Basic Income: What federal income supports could be folded into one?

  1. It’s refundable — your income cannot be too low such that you do not receive it.
  2. You need to file a tax return in order to receive it, unlike the BPA which can be (imperfectly) incorporated into the cheques you get each pay period. This is important, as roughly 15% of Canadians do not file a tax return and essentially fall through the cracks when it comes to these programs (including 97% of all people experiencing homelessness).
  3. The value of the credit is phased out at much lower income levels than the BPA.
  4. The GST/HST credit is paid out four times per year, whereas the BPA is incorporated into the amount deducted from your paycheque each pay period (and then reconciled when a tax-return is filed).

How could we combine all four?

As you’ve probably guessed by now, it would be tricky to combine all four of these programs into a single-income support. They have very different features (refundable vs. non-refundable), target different populations (the general public vs. low-to-middle income Canadians vs. workers) and are paid out at different times.

  1. Make the BPA refundable, so low-income individuals receive the full benefits of it. My back-of-the-envelope estimate (along with this paper from Simpson and Stevens) is that the yearly cost would be in the $20–25 billion a year range.
  2. Introduce automatic filing of tax returns, along with an initiative to get the most marginal and vulnerable Canadians known to the tax system, so they can collect all the benefits to which they’re entitled.



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Mike Moffatt

Mike Moffatt

Senior Director, Smart Prosperity. Assistant Prof, Ivey Business School. Exhausted but happy Dad of 2 wonderful kids with autism. I used to do other stuff.