North Americans and tax
North Americans, as a general rule, really don’t like tax. In fact, if you allowed a significant number of loonbags on the shouty fringe of the Republican party to have their way, there would be no taxation at all – let’s face it, we don’t need those vile evolution-preaching schools and law can be sorted by allowing everyone to carry 14 fully loaded guns around.
Unfortunately, this attitude towards taxation means that Americans and Canadians like to draw attention to this fiendish imposition by writing ‘plus tax’ everywhere. And for the uninitiated visitor, this gets hugely, hugely annoying.
As a general rule, everything is priced without tax included. So, unless you know the exact tax rate in the state or province you’re in for the particular thing you’re buying, you end up with a seemingly random amount tagged on the bill at the end.
This is a system that benefits absolutely no-one. Saying something costs X amount ‘plus tax’ doesn’t help the consumer at all. They want to know how much they’re going to pay, not what proportion of it goes to the government. I’m well aware that each state and province has different taxes, but I can’t think of a single instance where you buy a product in more than one state. If you’re buying a can of Coke in, then on the only things that matter are the taxes applicable to cans of Coke in that part of Nevada. Similarly, if you’re paying for a hotel room in , what tax rates are anywhere else is pretty much irrelevant.
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Speed of transaction
People, as a rule, want to know how much they’re paying. In a shop, they’ll perhaps like to get the exact change ready before waiting for the items to be rung through the till and totted up – it’s more efficient for everyone. If paying for a tour by cash, they want to know how much cash they’ll have to bring with them, rather than having to guess. Yet they’re presented with ‘plus tax’ and haven’t the faintest idea what that might be.
“$210 plus tax”
I just can’t see who this benefits. Retailers have to separate the tax anyway when they pay the bill, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s done before or after the transaction. And surely even locals can’t be expected to go round with the different tax rates for everything stashed in their head? It’s not simple, either. I asked one at one hotel inwhat the price of a room was. The response was “$210 plus tax”.
“And how much including tax?”
The woman had to get her calculator out. “Well, it’s 3% lodging tax – that just goes on the room rate, and 5% GST. Then there’s 8% QST, which taxes the tax as well.” What the hell? Not even people who have to apply the tax to the price on a daily basis know what the exact percentage rate of total tax is. This is outright lunacy.
North American friends: the concept of quoting prices inclusive of tax isn’t some kind of dangerous European idea that’s trying to take your freedom away. It’s not socialism. It’s not trying to jump on the grave of Ronald Reagan, tear up your precious flag or smash up your apple pies. It’s just plain common sense that benefits everyone.
If you insist on keeping things separate, then saying X amount plus Y amount of tax is a much fairer and more helpful way of stating the price. At least people then know which two sums to add together to get the real cost. The current way – X (plus tax in small letters) is just rubbish from every conceivable perspective.