Tag Archives: Bill Morneau

Sept 25: Best from the blogosphere

If you haven’t been following the financial media closely through the lazy, hazy days of summer, you may be unclear what income tax changes have been proposed and how they might impact you, particularly if you have an incorporated small business.*

As committed in the Federal Budget 2017, on July 18, 2017 the Department of Finance issued a discussion paper providing details about tax planning strategies involving the use of private corporations and setting out “proposed policy responses to close loopholes and bring greater fairness to the tax system.” Interested parties have been invited to submit comments to fin.consultation.fin@canada.ca by October 1st.

This paper focuses on three issues:

  1. Sprinkling income using private corporations which essentially means income splitting by paying out dividends or capital gains to other family members who may not actually be working for the corporation to reduce total taxes. The Government is seeking input on proposed rules to distinguish income sprinkling from reasonable compensation for family members.
  2. Holding a passive investment portfolio inside a private corporation, which means retaining and investing money in the corporation instead of paying it out annually because corporate income tax rates are much lower than personal rates.
  3. Converting a private corporation’s regular income into capital gains which can reduce income taxes by taking advantage of the lower tax rates on capital gains. Income is normally paid out of a private corporation in the form of salary or dividends to the principals, who are taxed at the recipient’s personal income tax rate (subject to a tax credit for dividends reflecting the corporate tax presumed to have been paid). In contrast, only one-half of capital gains are included in income, resulting in a significantly lower tax rate on income that is converted from dividends to capital gains.

Also read:  Tax Planning Using Private Corporations – The New Liberal Proposals (Blunt Bean Counter)

This has resulted in a huge outcry from groups as diverse as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Medical Association.

In a BNN video interview, Scott Johnston, a partner at CBM lawyers in B.C. says the Liberal plan would punish small business owners, not “fat cats.” He counsels more than 800 small businesses in the Vancouver area.

“You are comparing employees with entrepreneurs who may make nothing for years and have no guarantee their business will succeed,” he says. “They are the ones who are taking risk and putting their homes on the line. They don’t have fat government pensions and they don’t receive medical, dental or parental benefits.”

Canadian farmers are also worried about federal tax changes, but the proposals are the last thing they have had time to think about during the busy harvest season. The Western Producer says “the impact of the tax changes could be humongous,” including:

  • Rules to make it more difficult and risky for full-time farmers to share farm income with spouses and children.
  • Regulations that could make it dangerous to use farm earnings to help pay for children’s post-secondary education.
  • Rules that discourage farms from renting out their land or saving cash within a farm company.
  • Changes that could make it risky to divide ownership of a family farm’s land base among a number of children, while allowing the land block to remain intact.
  • Rules that encourage farmers to sell their land to neighbours or strangers rather than their own children.

In contrast, the Canadian Nurses Association representing primarily salaried nurses issued a statement on September 5th supporting the proposed changes. In her statement, Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) president Barb Shellian said:

“CNA commends Minister Morneau’s aim to achieve federal tax policy that treats all sources of income similarly and equitably, based on the principles of social justice. Accordingly, CNA supports the proposed changes to the federal tax code that reasonably strengthen the rules on increasingly popular but potentially unfair tax advantages for incorporated high-income earners. CNA further recommends a more comprehensive review of the Canadian tax system with an eye to simplification and ensuring all hard-working Canadians are treated fairly and equitably.”

Also read: Dissenting doctors write open letter in support of federal tax reforms

While both Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have said they are fully committed to the proposed tax changes, as in all cases “the devil is in the details.” It remains to be seen if any significant modifications to the proposals will be made prior to passage and the planned January 1, 2018 implementation date. We will update you when more information becomes available.

Also read: The good, bad and the ugly of Ottawa’s proposed corporate tax changes

*In the spirit of full disclosure, the tax status of my company Sheryl Smolkin + Associates Ltd. will be impacted by the proposed changes


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Feb 06: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

One issue on our radar this week of concern to many Canadians is the possible change to the deductibility of health and dental care insurance premiums for tax purposes in the upcoming 2017 budget. Currently these premiums are not a taxable benefit if they are paid for by your employer and they are a deductible medical expense for individuals purchasing private plans to supplement provincial medicare benefits.

On December 2, 2016 a National Post article noted that the Federal Liberals are eyeing a tax on private health and dental plans, a move that would take in about $2.9B. Journalist John Ivison reported that proponents of eliminating the credit argue that those with lower incomes but without private health plans are subsidizing those with employee-sponsored coverage. On the other hand, he said there is a strong economic case for encouraging employers to provide health coverage for employees.

Later in the same month, a coalition of health care service providers warned of the potential negative implications of taxing the premiums paid on employer-provided health and dental benefits. Ondina Love, CEO of the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association said, “When benefits were subject to provincial income tax in Quebec in 1993, almost 20% of employers dropped their coverage, including up to 50% of small employers. This loss of coverage can significantly impact the lowest-paid employees who will have trouble paying for drugs, dental and needed health care out of pocket.”

And now a Conference Board of Canada report commissioned by the Canadian Dental Association calculates that millions of Canadians will each pay at least $1,000 more if Ottawa taxes health and dental plans . And according to the National Post, the potential exists for a massive political backlash. The Canadian Dental Association reports that 50,000 protest emails have already been sent to local MPs and Bill Morneau, the finance minister, through its donttaxmyhealthbenefits.ca online petition.

Let’s hope that Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments on February 2nd suggesting that his government doesn’t plan to tax employee health and dental plans as reported in Benefits Canada will put this issue to bed once and for all for the benefit of all Canadians.

In another health-care related story this week, Marie Engen at Boomer and Echo makes The Case For A Universal Canadian Drug Program. She correctly says that prescription drug coverage in Canada varies widely depending on where you live, your health status, your income, and your age. Right now, each province has its own pharmacare program and there is no consistency. A universal prescription drug plan could not only reduce total spending. It would also cover everyone at an affordable price.

Finally, in a post on Retire Happy, Sean Cooper tackles the question  Should You Take a Deferred Pension or the Commuted Value? He says many people go to their investment advisors to seek assistance on deciding what to do with their pension. But there is a clear conflict of interest.  “Your advisor can be a good source of information for deciding which funds to invest the commuted value in should you decide to take it, but at the end of the day the decision should be yours and yours alone,” he concludes.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Oct 31: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Last week we included links to blogs and articles discussing the implications of the new mortgage rules announced by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in early October. But the ultimate impact of these changes on individuals and the housing market are still emerging. Here is some additional insight you may be interested in.

RateSpy.com’s mortgage expert Robert McLister writes that the Feds Nuked the Mortgage Market. He calls it “a stealth rate hike” by federal policy-makers that is an end run around Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz  who has opted not to drive up Canadian interest rates.

Even Liberal MPs are concerned new rules will shut out first-time homebuyers  and they are wondering why Morneau didn’t consult the national Liberal caucus or the House Finance Committee prior to making the announcement intended to cool down the overheated housing market in major urban centres.

But Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen says Cool It. The Feds Aren’t Killing The Housing Market. He acknowledges that home builders are upset with the feds for introducing new rules, but says maybe this time the feds got it right. Commenting on this blog, Michael James from Michael James on Money says, “Maybe new rules will save some from the biggest financial mistake of their lives.”

If you or someone you know has been saving for a down payment, Canada’s New Mortgage Rules: This Is How Much You Can Afford in the Huffington Post includes a great chart that will help prospective buyers to determine how much house they can afford with 20% down based on a benchmark qualifying interest rate of 4.64%.

And finally, Sean Cooper says in spite of the new mortgage rules, First-Time Homebuyers Shouldn’t Throw in the Towel. He says, “While I’m not a fan of parents gifting their adult children their entire down payment, there’s even more reason now for parents to top up their child’sdown payment to reach 20% and avoid the stricter qualifying rate.” He also believes first-time homeowners should avoid buying “too much house.”


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10 things you need to know about enhanced CPP benefits

By Sheryl Smolkin

Well, the earth moved and in late June at a meeting of provincial/federal finance ministers, Bill Morneau got the consensus he needed from eight provinces including Saskatchewan for the phase in of modest enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan. As a result Ontario has agreed to shelve its plans for a home-grown Ontario Registered Pension Plan.

The feds plan to start collecting higher premiums beginning January 1, 2019. Many details still have to be ironed out, but here are 10 things you need to know about how enhanced CPP benefits will impact both employers and employees.

  1. The Canada Pension Plan Act says that once a sufficient number of provincial governments have indicated support, the federal government can move forward and lock in the reform with an Order in Council—no new Parliamentary debate or legislation is required. From that point forward, the expansion will be fixed in place unless amended through a subsequent agreement of two-thirds of provinces to reverse the expansion—which is very unlikely.
  2. If you are already retired or close to retirement you will not benefit from the changes. Someone retiring in 2020 who made one year of the increased contribution would get a tiny amount. Someone retiring in 2030 would have 10 years of extra contributions.
  3. Canadians who work a full 40 years will see their benefits increase (in 2016 dollars) to a maximum of $17,478 instead of $13,000. Therefore the replacement rate will inch up from 25% of the Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) to one-third.
  4. The maximum amount of income subject to CPP will increase 14%  from $54,900 this year to $82,700.
  5. Increased premiums of one percent will be phased in over seven years beginning in 2019. That means depending on the income levels of individual Canadians, up to $408 will come off their pay cheques.
  6. The refundable tax credit known as the federal working income tax credit will be expanded to help low-income Canadians offset the increase in premiums.
  7. Changes will not impact RRSP (and SPP) contribution room.
  8. To avoid increasing the after-tax cost of the added premiums, Ottawa will provide a tax deduction for the additional contributions rather than a tax credit.
  9. Company pension plans are not always offered – particularly Defined Benefit plans. Therefore it makes sense that young people and mid-career employees will benefit.
  10. Participation is mandatory and from the limited information released to date, it appears that even companies that do have a pension plan will have to make additional contributions and their employees will not be exempt.

Jun 13: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Next week Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will again be meeting with provincial and territorial finance ministers to talk about options for improving Canada Pension Plan benefits. This protracted discussion has been going on for as long as I can remember, but the hurdles remain the same.

CPP changes require the support of Ottawa plus seven of the 10 provinces representing two-thirds of the population. When the finance ministers last met in December 2015, Ontario which is currently going at it alone, PEI, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick gave CPP improvements a “thumbs up.” Quebec, B.C. Saskatchewan and Alberta vetoed the idea.

Here are some links to recent articles in the mainstream media that will bring you up-to-date on the various arguments made by stakeholders in the debate.

Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour says the proportion of their incomes that Canadians put into CPP, and will someday get back as pension payments, “is not enough.” Nevertheless he is optimistic since many Canadian politicians — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — agree there’s a pension problem because many Canadians can’t retire on what they’ll get from the CPP under current rates.

After the finance ministers met in December 2015, Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), and Marilyn Braun-Pollon, Saskatchewan vice-president of CFIB told the Regina Leader-Post that small business owners are relieved that Canada’s finance ministers have put plans to expand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) on hold. “They are relieved but they’ve expressed a desire to see a shift in the conversation,” Braun-Pollon said.

The Globe and Mail reports that a coalition of business groups and youth advocates is calling for an expanded Canada Pension Plan, but only if it is targeted at middle-income levels. The coalition argues that higher premiums to pay for more generous retirement benefits should kick in at annual earnings of about $27,500. They argue helping Canadians who earn less than that is better accomplished through Old Age Security and the related Guaranteed Income Supplement.

The Ontario government recently announced it is delaying the introduction of its Ontario Retirement Pension Plan until 2018 while it negotiates with the federal government and other provinces on an enhanced CPP. However, at this point, the government says it still intends to proceed with the ORPP as it’s unlikely that all provinces can agree on a CPP enhancement large enough to take the place of the ORPP. Here’s what you need to know about the ORPP:

And Fred Vettese, the Chief Actuary of Morneau Shepell writes in the Financial Post that he is actually in favour of CPP expansion if it is done right. He says one thing it will certainly do is to raise the under-savers (and there are many of them) closer to the standard of living they enjoyed while working. The unanswered question is how much closer should they be without having to save on their own?

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card and

 

BOOK REVIEW: THE REAL RETIREMENT Why you could be better off than you think

By Sheryl Smolkin

7Aug-The+Real+Retirement

The Real Retirement by Morneau Shepell Chief Actuary Fred Vettese and Bill Morneau, Executive Chairman of Morneau Shepell was released and extensively reviewed by the media in 2013.

However, I decided to circle back to this book over a year later because it is much more optimistic than many of the personal finance books I have reviewed since January.

Most financial writers seem to be trying to guilt readers into forgoing consumption during their working lives in order to accumulate sufficient RRSP savings to generate 70% of pre-retirement income.

In contrast, Vettese and Morneau present well-reasoned arguments to illustrate that income replacement of 50% or even less post-retirement will result in a “neutral retirement income” (NRIT), i.e. similar patterns of consumption for retirees.

Initially, they note that there are three phases of retirement:

Phase 1: From retirement age to the mid or late 70s or even later if you are healthy you are most likely to travel to exotic locations and pursue expensive hobbies. Therefore your income requirements will be highest in this phase.

Phase 2: In the second phase of retirement you may have diminished physical or mental capabilities. If so, you will travel less and cut back on strenuous activities. Therefore you will spend less money.

Phase 3: In the last years of your life you may be more physically or mentally impaired. You may need to be in a nursing home, or if you are wealthy enough, in an upscale retirement home with nursing care.

As a result, planning to spend more in the first decade of retirement will not necessarily mean that you will run out of money before you run out of time.

I thought it was particularly interesting that when considering available resources that can generate retirement income for Canadians, unlike many other personal financial writers, the authors also factor in the value of “Pillar 4 assets” including real estate, business equity and non-registered savings.

They use the following population breakdown in their calculations:

Income Quartile Average total income (couple)
Quartile 1 $29,000
Quartile 2 $53,000
Quartile 3 $78,000
Quartile 4 $110,000
Quartile 5 $204,000

The bottom quartile is dropped out because it is assumed that government benefits such as CPP, OAS and the GIS will provide better than average income replacement.

For the most part, Quartile 5 is also excluded since a couple with an income of over $200,000 has typically saved in RRSPs and has other Pillar 4 assets that can augment retirement ravings.

Vettese presents an example of a couple in Quartile 3 with $78,000 in annual income at age 65 and assumes they saved 6.5% annually in an RRSP from age 30 until retirement, Once their RRSP balance is converted to a RRIF at age 65, including government benefits they will have an income after retirement of $48,600/year.

Although retirement income for this couple is just 62% of their pre-retirement income, they no longer make RRSP and CPP contributions; have EI deductions and other employment costs; and pay a mortgage or child-raising costs. Their income taxes are also much lower.

The net result is that they have $14,000 more in disposable income to spend post-retirement! Although each family’s financial situation differs, the authors conclude that an NRIT which equalizes consumption before and after retirement generally only requires about 50% of pre-retirement income.

A calculations using a couple in Quartile 4 ($116,000 before retirement) reveals that the NRIT is just 44%. Furthermore, they can achieve their NRIT with 35 years of RRSP contributions equal to 3.5% of household income. And in general the higher the income level, the lower the NRIT.

This book is an interesting read because it presents a different perspective on the perennial questions, “How much will I need in retirement?” and “How much do I have to save to accumulate the amount I will require?”

While Vettese and Morneau suggest the answers to these questions may be “less than you think,” it doesn’t mean you don’t have to save at all. And all of the scenarios assume you retire free of mortgage and other debt. They also presume a drop in employment expenses and taxes payable that may not apply in your situation.

But if you thought the only thing you have to look forward to is Freedom 75, reading this book will cheer you up. Retiring at age 65 may in fact be a perfectly reasonable objective and you might even be able to afford a nice annual vacation or two while you are still well enough to travel.

The Real Retirement can be purchased online from Chapters for $15.64.

Fred Vettese
Fred Vettese
Bill Morneau
Bill Morneau