The move would benefit the economy as well as draw homeowners away from underground transactions were they pay for renovation work in cash to avoid taxes. Some 37% or $5.2 billion of the Ontario output in the home renovation industry last year was conducted through the underground economy, according to Altus Group.
That underground activity also costs the government $298 million in HST revenue annually, $1.6 billion in income tax revenue, and $767 million in other revenues, according to the Ontario Home Builders Association.
TREB President Richard Silver said the underground home renovation program not only cost the province money, but was also risky to homeowners. “Underground contractors often do not meet health and safety standards, carry no liability insurance and do not offer warranties,” he said. “Moreover, homeowners have little to no recourse in the event of shoddy or unsafe workmanship.”
He noted if an uninsured worker got hurt on a work site, the property owner might be held responsible.
But aside from pulling some activity away from the underground renovation industry, Silver said a rebate program would convince many homeowners to go forward with the improvements who might otherwise have held back for financial reasons.
“Frankly, this is a good thing because home renovations help to create jobs and generate tax revenue for the government – worthy goals that all provincial politicians should support and encourage,” Silver said.
TREB noted Ontario had 3.2 million homeowners spend $20.3 billion on home renovations last year.
"If the provincial government were to institute a renovation rebate, payable to the homeowner, homeowners would be far more likely to insist on a receipt creating a paper trail that would deter underground economic activity,” said Silver. “Furthermore, renovations lead to increases in property value, which leads to increases in property tax revenues that would mitigate any potential loss of tax revenue from the Renovation Tax Credit. A further bonus is that many upgrades increase the energy efficiency of properties. A true win, win and win.”
The TREB’s press release on the rebate followed a similar report last month by the Ontario Realtors.
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