Your Tax Dollar: 2014–2015 Fiscal Year
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For the fiscal year ended March 31, 2015, Canada's federal government spent $280.4 billion. That represents roughly 14% of our country's $2.0‑trillion economy.
Here’s a quick overview of where that money went—and how it was raised.
Payments that go directly to persons, to provincial and territorial governments, and to other organizations are called “transfers.”
Transfers are the largest category of government spending. They made up about 62 cents of each tax dollar ($174.7 billion).
Transfers to persons
Major transfers to persons cost 27 cents of each tax dollar ($76.5 billion).
The biggest category within transfers to persons was elderly benefits. These transfers include:
- Old Age Security
- Guaranteed Income Supplement
- Allowance for Spouses
Total elderly benefits cost about $44.1 billion, or roughly 16 cents of each tax dollar.
Another major transfer to persons is Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. Altogether, EI benefits cost over 6 cents of every tax dollar ($18.1 billion).
For information on EI premiums, see the section entitled “Where the money comes from.”
The final category of transfers to persons is Children’s Benefits. Canada provided $14.3 billion to help families raise their children through the Canada Child Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit. These payments cost 5 cents of every tax dollar.
Transfers to provincial and territorial governments
Major transfers to other levels of government totalled $63.1 billion, or 22 cents of each tax dollar. These transfers help fund health care, post-secondary education and other programs for Canadians.
The Canada Health Transfer provided $32.1 billion for health programs, representing about 11 cents of each tax dollar.
The Canada Social Transfer provided $12.6 billion for post-secondary education, social programs and programs for children, representing over 4 cents of each tax dollar.
Other major transfers, including the Equalization and Territorial Formula Financing programs as well as payments under the Gas Tax Fund program to cities and communities, totalled roughly 7 cents of every tax dollar ($18.4 billion).
The Equalization and Territorial Formula Financing programs help less prosperous provinces and the territories provide services that are reasonably comparable to those in other provinces at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.
Gas Tax Fund program payments help provide stable, predictable funding to support municipal infrastructure projects.
Federal support for health care
Federal support for health care goes beyond cash payments under the Canada Health Transfer and the Equalization and Territorial Formula Financing programs.
The federal government also provided roughly $7 billion last year for:
- First Nations health services
- Health care for veterans
- Programs for public health
- Health research
Other transfer payments
Last year, spending on federal grants, contributions and subsidies added up to $35.1 billion, representing close to 13 cents of each tax dollar. This included:
- $7.6 billion in transfers by Indian Affairs and Northern Development for First Nations and Aboriginal peoples
- $6.3 billion in assistance provided by Employment and Social Development Canada in support of learning, skills and employment, and social housing
- $3.4 billion in transfers by the Canada Revenue Agency, which includes transfers made to individuals and corporations through the tax system
Other funding was provided in support of farmers and other food producers, research and development, infrastructure, regional development, health research and promotion, the arts, amateur sports, international assistance and multiculturalism and bilingualism.
Other program expenses
After transfers, the bulk of federal tax dollars went to cover the operating costs of the more than 130 government departments, agencies, Crown corporations and other federal bodies that provide programs and services for Canadians.
Government operating expenses such as salaries and benefits, facilities and equipment, and supplies and travel made up 28 cents of each tax dollar spent ($79.1 billion). Half of this spending—14 cents of each tax dollar—went to just three organizations.
First, spending last year by National Defence, including the Canadian Armed Forces, made up 8 cents of each tax dollar ($23.7 billion)
Next, operating costs of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness represented over 3 cents of each tax dollar ($9.8 billion).
This includes funding for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the federal prison system, and border traffic and security operations.
Canada Revenue Agency
And third, expenses of the Canada Revenue Agency, which administers the federal tax system (and also collects taxes for all provinces except Quebec) totalled $8.1 billion, or 3 cents of each tax dollar.
A further $30.0 billion—11 cents of each tax dollar—was spent on the operations of the other federal departments and agencies.
These included major departments such as:
- Employment and Social Development Canada
- Environment Canada
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Health Canada
- Industry Canada
- Department of Justice
- Natural Resources Canada
- Public Works and Government Services Canada
- Transport Canada
- Veterans Affairs Canada
Funding also went to federal agencies such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Parks Canada.
Paying for Parliament
One of the smallest spending slices goes to Parliament itself—the House of Commons, the Senate and the Library of Parliament.
Last year, the combination of salaries and benefits for Members of Parliament, Senators and parliamentary staff, and spending on facilities and services, totalled $542 million. That's less than one-quarter of a cent of every tax dollar.
Crown corporations (organizations owned directly or indirectly by the Government) cost $7.6 billion, or 3 cents of each tax dollar.
Most of these expenses were recorded by three organizations:
- Canadian Commercial Corporation—$2.5 billion
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation—$1.5 billion
- Atomic Energy of Canada Limited—$0.8 billion.
Funding was also provided to cultural organizations (including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of History and the Canada Council for the Arts), to enterprises like VIA Rail, and to the Canadian Tourism Commission.
These costs were partially offset by revenues earned by the Crown corporations, which totalled $4.2 billion in 2014–15. These revenues are included as part of the Government’s other revenues discussed in the section entitled “Where the money comes from.”
Public debt charges
Interest charges on Canada's public debt—money borrowed by the federal government over the years and not yet repaid and liabilities for pensions and other future benefits—cost $26.6 billion. That's about 9 cents of every tax dollar.
Currently, 74 per cent of the Government’s unmatured debt is owed to Canadians, including citizens and domestic institutions holding federal bonds, treasury bills and other forms of the debt.
The budgetary surplus
The remaining 1 cent of the tax dollar represents the 2014–15 budgetary surplus of $1.9 billion—how much money was left after paying for all federal programs, operations and interest on public debt.
Government accounting principles mean that any surplus at year-end automatically reduces the federal debt.
Where your tax dollar goes: Summary
That’s our brief summary of federal spending for 2014–15.
- Canada Health Transfer (11 cents)
- Canada Revenue Agency (3 cents)
- Canada Social Transfer (4 cents)
- Children’s benefits (5 cents)
- Crown corporations (3 cents)
- National Defence (8 cents)
- Employment Insurance benefits (6 cents)
- Other major transfers to other levels of government (7 cents)
- Other operations (11 cents)
- Other transfer payments (13 cents)
- Public debt charges (9 cents)
- Public Safety (3 cents)
- Support to elderly (16 cents)
- Surplus (1 cent)
Where the money comes from
During 2014–15, the federal government recorded $282.3 billion in revenues.
These revenues came from:
Personal income tax—$135.7 billion, or 48 cents of every tax dollar.
Corporate income tax—$39.4 billion, or 14 cents of every dollar.
Goods and Services Tax—$31.3 billion, or 11 cents of every dollar.
A number of other taxes—such as non-resident withholding taxes, customs import duties, and excise levies on alcohol, tobacco, gasoline and diesel fuel—made up $22.0 billion, or 8 cents of every tax dollar.
As well, Employment Insurance premiums contributed $22.6 billion to federal revenues, or 8 cents of every tax dollar.
And other revenues—such as earnings by Crown corporations and revenues from the sale of goods and services—provided the remaining $31.2 billion, or 11 cents of every tax dollar.
Where the money comes from: Summary
- Corporate income tax (14 cents)
- Earnings by Crown corporations and revenues from the sale of goods and services (11 cents)
- Employment Insurance premiums (8 cents)
- Non-resident withholding taxes, customs import duties and excise levies (8 cents)
- Personal income tax (48 cents)
- Goods and Services Tax (11 cents)
More about these numbers
The federal government calculates its financial results over a 12-month "fiscal year" that ends every March 31. This presentation is based on the Annual Financial Report of the Government of Canada for the most recent complete fiscal year, 2014–15.
So that's the story of where your federal tax dollar goes, and how it is raised. If you want more detailed information, we've provided a series of useful links.
More information on Government of Canada finances is available from these sources:
Annual Financial Report
The Annual Financial Report of the Government of Canada provides overall financial data on federal revenues and spending on a full accrual accounting basis for the most recent complete fiscal year. It is available through the Finance Canada website under Publications.
Fiscal Reference Tables
Along with the Annual Financial Report, Finance Canada also publishes its annual Fiscal Reference Tables. Financial information on the provinces and territories is also included. The tables are available through the Finance Canada website under Publications.
The Fiscal Monitor
Produced by Finance Canada, this monthly newsletter highlights the most recent financial results of the Government. It is available on the Finance Canada website under Publications.
The Public Accounts of Canada contain the Government’s audited financial statements for the most recent fiscal year, and details of financial operations by each ministry. It is available through the Public Works and Government Services Canada website.
Debt Management Report
The annual Debt Management Report covers key elements of the federal debt strategy and strategic and operational aspects of the Government’s debt program and cash management activities over the past year. It is available on the Finance Canada website under Publications.
Canada Revenue Agency
While the Department of Finance is responsible for setting federal tax policy, it is the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) that manages the actual revenue collection for the federal government. A quick overview of CRA operations and access to the agency’s annual operating report and Internet home page is available on the Canada Revenue Agency website.