Tag Archives: Finance Minister

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.

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.”


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 25: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Major changes to the mortgage rules announced by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in early October have both existing homeowners and people planning to buy a home for the first time scratching their heads. They are wondering precisely what the changes are and how they will be personally impacted.

Here are some blogs and media articles that may answer some of their questions (and yours).

In his blog Dave the Mortgage Planner, Dave Larock presents a three- part look at the new mortgage reality:

Part 1 looks at changes effective October 17th.  Beginning on that date all insured mortgage applications will be underwritten using the Bank of Canada’s Mortgage Qualifying Rate (MQR). As of the date the blog was written  the MQR was set at 4.64%, which is about double what you would actually pay for a market five-year variable-rate mortgage, and that gap helps ensure that the borrowers most vulnerable to rate rises can afford higher payments when the time comes.

Part 2 covers additional rule changes that will take place November 30th. Until now, the rules for insuring low-ratio mortgages have been more lenient than those used for high-ratio mortgages, in recognition of the fact that low-ratio loans have more paid-in equity, which makes them inherently less risky. But after November 30, the qualifying rules used to underwrite portfolio-insured low-ratio loans will be the same as those that are used to underwrite insured high-ratio loans.

Part 3 explains why Dave believes these changes are necessary, and who the winners and losers are in the new world of mortgages. For example, he says Canadian home owners in hot markets, where property values are better protected when lending standards are raised and household debt accumulation slows are winners. However losers include high-ratio borrowers, who just saw the rate that lenders use to qualify them for a five-year fixed-rate (which most of them are choosing) more than double.

In a CTV News story, Meredith McLeod reports that until now, buyers with more than a 20% down payment opting for mortgage insurance have escaped stress testing. They were able to obtain low-ratio insurance sold through two private insurers, but backed by the federal government, subject to a 10% deductible. Starting Nov.30, new criteria for low-ratio insurance will take effect. To qualify, the mortgage’s amortization period must be 25 years or less, the purchase price be less than $1 million, the property has to be owner-occupied, and the buyer must have a credit score of 600 or more.

While the new mortgage rules respond to legitimate concerns about escalating home prices in the red-hot Toronto and Vancouver real estate markets, it is still unclear how they will impact smaller cities and towns in other provinces where prices are more stable, or in some cases even dropping. Todd Kristoff, a Regina mortgage broker told CBC there has already been a correction of roughly five percent over the last several years in Saskatchewan and therefore the changes are not necessarily needed in this province.


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.

Jun 8: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Over the last few weeks bloggers and mainstream media have been reacting to Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s surprise pre-election announcement of the government’s intention to add a voluntary component to the Canada Pension Plan. Here is sample of some of the buzz created by this proposal.

I wrote Voluntary CPP contributions will favour high earners on RetirementRedux and the blog was re-posted by John Chevreau on the Financial Independence Hub. I believe that too many questions remain unanswered and if voluntary CPP contributions are locked in until retirement, even when middle or low earners finally bite the bullet and set up a payroll savings plan, chances are they will opt for an RRSP or TFSA so they can get at the money in an emergency. Because employers probably won’t have to match contributions, there will be incentive for employees to contribute more money to CPP.

On Retire Happy, Jim Yih questions whether voluntary CPP contributions are a good idea. Yih also notes that the devil is in the details, and suggests that if there is no employer matching there is little difference between voluntary contributions to CPP or RRSPs (individual and group). Lower cost investing may be a plus but he says investors already have access to lower cost investments through Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).

In the Globe and Mail, Bill Curry reports that the Conservative government rejected a voluntary expansion of the Canada Pension Plan five years ago as overly expensive and misguided, a history that is raising questions as to why it is now proposing that very idea. “This was rejected unanimously by our partners in the federation when we met and discussed the issue because it would not work and because the CPP would be unable to administer it,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told the House of Commons in September 2010.

In the StarPhoenix, Andrew Coyne writes Whether voluntary or mandatory, there is no need to expand the CPP. He says, “If people are saving about as much as they want to  now, then forcing them to save more in one way, through an expanded CPP, may simply result in an offsetting reduction in their other savings, in their RRSPs or TFSAs.” He also opines that those of modest means are already well-served by the existing CPP and the further you climb the income scale, the hazier the case for public intervention becomes.

And finally, a Toronto Star editorial says Harper’s pension ‘fix’ falls short. This piece suggests that by far the best way to forestall a retirement income crisis would be to expand and enhance the existing, highly acclaimed CPP, by upping the input from employers and employees alike. With $265 billion in assets and an enviable 18.3% return last year, the plan has expert management, huge scale and a low-cost structure. Employers and workers pay equally, to a combined maximum of just under $5,000 this year. It locks in contributions over the long haul and it provides a safe, predictable retirement income.

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 with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.