What Does the HST Tell Us?

I got a very well organized and informative guide in the mail today called “What changes –and what doesn’t change– under the HST”, which may be one of the very few things I like about this new Ontario tax scheme.

Governments often use taxation to try and influence of buying behaviour of their citizens, so I thought I would take a look and see what behaviours the government is trying to change with the HST:

  • Smelly Ontario – Apparently they want us to dry-clean less, with taxes going from 5 to 13%
  • Drunk Ontario – Alcohol will be taxed at 13% instead of the old 17% (although they footnote that they will stop people from drinking so much with ‘other fees’)
  • Lazy Ontario – Gym, athletic memberships, fitness trainers, hockey rink rentals, hall rentals, hunting licenses, fishing licenses and golf green fees will increase from 5 to 13%
  • Ugly Ontario – Hair stylists, barbers and aesthetician services up to 13% from 5%
  • Lawless Ontario – Legal fees will be taxed at 13% instead of 5%
  • Cold (winter) and Hot (summer) Ontario – Electricity & heating bills to go from 5 to 13% tax
  • Flooded and Electrocuted Ontario – Home visits by plumbers, electricians, etc. will go from 5-13% as will home renovations
  • Digitally-divided Ontario – Internet access will now be taxed at 13% instead of 5%
  • Wild Ontario – Landscaping and snow removal up to 13% from 5%
  • Homebound Ontario – Hotel rooms (from 10%), taxis, campsites, domestic air, rail, boat and bus travel all up to 13% from 5%, as does fuel for your car, unfortunately you will have fewer magazines to read at home since subscription magazines also go from 5 to 13%
  • Double-dipped Ontario – Remember that new car that you paid 13% tax on, well now the government makes 13% again –up from 5%– when you sell it used!
  • Suburban & Condo Ontario – New homes over $400,000 will be taxed at 13% instead of 5%, and AFAIK can only be found in the suburbs or in condo dwellings. Real estate commissions will also be taxed more, at  13% instead of 5%.
  • Scurvied Ontario – Vitamins up to 13% from 5%
  • Stiff & sore Ontario – No reduction on Viagra tax, they are increasing taxes on massage therapy from 5 to 13%
  • Entertained Ontario – Tickets for professional sporting events and movies will DROP from 15% to 13%.
  • Alive Ontario – Death will cost you more, with funeral services taxed at 13%, up from 5%… sure as death and taxes.

    In a 5 Star World ***** Who Wants Second Best?

    If you shop online (and if you’re reading this, you probably do) when was the last time that you purchased something that wasn’t 5 stars?

    The online shopping world abounds with star rating systems, or their ilk.  If you buy on eBay, you probably wouldn’t even consider buying from someone who had less than a 99% feedback rating. If you look at reviews on CNET, Consume Reports, etc. you hesitate on that purchase if it isn’t an ‘Editors Pick’ or a top rated product in its category.  Considering buying that album from iTunes? Going to see a movie? Finding a contractor…  This list could go on.

    The fundamental driver of this is the notion everybody has that they deserve the best.  But when you pick something with 5 stars, is that what you are really getting?

    Aside from blue jeans (the one thing the human race has perfected), its hard to imagine that there is one product that satisfies everyone.  5 stars just means the people that take time to rate stuff online, and arguably find this rating valuable, rate that product very highly.  This is a very small percentage of the online population IMHO.  Accuracy here is fighting a large selection bias.

    But if you have a product, and you can’t get to first place, is there any benefit to trying to be second?  I don’t think so.

    The people that use ratings as their primary decision criteria will not buy your product.  Why would they?  You can offer a lower price than the #1 option, but then you really are just giving away money –and potentially a lot of it– to grab a few people that are willing to take second best because of a lower price.

    If you are faced with this situation, you are better off instead selling to the audience that isn’t buying stars.

    As usual, Malcolm Gladwell says it best:

    Why I Love My iPhone…

    I was enjoying an audio book called “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School” by John Medina and I ran into a situation which really made me stop and think about just how awesome mobile internet is:

    The author was describing a pivotal event in his life, that guided him to a career in math and science.   It was a trip with his mother to see the Disney Movie “Donald in Mathmagic Land” which he cited as one of the best uses of pictures to teach a subject.  It apparently was also good enough for an Oscar nomination in 1959 (won by ‘Glas’,  -a movie on glass-blowing set to a jazzy score- so in hindsight perhaps not a hot year for short films).

    I had the sudden urge to pause the book, and get a visual idea of what he was talking about.  A quick search on the iPhone’s YouTube application found the short (below in 3 parts) and I was able to watch it, then return to the book with a much richer perspective on what the author was trying to explain.  Imagine trying to do that on your PHONE 3 years ago? Wow!

    So not only does my iPhone allow me to get through 2-3 books per month (in contrast to my previous 0), but I can also get much more context on the material I am ‘reading’. Pure heaven for a geek like myself!

    And some good mathemagical tips on playing pool:

    I’d Watch Anything by Christopher Nolan

    I was watching The Prestige for the second time, and as the credits rolled I noted the director’s name: Christopher Nolan.

    I have a really bad memory, but I get feelings about things and I was sure that that name was associated with some other movie that I really enjoyed, so I went to the best movie site online (IMHO) IMDb.com.

    Lessee… Christoper Nolan, movies sorted by ratings:

    1. (9.10) – The Dark Knight (2008)
    2. (8.60) – Memento (2000)
    3. (8.40) – The Prestige (2006)
    4. (8.40) – Batman Begins (2005)
    5. (7.60) – Following (1998)
    6. (7.44) – Cinema16: British Short Films (2003) (V)
    7. (7.20) – Insomnia (2002/I)
    8. (7.05) – Doodlebug (1997)

    Holy smokes, of the 8 movies he has directed, none rank below a ‘7’ (which is usually enjoyable if not inspiring) and 50% of them rank above an 8.4, which is excellent!!  I would certainly agree with the scores of the top 4 movies, since I have seen and enjoyed them all.

    Then I looked at the rankings of the top four, which all appear in the ‘IMDb Top 250‘ which shows that all four are actually in the top 100!  Chris Nolan owns (as of November 5th 2008) positions #97, #82, #28 and #4 which he not only directed, but co-wrote!

    While there are several other directors that hold multiple places in the top 100, I can’t think of one who also can claim not to have directed a real stinker; that is some quality control!

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