Book Review: Tax Is Not a Four-Letter Word by Alex Himelfarb and Jordan Himelfarb

From The Catalyst Summer 2014

Tax Is Not a Four-Letter Word: A Different Take on Taxes in Canada

Edited by Alex Himelfarb and Jordan Himelfarb
Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2013

Reviewed by Dennis Howlett

Who would have thought that a book about taxes would make for some very interesting summer reading? But Tax Is Not a Four-Letter Word, edited by father and son team of Alex and Jordan Himelfarb, is just that. This collection of essays covers a broad range of topics. It looks at how important our tax system is to the kind of society we create and how it can be used to reduce inequality and fight climate change.

While this book is a bit more academic than The Great Revenue Robbery, which Canadians for Tax Fairness published last year, it has a lot of depth and most of the essays are quite accessible to those without a degree in economics.

I would particularly recommend the following essays:

The Introduction by Alex and Jordan Himelfarb provides an excellent overview of taxation policy and its many critical implications. They explain how the anti-tax political agenda has led to cuts in government services, which make us all poorer and our society more unequal.

In The Economic Consequences of Taxing and Spending Jim Stanford gives a great primer on how taxes are collected and spent and what the economic and social impacts of this are.

Two chapters from Hugh Mackenzie, Taxes and Public Services and Benefits of Public Services, remind us that taxes are a very good deal for most taxpayers because they provide us with quality public services at a much lower cost than we would ever be able to buy on our own.

Towards a Fair Canadian Tax System by Marc Lee and Iglika Ivanova lays out how our tax system could be made fairer and how it could raise the revenue we need for governments to tackle the key challenges we face, such as growing inequality, climate change, and the need to ensure quality public services such as health and education.

Taxes are likely to become one of the key issues in the next federal election. Read this book and prepare yourself to be able to engage more effectively in the public debate.

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