Here’s an interesting new online resource — where “interesting” involves some head scratching and not a little wonder. It’s a tax wiki conceived by U of T law prof Benjamin Alarie and built with the help of students in his tax class and others. Taxwiki.ca aims to
. . . establish a publicly-accessible and editable “wiki” of current “interpretation bulletins” and other tax materials. These are not, of course, official CRA interpretations bulletins, but they would initially use as “seed” materials the current stock of bulletins. These are edited and refined by expert users, with the goal of providing an unofficial and publicly beneficial forum for making known the current views of the CRA and the demands of Canadian income tax law.
As stated in the quote, the base material comprises the dozens of official bulletins in these general areas: personal, employment, investing, corporations, partnerships, and trusts. These are then open to being edited by members of the site, as with Wikipedia.
Here’s the source of some of my puzzlement: the main page says “Anyone can edit an existing entry”; and, indeed, I was able to create an account that, presumably, would let me edit these bulletins. Granted that few non-experts (such as I) will be interested enough in taxation to go to the (small) trouble of joining, there is still the real possibility of bad edits, whether well-intentioned or not.
There are no links to relevant sections of the Income Tax Act that I could see; I realize that this is meant to make laws more comprehensible, but it would be handy for editors, surely, to be able easily to see the actual wording of the legislation.
More important, there’s no statement on the site that edits will be policed or, indeed, that there will be regular, timely updates to reflect changes in the act or new rulings, though I presume such would have to be the case, if the site is not to fall steadily out of date.
I do like the idea of making law clearer to citizens — and none needs more simplification, perhaps, than taxation law. And I like, as well, the attempt to involve a wide community of experts in the enterprise; this possibility is one of the glories of the internet. But I have to confess scepticism about whether this particular wiki, brave though it is, can do what it wants to.