Canada is taxing luxury cars, yachts, and private jets as celebrities come under scrutiny for their emissions

  • 3 min read
  • Aug 05, 2022

Canada is taxing luxury cars, yachts, and private jets as celebrities come under scrutiny for their emissions

  • Canada adds a 10% tax on the purchase of luxury airplanes, cars and yachts.
  • Meanwhile, American celebrities have been criticized for the environmental impact of using their private jets.

As stars like Taylor Swift and Drake come under fire for using their private jets, Canada has revealed new details about how it’s trying to get the rich to think twice about their extraordinary means of transportation in the face of the climate crisis.

The Select Luxury Goods Tax Act – which takes effect on September 1 – adds a 10 per cent tax on the full value of purchases of Canadian planes and cars that cost more than $100,000, as well as boats that cost more than $250,000. These thresholds are in Canadian dollars and translate to $78,000 and $194,000 respectively in US dollars.

The Canadian government has argued that the tax would not only discourage the wealthy from buying polluting vehicles, but also reduce inequality.

“Some Canadians have lost jobs or small businesses, while some sectors of the economy have flourished,” a statement on the government’s website said. That’s why today it’s only fair to ask those Canadians who can afford luxury goods to contribute a little more.

Details of the tax come after a recent report by Yard, a British marketing firm, titled “Celebrities with the Worst Private Jet Emissions”. Use flight data from the popular Twitter account @CelebJets – which tracks the jets of the rich and famous – this report details the biggest “offenders” and their carbon footprints.

Pop star Taylor Swift topped the list. As of the July 29 report, his private jet had flown 22,923 minutes, or 15.9 days, in 2022 and emitted more than 8,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — more than 1,000 times the annual emissions of the average person. A 2021 Transport and Environment report found that a private jet can emit the same amount of carbon dioxide in four hours as the average person in the European Union produces over an entire year. Boxer Floyd Mayweather, musician Jay-Z and former baseball player Alex Rodriguez followed Swift on the list.

However, some celebrities have questioned this report. For example, Swift’s spokesperson told The Washington Post that the musician’s jet is “regularly loaned out to other people,” suggesting that many of the trips were not her own. Meanwhile, Jay-Z’s lawyer said the rapper does not own the jet in question.

While Yard’s analysis was not peer-reviewed and, as the authors emphasize, “there is no way to determine whether these celebrities were on all recorded flights,” the report on environmental impacts Emphasizes celebrities, politicians, business executives and other wealthy people. Individuals can do so through significant use of private jets and other measures. An Oxfam 2021 analysis found that in 2015, the richest 1% accounted for 15% of global carbon emissions. The Yard report, along with Canada’s luxury tax law, suggests that scrutiny isn’t going away anytime soon.

The luxury tax has been criticized for hurting the aviation industry and placing too much responsibility for the climate crisis on individuals.

Canada’s new tax has drawn criticism from the business community. Some have argued that this could have “serious consequences” for the aviation industry, which has already faced challenges during the pandemic – potentially leading to the loss of at least 900 jobs.

“The economic impact of a luxury tax will be significant and has not been studied with a comprehensive understanding of our industry,” said Anthony Norjeko, president and CEO of the Canadian Business Aviation Association, in a statement.

Criticizing celebrities, some experts say focusing too much on individual actions can distract attention from policy changes that are needed to make real progress, such as important climate legislation currently in place. There is in Congress. Others have pointed to the way oil company BP, for example, launched a carbon footprint calculator in the mid-2000s to place more responsibility for climate action on individuals than on the fossil fuel industry.

“My feeling is that while I’d prefer Taylor Swift to make more responsible transportation decisions, yelling at Internet celebrities isn’t on my top 10 list of policy levers,” NASA climate scientist Keith Marvel told Axios.