Low, Wakefield, Quebec restaurants fear new changes

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by admin on April 15, 2010

Terry Theberge, owner Pineview Restaurant in Low

Terry Theberge, owner Pineview Restaurant in Low

Restaurant crackdown brings big headaches

Terry Theberge of Low, Quebec is a legitimate restaurant owner. He doesn’t evade taxes; he gives customers receipts; and does all of his business above the table.

Although the chef/owner of the Pineview Restaurant in Low has been doing things by the book since he opened seven years ago, the provincial government is still forcing him to install a small black box called a Module d’enregistrement des ventes (MEV), to record all of his transactions for the next seven years.

The move comes is part of a crackdown by Quebec’s Revenue Minister Robert Dutil, who wants to recoup the estimated $300 million per year in missing restaurant sales tax receipts.

But for smaller businesses, like the Pineview Restaurant, keeping up with government demands means one more hurdle to jump in an already challenging industry.

“We can never get ahead,” said Theberge, referring to himself and other small business owners in the area.

“They will just hit us with another expense so they can attach their black box.”

The expense he refers to won’t apply to all businesses, just the ones that haven’t already installed computerized restaurant software required by the new MEV. This means businesses like the Pineview will have to fork out at least $2,000 to upgrade to a modern system.

Theberge said he is already struggling to meet the rising cost of gas, insurance and wages, but he fears that if the government keeps demanding more and more from smaller businesses, they will no longer be able to compete with the big chains.

“The big conglomerates are going to take over, because we can’t keep up with the standards.”

Tanya Skeates, whose Wakefield restaurant has only 14 tables, understands that the province wants to prevent tax fraud, but she is feels it is going after the wrong people, the “small guys.” She suggested that the MEV be installed in bigger businesses that have a certain gross income, instead of across the whole industry.

The new regulations mean she would have to replace her old cash register from the early ’90s and fork out for the new system.

“I don’t have $2,000. Is there a subsidy?”

There isn’t. The government supplies the business owner with the MEV and a printer, but software purchase is up to the owner.

By September of this year, all restaurants will be required to give every customer a receipt for their food, with our without the MEV, or face charges of tax evasion. By November 2011 all restaurants must have the MEV installed.

Dan Faasen of La Vallee Restaurant and Motel in Chelsea said he won’t be affected too much by the changes, as his restaurant already has a computerized system that is compatible with the MEV. He isn’t against the new system, in fact, he believes that it will make everything a lot easier in the industry, as the MEV automatically calculates GST, PST and automatically takes off the eight per cent servers are obligated to declare from their tips.

Another plus for MEV-ready restaurants: the changes mean a more even playing field for law-abiding restaurants against those that didn’t pay all their taxes.

“If people don’t pay their taxes, it’s often that they pay under the table. If they do this, they can offer meals at cheaper prices than smaller businesses,” said Dominique Tremblay, Spokesperson for the Association des restaurateurs du Québec (ARQ).

Still, the association says it is small businesses that are taking the biggest hit from the new program, and it is looking at ways to lobbying the government for easier ways to implement the changes. For more information, visit the website at www.restaurateurs.ca