The Tiny Tax Band will rock you

If you think tax law is boring, the Tiny Tax Band will change your mind
Screenshots of the tiny tax band; members are wearing colourful sunglasses, carrying musical instruments, and lit by colourful strobe lighting.

If you’re looking for the perfect playlist to accompany you while you’re preparing your annual tax return, the Tiny Tax Band has you covered.

Perhaps they can interest you in a Beatles tune referencing famous tax cases? Or a Lady Gaga cover explaining why gambling winnings aren’t taxable in Canada? If not, perhaps a Sister Sledge song discussing income splitting is more your speed.

Yes, the Tiny Tax Band is a parody band performing pop songs with a tax-themed twist, and the results are somewhat surreal.

“The overall reactions we get are ‘huh?’ and ‘wow!’,” says Prof. Allison Christians, H. Heward Stikeman Chair in Tax Law and one of the band’s founders. “It’s just so nerdy and funny and weird.”

Her co-founder, Connor Hasegawa, is a Law alumnus who previously served as her research assistant. He is now articling at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP in Toronto.

“My colleagues are very amused that [the Tiny Tax Band] exists,” says Hasegawa. “They think it’s hilarious.”

Let’s talk about tax

A collage of colourful photos featuring the Tiny Tax Band

The group’s formation came about organically: Christians loves music and words, Hasegawa plays several instruments, there’s a piano located in the atrium of Chancellor Day Hall, and Canada’s definitive tax guide, Practitioner’s Income Tax Act,  provides endless lyrical inspiration.

Their first piece of content parodied Salt-N-Pepa’s Grammy-winning hit, “Let’s talk about Sex,” with the lyrics changed to “Let’s talk about Tax.” It was soon followed by a video of Hasegawa singing about a Supreme Court of Canada tax decision while playing the kalimba.

“After that, we realized this should be an ongoing project,” he says, laughing.

Initially the group’s members were affiliated with the Faculty of Law, but they’ve since branched out to include trained musicians, international tax scholars, and tax-adjacent people outside of McGill.

“Tax law is a very collaborative field,” says Christians. “When you immerse yourself in an environment where people are collaboratively learning all the time and everybody’s trying to bring all the skills they have, crazy unexpected things can happen, and this is one of them.”

On the verge of going viral

The Tiny Tax Band’s content is available on multiple platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, Spotify, Apple Music, and LinkedIn. Collectively they’ve garnered over 100,000 views.

“It’s shocking that people want to listen to this, but they do, somehow,” says Hasegawa.

Although the band’s obviously having fun, there’s a bigger underlying message to their performances.

“The gulf between the [tax] system and the way it affects every single Canadian’s life is too big; I think it’s unhealthy,” says Christians. “I want to try to close that gap. So the core motivation for me is always demystifying a complex subject, making it more accessible, and making people less afraid of it.”

To that end, Christians successfully applied for funding from the Fonds de recherche du Québec’s Programme Dialogue, which aims to make scholarly research accessible to the general public.

For McGillians who are now feeling motivated to tackle their taxes, do the founding members of the Tiny Tax Band have any words of advice?

“Learn to love your tax forms,” offers Christians. “I want people to use the booklets they get from Canada Revenue Agency and Revenu Québec. If you live a pretty simple life where you work for a living and maybe you have a RRSP or a RESP, you can follow the instructions and fill them out yourself. It gives you a better understanding of what’s going on with your finances.”

Hasegawa, however, takes a different approach.

“I outsource my taxes,” he admits with a smile. “I don’t want to deal with that.”

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