GUEST COLUMN: Dear Santa

Laura Jones provides a wish list for Canadian small businesses.

Dear Santa: in 2014, small business has continued to work really, really hard to support communities across B.C.

We provide jobs for more than a million people, representing 55 per cent of the private-sector employment in the province. We pay taxes to all levels of government, including sales taxes, income taxes, payroll taxes and property taxes. We do our best to abide by the plethora of rules coming from government too, although the sheer volume of rules to comply with can be very challenging – sales tax compliance, Statistics Canada surveys, records of employments, recycling rules, sign bylaws, business licensing, employment standards, income tax forms, payroll taxes, privacy policies, anti-spam legislation and the list goes on.

As you have taught us, it’s important to believe. And we have remained optimistic in the face of adversity and global uncertainty. In fact, B.C. businesses are currently the most optimistic in the country. Every day, we serve and support our customers to justify their confidence and support. We greatly value our employees and we give as generously as we can to local causes, including supporting local sports teams and Christmas events in your honour.

We hope you agree, Santa, that we have earned a spot on your nice list. In terms of presents, we’re not asking for much:

1) Our first wish is our most important – that our valued customers continue to support us.

2) In 2005, the B.C. government gave us a great gift when it agreed to respect any written tax advice, even if it is wrong. This is critical protection against an auditor telling us we owe a lot of money for following bad government advice (something that happened too often before). A few years ago, the Canada Revenue Agency started to follow B.C.’s lead when they agreed to respect advice given in writing through their “My Business Account.” This year, it would be great if CRA would extend their fairness as far as B.C. has and respect all written advice they give, including their tax bulletins.

3) Speaking of taxes, the return of the PST has been really challenging for many of us. If you could talk to somebody about giving further consideration to reducing the PST rate, or following the recommendation made by the Expert Panel on B.C.’s Business Tax Competitiveness and removing PST from machinery and equipment, that would help us improve productivity and keep prices down and wages up.

4) Santa, are the rumours of elf shortages true? We understand that they are starting to retire, and refilling jobs is challenging. We too, are struggling with labour shortages and have on our list a better Temporary Foreign Worker Program. We would like to change the program so it creates a pathway to permanent residency for people wanting to live and work in Canada because, like you, we don’t need temporary help, we need permanent help.

5) This last wish may be the hardest. We don’t know what kind of connections you might have, but could you see what you can do about putting a freeze on property tax increases for next year? This may not be an issue at the North Pole, but we are really struggling with the increasing cost of local government.

Looking for stocking stuffers? Balanced budgets, provincial and federal, are always a big hit. Santa, please keep us in mind as we would put these gifts to good use to benefit all British Columbians.

Thank you for the early Christmas gift of a five-year freeze on average credit card fees.

Laura Jones is executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.