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Death and higher taxes

Funerals and audio books will be taxed at a higher level in Ontario despite consumer and opposition concerns, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Thursday.

TORONTO - Funerals and audio books will be taxed at a higher level in Ontario despite consumer and opposition concerns, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Thursday.

Certain consumer goods, such as printed books, do get a break from the new HST, but many others will now be taxed under a 13 per cent harmonized sales tax as part of a deal worked out between Ontario and the federal government.

"There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities for additional exemptions," McGuinty said.

"But the arrangement that we have with the federal government is that every additional exemption will cost the Ontario government treasury, so we'll have to take it out of health care, out of education, out of supports from our most vulnerable.

"We are not eager to move beyond the exemptions that we already have in place."

The single sales tax has come under fire for adding a levy to items like home heating fuel, real-estate fees and haircuts.

A few goods, such as kids' clothing and shoes, diapers and newly built homes under $400,000, will remain exempt from Ontario's portion of the 13 per cent harmonized sales tax.

The province is trying to ease consumer pain by sending cheques of up to $1,000 to families and $300 to single residents, as well as sales-tax credits to help low-and middle-income families.

Ottawa will kick in $4.3 billion over two years to help with the transition.

"There's no easy way out of this challenging period," McGuinty said. "There's no easy way to strengthen ourselves for the future, and one of the things that we have to do to get there ... is to move ahead with a single sales tax."

The Health Ministry said its Assistive Devices Program covers 75 per cent of the cost of audio books for people with low vision or blindness, while those on long-term disability could apply for additional funding.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the taxes an audio books and funerals are just another "wrong-headed" example of what she called the government's willingness to "tax people into the grave."

"Every day goes by we find yet another situation that's absolutely callous in terms of the way the government is looking at the effect on real people," Horwath said.

 
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