s the deal with Toronto’s revenue tools?

The City of Toronto is facing a budgeting crisis with over $91 million worth of funds to find by City Council. Several revenue tools were presented by city manager, Peter Wallace in an effort to find money to fill the gaps and pay for all of the projects that are much-needed in Toronto.

Terms like ‘property tax’, ‘municipal land transfer tax’, ‘parking levy’, and ‘expressway tolls’ , are being thrown around like crazy, and it is easy to get lost in the world of financial terms. Understanding the inner-workings of the various revenue tools is the best way to decide which financial tools should be adopted by the city and which of them should be discarded. That’s why Women’s Post has created this guide, to help our readers understand the ins and outs of the revenue tools presented in the executive committee, and what terms will be flying around next week at city council.

Property Tax

Property tax is a commonly used revenue tool and is most often brought up in city council. A property tax is a levy on a property the owner is required to pay. It is set by the governing authority of any given area, which in this case is the municipality of Toronto. Property taxes in Toronto are a hotly contested issue because Toronto property tax rates are the only metropolitan tax that is lower than the surrounding area, the GTHA, and politicians don’t want to raise them. The city has proposed a two per cent property tax hike, but Toronto Mayor John Tory vows to raise the property tax no higher than half a per cent. Instead he is pushing for alternatives instead of pushing more tax on property owners.

Municipal Land Transfer Tax

Municipal land transfer tax has been a popular option for Toronto in the last year and helped keep the property tax inflation rate at bay in last year’s budget. The municipal land transfer tax is a fee that is paid by the person who purchases the home to the municipality that is charging it. There are rebates for first-time home buyers and other jurisdictions, such as Vancouver, have imposed a foreign land transfer tax to help lower inflation in the real estate market. It is a useful tool, but was used in the 2016 budget so may not be a viable option when looking at other options for 2017. City Council will discuss harmonizing the Ontario land transfer tax with the municipal option, which would require legislative changes but would streamline the process in the long-run.

Personal Vehicle Tax

The personal vehicle tax has been a revenue tool that was presented in the past before at City Council and was not a popular option. Council will consider the re-introduction to tax $120 per vehicle annually, but Tory has stated he is not a big fan of this option. The rejection of the personal vehicle tax has angered environmental groups who want to see people choosing to drive vehicles in the city pay extra taxes. The personal vehicle tax is also an easy and quick tax to implement because it doesn’t require any extra infrastructure.

Hotel Tax

The hotel tax revenue tool is being hotly contested by the tourism and hotel industry, which has already seen slowed growth due to the increasing popularity of air bnbs and other short-term stays. By placing an extra tax on the hotel industry, it may put more pressure on hotels to pay when they can’t afford to do so. Tory rebutted in the executive committee though that the annual subsidy supplied to hotels would help pay for the hotel tax if it were approved. This revenue tool would require provincial legislative and regulatory reforms, and is not a popular option in regards to fairness, efficiency, and is low in revenue quality according to Wallace’s presentation.

Expressway Tolls

Expressway tolls are the newest revenue tool to be introduced by Mayor Tory and is a popular option. The expressway tolls would require vehicles to pay a fee when they use the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. If the city charged $2 per trip, the annual revenue would be $166 million per year. The start-up cost to build the expressway tolls would be an estimated $100-$150 million and have ongoing operational costs of $50 to $60 million. The expressway tolls would require provincial legislative changes, but could be implemented in the 2017 budget. City Council will be focusing heavily on tolls next week.

There are many other revenue tools that were presented including an alcohol beverage tax, a parking levy, a third party sign tax, graduated residential property taxes, and a municipal sales tax. From the climate of the executive committee meeting, it would be surprising to see any of these options be approved. They have not been given the same amount of attention as the hotel tax and expressway tolls. A graduated residential property tax and a municipal sales tax in particular require provincial legislation changes and were listed by Wallace as aspirational changes to be further discussed in 2018.

In order to fully grasp the many revenue tool terms that will fly around at City Council next week, focus on the most important options that are available. Also remember to bring popcorn. Even though discussing financial tools can be a bit of a bore, City Council is sure to get lively when discussing the various revenue tools that were presented for debate.

How to raise your net worth

Often when asked, it’ll take me a few seconds of thinking to remember my shoe size, my dress size, or my home phone number. Never my net worth; that’s always top of mind. Is that backwards? Considering my priorities and measure of personal success, I really don’t think it is. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t want to give off the impression that a person’s net worth is the be all and end all of how they should be valued and treated as human beings, but I do think it’s a significant qualifying factor to a person’s success in business. There are a thousand business people and entrepreneurs who can talk a good game, but at the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie.

Your net worth is basically how much money you’d be left with if you subtracted all your debts from all your assets. I put a substantial amount of thought and energy into increasing my own personal net worth, and the habits I’ve developed have proven to be beneficial, not only from a personal standpoint, but also for my business and for my family. The simplest ways to increase your net worth are to purchase assets and to pay off debts.

Purchase Assets

One of the first lessons I learned, however, was that not every asset purchase you make will actually help you build your net worth. For example, a new car, unless it’s a collector’s item or vintage automobile, will depreciate faster than almost any other asset you could purchase. Forty thousand dollars spent this year could be worth $10,000 less next year. Any assets you purchase need to at the very least remain stable or ideally increase in value over time. I prefer to increase my net worth by way of real-estate, artwork and silver bars (a bit of a gamble, but I’ve found still more stable than gold). Others may choose to purchase rare coins, and my mother is partial to handmade Persian rugs. All these things will help in building your net worth.

Pay Off Debts

Another way to build your net worth is to pay off your debts—even if you have to start off with the small ones. Pay off your car loans, your student loans and your credit cards. If you have to prioritize, start with the high-interest debt first, or any other debt where the interest is not tax deductible.

Invest

It may also be worth it to use debt to build your net worth. This is especially the case when it comes to investing in real estate, where the debt you incur with a mortgage is being used to purchase an asset that will appreciate in value. This is always a risk of course, since there’s no way to know for sure whether an asset will actually appreciate, but there are lower risks involved if you focus on assets that have a habit of increasing in value.

As a business person, your net worth is an important figure to consider in your financial goals. Decide what your net worth goal is, and then do whatever needs to be done to get there. Work hard, make the sacrifices and ultimately, you’ll reap the rewards!

5 things I learned about investing — at the mall

by Candi Munroe

I love to shop. Since I have started investing for myself I have noticed something else: I observe things. They may seem like simple things, but they are really indicators of something much bigger. This is what I see at the mall — you can test them out for yourself.

1. Supply and demand

This is the most basic economic principle. A product that is in great supply or has too much supply is cheap. A product that is rare or in short supply is expensive. The most drastic example of this is Apple. Think about Apple stores with the long line-ups of people eagerly awaiting the latest Apple iPad or iPhone. Meanwhile, Wall Street boasts of the great margins Apple is getting. Their stock has also experienced an explosion in price. From its 2008 price of $90 to today’s price of around $550 (which is already down 20% off the high), the stock has impressed.

2. Fads vs. Classics

The mall always has the latest fashions deemed ‘in’ this year. This is not unlike Wall Street. Yes, analysts study the numbers, but then they make estimates on what they think will sell this year and make recommendations accordingly. These companies and their stocks are hot and everyone wants to own them. A more classical girl, I like buying good quality products and wearing them year-to-year. I would never buy a fad and expect to wear it into retirement.

3. Are there job openings?

When the economy is better more people have jobs. When the economy is depressed, people lose their jobs. I recently vacationed at a hotel where I had vacationed the year before. This year it was much harder to be served. I waited in line more often and the staff were agitated and overworked. This tells me that the staff has been reduced to save money in a bad economy. So when you are at the mall, look around. Are the stores well staffed? When you eat out, are there plenty of waitresses and waiters? If so, this is a sign that the economy may be on the way up.

4. Are the stores well run?

Are they concerned about their brand and reputation? This is more about individual companies. Which companies take care of their employees? Starbucks give their U.S. employees health care and opportunities to invest in the company’s stock. The employees I encounter there are happy and engage the customers. Good hiring? Good management? Solid policies? Probably a bit of each.

5. Are people buying at or near full retail prices?

Observe the shoppers in the stores. Do they have lots of bags? Are the bags large? (Discount the effect if the discounts are high.) Many people out shopping puts money back into the pockets of businesses and is a good sign that better days are ahead.

Do not let these simple observations pass you by in the shopping haze. Keep in mind that these general indicators tell us how people feel about their job security and how much optimism they have about the year ahead. They can also help guide you to products and ideas that are good targets to research and invest in yourself. And this is fun! After all, ladies, aren’t we all about multitasking?