Albertans will pay more for everything from income taxes to user fees to tuition to smoking under the budget unveiled by the United Conservative government on Thursday.
The budget aims to balance the books by 2022-23 and relies heavily on tax reductions and streamlining for corporations with the assumption those benefits will trickle down to individuals.
The only signs of relief for individuals will come in the form of child benefits for families, or in the form of reduced taxes on corporate dividend payouts if you happen to own profitable stock.
Here’s how the new budget will affect Albertans’ individual bottom lines.
The government says they’re not increasing taxes, but the amount you pay will effectively go up. That’s because the amount you’re allowed to exempt will not increase, as it has in the past. The budget will de-index that amount from inflation, so you’ll end up paying more, in real-dollar terms.
How much more? The government was either unable or unwilling to answer that question during the budget lockup on Thursday.
The budget documents forecast revenues from personal income tax to increase by $2.3 billion, or an average of 6.1 per cent per year until 2023. That includes factors like more population and improved incomes.
“This forecast includes the impact of pausing indexation of tax brackets and credits, and elimination of the tuition and education tax credits,” reads the budget.
Education and tuition
The tuition freeze was already slated to end under the previous NDP government, but it would have had a cap tied to inflation. That is gone.
Tuition will be allowed to increase up to seven per cent every year for the next three years — a maximum 21 per cent increase.
Also gone is the tuition tax credit as mentioned above. And interest on student loan rates will go up from prime to prime plus one per cent.
Also gone is the education tax credit.
Starting next year, registering your personal vehicle will cost more, up to $80 from the current rate of $75.
If you want to haul your recreational vehicle, that’s also going to jump to $150 from $100.
Going to a museum will also get more expensive starting next year. Admission for an adult will increase by $3 per visit or $2 per visit for a family. Special exhibits will go from zero dollars to $15.
Cigarettes and AirBnB
If you smoke, it’s going to cost you.
Fees are going up for a carton of smokes, loose tobacco and cigars.
There are also going to be new fees on vaping — but those details are yet to be announced.
There will also be new tourism levies on short-term rentals like AirBnB by 2020, according to the budget.
The government says it anticipates the elimination of the carbon tax will mean savings of $665 per year for a family with two children, but that figure doesn’t take into account the rebates most Alberta households received under the provincial carbon tax system the UCP government cancelled.
There’s also the federal carbon tax that is expected to come into effect in Alberta in the new year under the re-elected Liberal government.
The government will be eliminating the rate cap on electricity bills.
Previously, if the rate per kilowatt-hour was above 6.8 cents, the cost would be absorbed by the government. That’s gone.
So, your bill could grow beyond that threshold. By how much? That’s anyone’s guess.
It’s no secret that Calgary has been struggling with its tax base, trying to cut spending and find ways to reduce the tax impacts, particularly on businesses, from the hollowing out of downtown.
That math is about to get even more difficult for the city.
Municipal funding from the province will decrease in this budget. That means Calgary, which just cut its own budget, will have to make even deeper cuts, raise taxes and fees, or some combination of all three.
Either way, you’re likely to pay more.
On the plus side for cities, the province won’t increase its take from the educational property tax, leaving a bit more room for the city to hold on to those funds.
Now a bit of good news, at least for families.
The province will roll two family benefits into one program called the Alberta Child and Family Benefit Program.
According to the government, that will increase benefits for the lowest income families by 15 per cent per year.
It says a family of two could see $593 more per year, compared to the previous two programs.