Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to add my support for the swift passage of this important and necessary legislation. We on this side of the House have been very clear. We are focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity and the legislation shows how committed we are to this focus.
As the Minister of Finance stated when he tabled Bill C-4, “In the face of continued global economic uncertainty, it is essential that we remain squarely focused on keeping Canada’s economy strong”.
Rest assured the Canada Revenue Agency, CRA, is actively advancing this agenda. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, I know the agency is playing a leading role in implementing important initiatives from economic action plan 2013. These initiatives are helping to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. We need look no further than our determination to fix an issue that matters to all Canadian taxpayers: ensuring that everyone pays their fair share of the taxes they owe. We are doing so by closing tax loopholes in order to keep taxes as low for individuals and families as possible.
Since 2006 our government has cut taxes 150 times. As a result, the average family of four now enjoys over $3,200 in extra tax savings. The federal tax burden for all Canadians is the lowest it has been in 50 years. I listened to the opposition criticism of the bill. Those members can say just about anything they want in the House because they are protected by parliamentary privilege, but they cannot say that we do not have the lowest taxes in the past 50 years. It is a fact and it is time that the opposition applaud that fact.
However, like any responsible government there is always room to do more. That is why economic action plan 2013 announced measures to close tax loopholes and improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system. We owe it to hard-working Canadians who fulfill their tax commitments and understand that their contributions help to fund important government programs and services for their families. It is also critical to honest businesses that find it hard to compete with businesses that cheat on their taxes. When people cheat on their taxes, everyone loses.
Among the important changes we intend to address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules and fight international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. These efforts will close tax loopholes that were used by a few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Broadening and protecting the tax base supports our government's effort to return to balanced budgets and responds to provincial governments' concerns about protecting provincial revenues on our shared tax base. Equally important is the fact that our budget would give Canadians confidence that the tax system is fair, providing incentives to work, save and invest in Canada.
Another area with a direct impact on Canadian taxpayers is our work to root out electronic suppression of sales software. In plain language it is often referred to as zapper software. What it boils down to is making it more and more difficult for people to cheat on their taxes and operate in the underground economy. While they, the tax cheats, pocket the money, honest taxpayers end up having to shoulder a greater tax burden because of this illegal activity.
All taxpayers, particularly businesses, are required to maintain adequate books and records for tax purposes. This includes maintaining accurate electronic data files. Unfortunately, some businesses use this zapper software to hide their sales figures so they can avoid paying the GST/HST and income taxes they owe on this revenue. This software selectively deletes or modifies sales from electronic cash registers and other point-of-sale and accounting systems. This undermines the competitiveness of businesses and offers an unfair advantage to those who fail to comply with Canada's tax laws.
Economic action plan 2013 sent a strong signal that we will no longer tolerate such activity. Bill C-4 includes new monetary penalties and criminal offences to discourage the possession, use or development of electronic suppression of sales software.
Anyone who attempts to avoid paying taxes by using electronic suppression of sales tax avoidance, which leaves an unfair burden on Canadian consumers and businesses that contribute their fair share, will now pay a steep price. Businesses caught using, owning, or buying electronic suppression of sales software will face a $5,000 penalty on their first infraction. This penalty rises to $50,000 for any subsequent infraction.
Anyone who develops, manufactures, offers for sale, or sells such software will face a $10,000 penalty on the first infraction and $100,000 for any subsequent infraction.
There is no question that our overarching goal is to put more money back in the hands of Canadians through reduced taxes. Our country's tax base is essential for providing necessary benefits, programs, and services that all Canadians depend on.
When everyone pays the taxes they owe, we can invest those tax dollars to help Canadian families and communities and our country's economy. For instance, economic action plan 2013 includes tax credits for small businesses that would enable them to create jobs for unemployed Canadians. This would generate increased wealth in their communities.
Bill C-4 introduces measures that would support Canada's job creators. It would extend and expand the hiring credit for small business for an additional year. More businesses than ever would be able to take advantage of this job creation tool.
It is especially noteworthy that the hiring credit would leave eligible business owners with up to $1,000 they could put back into their businesses. Eligible employers would receive the credit when they hired new employees or increased wages. New businesses created in 2012 might also be eligible. If business owners were eligible, they could get the credit automatically when they filed their T4 information returns.
This investment yields huge dividends. Based on the success of the existing initiative, we anticipate that 560,000 small businesses would benefit from this measure. If even 50% of those businesses used the hiring credit, this would allow them to reinvest $225 million back into the Canadian economy. Especially good news for businesses is that there would be no extra paperwork to fill out. That is because of another one of our priorities reflected in Bill C-4, our commitment to reduce red tape at every opportunity.
Business owners and their associations have told us loud and clear that they are frustrated by the amount of paperwork they have to deal with from all levels of government. We have been listening to them.
Our government recognizes that too much red tape restricts innovation, productivity, and competitiveness. We understand that when Canadian businesses succeed, all Canadians benefit. That is why we have taken repeated steps to free up Canadian business owners from paperwork so that they can focus on growing their businesses and creating jobs. I am proud to say that there are now fewer regulations, and the cost of red tape has been reduced by $20 million annually.
We continue to make progress. Now certain essential forms that simply cannot be avoided are easier to process. For instance, the CRA recently launched its new online mail service for Canadian businesses, available through My Business Account, which streamlines their interactions with the agency. Canadian small businesses can now choose to receive notices of assessment and reassessment, as well as some letters for their corporate and GST/HST accounts, electronically.
CRA uses the same high level of security that financial institutions use to protect banking information, so businesses can use the new online service with peace of mind.
Our government's record speaks for itself. We are keeping taxes low, cutting red tape, and going after tax cheats like never before. No wonder Canada leads the G7 with more than one million net new jobs created since the depth of the global recession. With the adoption of Bill C-4, we will be able to carry on this proud tradition of progress.