Painting the town blue

But not everybody is donning an ear-to-ear grin. Apart from the sad faces you’d expect to see accompanying an election defeat, today there’s a whole other community worried about the impact a Conservative government will have on their business.

It’s too early in the day to tell just how the Conservative agenda will roll out in corporate Canada, but there was no shortage of industry associations anxious to have their issues tabled before the Tories.

The Lawful Access bill, the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act and overhauling government procurement processes are just a sampling of items on the agendas of groups such as the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, the Information Technology Association of Canada and the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, all of which represent high-tech vendors and service providers.

One area that isn’t receiving much attention is the question of whether a six per cent GST will have an impact on the information systems in Canadian businesses. Depending on whom you ask, it’s either a non-issue or one of the biggest oversights by Canada’s high-tech community.

Though the GST cut was not popular among economists, many businesses and individuals have applauded Harper’s plan of reducing it to six per cent this year and then five per cent over a period of five years. According to a backgrounder on the Conservatives’ official Web site, the immediate saving to ordinary Canadians will be $4.5 billion.

But before we sit down to count our pennies, we had better explore the possibility of this amendment causing Y2K-like panic in corporate Canada.

Paul Wing, an expert in IT security and a trained accountant, says that while he doesn’t anticipate big problems for most businesses, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that others will have some coding homework to do.

“Any Canadian GST system that isn’t simply parameter driven, where the current rate is easily changed from seven to six,

deserves to run into trouble for not keeping it simple,” he says. “For example, if the amount is hard coded throughout the program code and you need to search to make sure you got all the changes in the right place, you risk missing one and making wrong calculations.”

Wing says he’s more concerned about situations where the Canadian tax is built into the price – parking lot fees, monthly banking fees. He wonders if the consumer will ever really see the benefit of a reduction in GST or whether the one per cent reduction will spell more income for the enterprise.

And there’s another fly in the GST ointment, according to Vito Mabrucco, IDC Canada’s managing director: How to manage the transition or phasing in of inventory so that businesses aren’t overcharging or undercharging GST.

“Whenever you made a change to the economics of a business you might have to make some changes to the transition, but once the transition is done, there shouldn’t be any extra costs.”

We’re anxious to hear your thoughts on how this may affect your business, and also on what your expectations are from the Conservative government. Write to us at ccedit@itbusiness.ca

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