Canadian Taxation

Letter to the editor re: “It’s time for further taxes on junk food”

Published On October 21, 2013 | By Joseph (Ken) | Government

fat taxInstead of writing an article for Monday, I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Nanaimo Daily News in response to their editorial It’s time for further taxes on junk food

I had commented on the issue of a “fat tax” or “sin tax” in an article back in July Taxing ‘Unhealthy” Foods Won’t Reduce Obesity but commented more at the idea that government rarely enforces a “sin tax” for the good of society.”

“I agree with the argument but I disagree that the government charges a “sin tax” because it wants to “[reduce] transactions involving something that society considers undesirable.”  Instead it does so because the reality is that it is a captured market – the market will continue to exist no matter what tax they charge. “

Anyways, here’s my letter to the Editor….

 In response to the editorial “It’s time for further taxes on junk food“, I was wondering if the author of the article could answer a few questions, based on the statement “Tax it heavily, keep it out of the hands of children and put health warnings on it.”?

1) “Tax it heavily“. How heavily exactly? How much tax would have to be charged to change a person’s behaviour? For example a 99 cent bag of chips, how much tax would have to be charged to deter someone from buying that bag of chips? A 5% tax? 50%? 500%? As fast food is a leading cause of obesity, would the tax apply to foods sold at McDonalds or KFC etc? The author states that the tax could be a way to pay for the corresponding health care costs but that does nothing to prevent or solve the problem.

2) “Keep it out of the hands of children“. How do you suggest accomplishing this? Treat it like a controlled substance? Enact and enforce an age requirement with fines and/or jail time? Would you fine or criminally charge parents who fed their children junk food? Would you make it illegal for McDonalds to sell a “kid’s meal”? What about Halloween? In the past, parents were concerned about a razor in an apple, would they now have to be concerned about a Kit Kat or Aero bar?

3) “Health warnings“. What kind of health warning? Would you require images of clogged arteries and/or obese people be put on the packaging? Again, as fast food is a leading cause of obesity, would you require McDonalds to have similar health warnings and images, as to the effect of abusing fast food, on the packaging of their hamburgers, fries and soft drinks?

In early 2003, a federal judge in the US threw out a lawsuit which alleged food from McDonald’s restaurants was responsible for making people obese and I quote “Where should the line be drawn between an individual’s own responsibility to take care of herself[/himself] and society’s responsibility to ensure others shield her[/him]? The complaint fails to allege the McDonald’s products consumed by the plaintiffs were dangerous in any way other than that which was open and obvious to a reasonable consumer.

The author states “And, because of this lack of personal responsibility, it’s time for the government to step in.” but the reality is that we need individuals within our society to take MORE personal responsibility for their choices, not less.

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About The Author

Joseph (Ken)
(Ken) is a Registered Public Accountant with over 25 years of public practice experience in the accounting profession. Ken specializes in accounting information systems, taxation and financial reporting.

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