Ontario’s controversial harmonized sales tax is “virtually revenue neutral” and not the cash grab critics say it is, argues a report to be released today.

The report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says low- and modest-income families will come out slightly ahead under the Liberals’ HST package, which includes increased property and sales tax credits and income tax cuts, while households with incomes more than $100,000 will come out just slightly behind.

“No group is significantly worse off or better off as a result of the province’s HST plan,” said Ernie Lightman, a University of Toronto economist and professor of social work who co-authored of Not a Tax Grab After All: A Second Look at Ontario’s HST.

Even the researchers admit they were “surprised” to find a vast majority of Ontarians will either be slightly better off or unaffected by the tax changes.

“Assertions that this is a tax grab,” Lightman said, “have no foundation in reality.”

The NDP, both provincially and federally, have roundly condemned the next tax.

“It’s basically kicking people when they are already down in terms of their financial situation,” Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said last week.

“Ontarians have loudly and clearly rejected the idea of shifting the tax burden onto the backs of consumers while giving the corporate sector a huge tax giveaway,” she added.

Both Horwath and B.C. NDP Leader Carole James emphasized the overwhelming majority of taxpayers in both provinces oppose the tax, which will increase levies on hundreds of goods and services, including home heating fuel, gasoline, taxi fares, haircuts and legal fees.

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