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Making your miles count: Taxes, taxes, taxes

STEINBACH, Man. - If Robert Scheper's book Making Your Miles Count: Taxes, Taxes, Taxes can really help Canadian drivers realize $4,000-$8,000 per year in tax savings, than it may be the best $25.95 y...

STEINBACH, Man. – If Robert Scheper’s book Making Your Miles Count: Taxes, Taxes, Taxes can really help Canadian drivers realize $4,000-$8,000 per year in tax savings, than it may be the best $25.95 you could ever spend.

Gleaned from more than 10 years experience as an accountant and consultant to professional drivers, Scheper has penned a comprehensive book on the subject of trucker taxation in Canada.

It’s probably the most complete, and up-to-date book you’ll find on the subject, with information as recent as this past spring’s federal budget announcement that the meal tax deduction limit for truckers was being gradually restored from 50 to 80%.

However, don’t expect your mailbox to suddenly be filled with back payments from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) the moment you finish reading the book. Canadian tax law is extremely complex, and while Scheper uses easy-to-understand analogies to explain how the system works, there’s no simple, universal answer to minimizing the taxes you pay and maximizing your return.

Scheper, a former long distance trucker himself, does little to sugarcoat his disdain for CRA.

When comparing the meal claims rights of public servants with truckers, Scheper writes “While the trucking industry gets tighter and tighter, CRA further twists the vice on Canadian drivers. They collect our blood, sweat and tears in their golden goblet and then, without conscience, generously award their own auditors a healthy allowance. It is a selfish and rancid affair.”

He goes on to blast CRA throughout the book, at one point writing “Canada Revenue Agency is lying to truckers and defying the clear implications of the tax court.” Tell us how you really feel!

If anything, Scheper’s vitriolic attack on CRA is likely to endear him to his gear-jamming readers.

Scheper examines previous tax court rulings, such as the infamous Don Wilkinson case of 2000, to defend his arguments. In the Wilkinson case, the judge ruled that the $33 per day tax claim allowed at that time was unreasonable in light of the fact public servants (such as CRA auditors) were able to claim $48.

Scheper lays the blame for the double standard that’s been ever-present in Canadian tax law squarely at the feet of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and its “cultural mindset of entitlement and survival of the fittest.” Scheper delves into great detail on why CUPE is to blame – for reasons you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out.

The answer to the taxation woes of the Canadian driver is a simple one, according to Scheper. The premise of his book is that the “perfect industry solution” is out there – it just needs buy-in from the industry at large.

Scheper argues in favour of a subsistence allowance-based system, which would lower the ‘per mile’ rate of pay for drivers, yet fully compensate them for the cost of meals through a daily meal allowance. His proposed system would do away with the traditional TL2 form on tax returns and would place the onus on the carriers to cover the meal expenses of their drivers.

I’m sure this will ruffle some feathers at the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the provincial trucking associations.

“The responsibility of job-related costs must always be the employer’s, not CRA’s,” Scheper writes. “However, trucking companies have been indoctrinated not to be concerned. Year after year, decade after decade, trucking companies have rejected the obvious and accepted CRA’s impositions.”

It’s not just the carriers that would be reluctant to embrace Scheper’s “perfect industry solution.” Drivers themselves are not likely too keen on seeing their pay-per-mile decrease significantly, even if it means they’re taking home more money in the long run.

Scheper doesn’t shy away from addressing concerns about the system, yet he defends his stance thoughtfully and philosophically.

Under the system, owner/operators would have to incorporate their businesses and pay themselves as an employee in order to gain the benefits of subsistence allowances.

Whether or not you buy into Scheper’s argument that a subsistence-based system can potentially save each Canadian driver thousands of dollars per year, the book is still an interesting and thought-provoking read. Aside from the suggestion to revamp the pay structure for drivers and owner/operators, the book contains plenty of helpful nuggets for drivers and O/Os alike. Everything from choosing a good tax accountant, to taking advantage of income splitting and personal vehicle use is addressed.

As a scribe myself, I was mildly irritated by the fact the book seems to have been printed without ever having passed through the hands of a copy editor. But bad spelling and grammar aside, it’s a worthwhile read if you make your living behind the wheel. The book can be ordered online at (no ‘www’ prefix required) or by calling 204-326-5782.

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