FEDERAL BUDGET 2017
The 2017 Federal Budget was brought down this afternoon by the Liberal Government. There were a few specific tax measures included in the budget and the government gave notice that they are looking at some significant changes intended to shut down tax planning structures which benefit “wealthy” Canadians.
SPECIFIC TAX CHANGES ANNOUNCED
Accountants and lawyers were specifically targeted with a change to the law which currently allows them to delay paying tax on work which they have done for clients but which they have not yet
invoiced to their clients. This is a very narrow change which will raise very little revenue and which means accountants and lawyers will need to pay tax on work done which they may not be able to bill and collect for months into the future.
An obscure tax deferral strategy called a “tax straddle” will be shut down by way of a series of anti-avoidance rules. We do not think this will affect any of our clients.
There were a grab bag of other small changes such as the tuition tax credit was expanded to allow for occupational skills, the public transit tax credit was cancelled, the caregiver credits were expanded and the mineral exploration tax credit will be extended until March 2018.
FUTURE TAX CHANGES UNDER STUDY
It appears that the liberal government sees tax planning arrangements involving private corporations to be a significant problem. Their position is that wealthy Canadians are using private corporations to avoid paying their “fair share” of taxes. Of specific note are the following:
- Income splitting arrangements using private companies where family members directly or indirectly (through a trust for example) hold shares in the company.
- Holding investments inside of a private corporation to facilitate accumulation of investment assets by the owners of private corporations.
- Converting regular income of a private Corporation into capital gains instead of being taxed as dividends.
These issues are intended to be dealt with by the government “in the coming months” by way of a paper discussing the issues in more detail as well as considering some proposed policies to deal with them.
WHAT DID NOT CHANGE
The tax and investment community was concerned (and convinced) that the capital gains inclusion rate was going to be increased from 50% to 66% or 75%. While that change has not been made yet, we still expect it is on the agenda. In addition, there was some expectation that income splitting strategies would be under attack in this most recent budget; however, it appears that this will be deferred until the paper described above, has been completed.
We are concerned that future changes to the capital gains rate, income splitting, taxation of investments in private corporations, etc. may not be announced in a future budget but instead may be announced by way of a “surprise” bill in the legislature. It is not necessary for these major changes to be enacted by way of a budget. Instead, changes to our tax system can simply be made by a majority government bringing forward a bill in the House Of Commons. These kinds of bills can arrive at any time the House of Commons is in session and therefore we may have no notice before they come into effect.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
If you are concerned about these changes which are being discussed, we encourage you to contact your Member of Parliament and express your concerns. I am personally concerned that many of these measures may drive medical doctors (specialists in particular) out of Canada so that they can practice in the United States where they can make more money and potentially pay less tax. In addition, many entrepreneurs will find it more appealing to work from a lower tax jurisdiction which appreciates and rewards them for taking the risks inherent in running their own business. Increasing tax rates significantly on “the wealthy” typically results in less revenue for the government and typically drives the economic leaders from that jurisdiction.
–Wendell Meeres, B.Comm., CPA, CA, C.F.P.