O, Canada

June 5, 2019

I just returned from a visit to Vancouver, BC, in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, one of my favorite parts of the world.  The city, which is known for its great Asian food, its waterfront and the beauty of its surroundings, among many other things, did not disappoint.

But I want to talk about two very little things I was reminded of that are done in Canada, but not in the US, that make life there easier for everyone, and in particular for gamblers.

The first is that pennies no longer are used.  All cash sales are rounded to the nearest nickel, which is the smallest unit of currency generally in circulation.  Given that the penny costs more to produce than it is worth, and that storing and accounting for pennies also is costly, this common-sense approach, with roundings up and roundings down canceling each other out, makes a lot of cents (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

I was reminded of the second when, in the local casino, I hit a jackpot that required a hand pay.  In the States, along with the hand pay would come a W-2G form reporting the gross proceeds of the jackpot to the IRS.  To avoid liability for the tax, it would be up to the player to record his or her offsetting losses, which almost always exist.  In Canada, they realize that fact, and even apply it to lottery winnings, whose large jackpots are the exceptions, presumably treating lottery losses and wins by the aggregate of all players as a wash or a net loss.  After I signed a form for the casino, I was paid in cash and not given any other paper work (US citizens should be aware that, as in the US, net gambling wins, like any income earned anywhere, even if not accompanied by a reporting form, are taxable income, no matter where in the world they are won).

 

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Charleston

August 4, 2012

I recently visited Charleston, SC for a professional conference. Although I didn’t have a lot of time to explore the city, I very much liked what I saw. Although Charleston had a nice waterfront, an aquarium, museums and lots of high end restaurants, its big draw is its historic residential district. I was told that the city has a strong historic preservation code, and I saw for myself an active Historic Charleston Foundation, which ran two great shops, from which purchases were free of sales tax due to their not-for-profit status. The city also had a residential permit parking system, necessary to attract owner-occupants to older areas.

It is clear to me that Albany’s historic neighborhoods, if upgraded to the level of those in Charleston, also could drive the economic engine of tourism. People like seeing block after block of old houses if the district has maintained its integrity and is safe and near hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. Could Albany emulate Charleston and achieve some measure of success as a tourist destination because if its historic residential areas? The success of local house and garden tours suggests it may be worth a try.

Incidentally, in the second trip department, I had some spare time my last day, and opted to save about $35 by taking a city bus from the tourist district to the airport. The service was direct, in the sense that it did not require changing buses, but the route was meandering and slow. However, I got to see some non-tourist areas of the city in air conditioned comfort.