LETTER: ‘Low income’ in West Van but no tax cheat

Dear Editor:

Re: Undeclared, Oct. 11 editorial viewpoint.

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The above editorial seems to insinuate that some West Vancouver residents are hiding income to avoid paying taxes while possessing great wealth. Unlike a well-known Vancouver newspaper which has blatantly blamed the Chinese and drawn all kinds of loose and offensive conclusions and associations about Chinese tax evasion, casino money laundering, corruption, drugs, terrorism and other crimes, you were careful not to mention the word “Chinese” in your editorial. However, you did mention the common link of West Vancouver with Richmond where there is high percentage of Chinese Canadian population and where there are many low-income households in spite of the presence of many multimillion-dollar homes.

I am a first-generation Chinese Canadian who purchased our West Vancouver home decades ago at a modest price. After pursuing higher education in order to become a model immigrant, I managed to earn an above-average income and pay high taxes until recently. In the last year I have taken up a part-time job. I have a high equity home, the value of which has appreciated a lot over the years while my income taxes for this year will be low. I fit your description of “low income working age people,” a West Vancouverite with “high net worth,” but I am certainly not a tax cheat.

Then there are the immigrants who have collectively saved and accumulated for two to three generations so that they can afford to purchase high value real estate properties. They might still be the same low income taxpayers although they appear well off from the surface. You must realize that most new immigrants initially cannot get high-paying jobs, and pay high taxes due to discrimination and unfamiliarity in the Canadian job market.

Much has also been said about the dubious ownership of expensive real estate by immigrant “foreign” housewives and students. However, the largesse that they have bestowed on the local economy has more than made up for the allegedly dishonest low income taxes they pay for now. They have transferred great wealth by paying the local widowed Mrs. Smiths ridiculously high prices for their houses. They have also paid high property taxes and large amounts of GST and PST on constructions, renovations, vehicle, household and other purchases. These taxes combined can easily surpass the average income and other taxes paid by an average Canadian family.

You also have to give these new immigrants a chance: for their children to finish their education so that they can earn professional incomes and pay high taxes in the future, and for their heads of households still in the process of trying to move their businesses and safeguard their hard-earned wealth from an unpredictable communist government that can readily slap “corrupt” charges on citizens who question its authority.

As a first-generation immigrant I have experienced my share of prejudices. My frugal grandpa, a head-tax payer, came to Canada to work hard to save up for the family. He later helped my parents purchase a new Vancouver Special in the late ’60s when we arrived here. Some neighbours raised unkind suspicions about how our family could afford a brand new house. They alleged that  we probably were running drugs. How else could these newly arrived Chinese immigrants upstage them by owning a newer house next door?

Now, decades later, nothing has changed. The new crop of immigrants (especially the Chinese) have been accused of misdeeds due to their wealth, although they might still be low income for a long time to come.

Elaine Tsang
West Vancouver

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