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COVID-19 Tax – The new cost of doing business?

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COVID-19 Tax – As emergency measures are lifted and businesses are reopening, people are finding a new surcharge added to their bills from some businesses. An extra ‘Covid-19 Tax’ is being found in many restaurants, grocery stores, hair salons, dentists and more. There have been reports of amounts ranging from 3% to 5% or flat fees seen at $5 and up to $15. Many people are not pleased about it at all, while others see no issue with the extra charge. ” If I do a 100 transactions a month that would cost me an extra $400, I don’t thing it’s right at all. Where does it stop. Should banks charge it as well?” said one Montrealer. And it is not only happening in Montreal – it is being seen in cities across Canada and the US as well.

Business owners say it is being justified by the extra costs they are incurring, due to the measures put forth by the government and the protocols having to be put in place. Costs can include personal protective equipment items such as: extra gloves, sanitizers, gowns, masks and visors, as well as air purifiers and Plexiglas shields. In addition, the tax is being called necessary because of lost income since the closures, as well as the reduced number of people now allowed in.

There are those of the opinion that in places like grocery stores, restaurants and salons, the costs should instead be reflected in the selling price of the items or services. But how would one differentiate from the increases already being incurred from their suppliers? Meat and other grocery items for example, have been going up in price since the start of the pandemic and there is also inflation to consider. How can one be sure if it is being done fairly?

A few weeks ago, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said that businesses have the right to pass costs on to consumers, but they ‘must remain reasonable’ and that the ‘government has limited powers to intervene in the private sector’. However, many feel it is the government who should be paying the increased costs to their businesses – as the measures were mandated by them. According to ‘Option consommateurs’ (a non-profit consumer organization ‘dedicated to promoting and defending the interests of Canadian consumers’) businesses are legally allowed to increase fees when justified by higher expenses – as long as they advise consumers in advance and it is clearly indicated. What is your opinion on this matter? Is it fair or unjust?

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