Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Sept 25: Best from the blogosphereSeptember 25, 2017
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 email@example.com by October 1st.
This paper focuses on three issues:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.|
Jun 13: Best from the BlogosphereJune 13, 2016
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
Canada needs more CPP says lawyer Ari KaplanApril 2, 2015
By Sheryl Smolkin
As part of the ongoing series of podcast interviews on savewithspp.com, today I’m talking to lawyer Ari Kaplan, a partner in the Pension and Benefits Group of the Toronto law firm Koskie, Minsky, L.L.P.
Ari is the author of Canada’s leading textbook on pension law, and he has acted as counsel in some of Canada’s most widely known pension cases before the Supreme Court of Canada. In addition, he teaches pension law as an adjunct professor of law at both the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School.
In his spare time, Ari heads up licensing and publishing at Paper Bag Records, a leading, independent record label and artist management company also based in Toronto.
Today, we are going to talk about the Canada Pension Plan. In the ongoing national debate regarding how Canadians can be encouraged to save more for retirement, Ari is a staunch advocate for an expansion to the Canadian Pension Plan.
Welcome, Ari, and thanks for talking to me today.
My pleasure, Sheryl. Thanks for having me.
Q: How many Canadians currently have workplace pension plans?
A: Well, that’s a good question to put everything in perspective. Over 60% of working Canadians actually have no workplace pension plan, and they must rely solely on CPP and their own personal savings for their retirement income.
Q: Why do you think that an enhanced Canada Pension Plan is the best way to give Canadians a more robust retirement income?
A: Very simple. It’s currently the only universal and mandatory savings scheme in the country. It’s portable from job to job. If you’re a student, you can work for the summer in British Columbia and then come back to a full-time job in Ontario, and your CPP credits will go with you. Also, it doesn’t just cover employees. It applies to self-employment, which most workplace pension plans don’t.
Q: As early as 2008, industry guru Keith Ambachtsheer wrote a C.D. Howe Institute commentary about the benefits of enhancing the Canada Pension Plan. Yet, in December 2013, the conservative government in several Canadian provinces voted against this proposal. Why do you think this occurred?
A: Every respected economist in the country supports a CPP expansion. The reason why the current government did not support it is political, not principled.
There was political pressure from business lobby groups who did not want to be forced to contribute employer revenue toward their employees’ retirement. There was political pressure from the financial services lobby, because they do not benefit at all when the retirement savings of Canadians is held in the CPP Trust Fund.
And finally, there’s fear among Canadian voters, who’ve been led to believe that anything opposed by business must be bad for them, too. Some of them also don’t want to be forced to save for retirement.
Q: Instead of expanding the CPP, the late finance minister, Jim Flaherty and the provinces endorsed pooled registered pension plan legislation as the way to encourage Canadians to save more for retirement. What are the key features of PRPPs?
A: Good question. PRPPs are basically like voluntary employer-sponsored group RRSPs. The funds are locked in, so it resembles a registered defined contribution plan. Your funds can also be ported to another plan and there are survivor benefits. So, it’s basically like an “RRSP-plus.”
Q: Why do you think that PRPP’s are not the answer?
A: Well, I think PRPPs are just a prime example of what I said earlier – political lobbying by business and the financial industry.
- The employer is not required to contribute a dime even if the company voluntarily sponsors a PRPP.
- An employee can opt out, or voluntarily set their contribution rate to zero, which gives zero benefit to the employee.
- There’s very little benefit security. Like I said, it’s like a DC plan, so you get to choose member-directed investment funds. If you don’t invest your money well, then you won’t get a good pension.
- The cost structure is really not that much different than a 500-member group RRSP. The management expense ratio (MER) will be much higher under a PRPP than under a large workplace pension plan or, for that matter, under CPP, where the efficiencies of scale are such that the costs are very, very, very low.
- It will create a huge windfall to insurance companies and other financial institutions who manage these funds, because there’s very few cost controls. There are lots of problems in group RRSPs with so-called “hidden fees” and there’s no indication that that will change with PRPPs.
I can go on, but I think you get the idea.
Q: Groups such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business say that required employer contributions to an expanded CPP would amount to a significant payroll tax that could slow down economic growth. How would you respond to this statement?
A: To be quite blunt, this is a false and misleading statement. Anyone who tells you it’s a tax is not telling you the truth. This is employee money. It goes into a pension fund. It then goes back to the employee.
Q: Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne’s government is currently holding consultations on the design of an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan. What are some of the key features of that plan?
A: At the end of December of last year, the Ontario government introduced the first reading of the bill for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan intended to commence at the beginning of 2017. The reason for the delay period is because there’s hope that the next federal government may agree enhance CPP, which could make the ORPP redundant.
But the key features are that it’s a mandatory plan. It’s like an adjunct to CPP. So, it would be mandatory in all Ontario workplaces, except where the employer already has a workplace pension plan for its workforce, and it would be integrated with the CPP.
Q: Several other provinces, like PEI, may jump on the same bandwagon, so why do we still need a national CPP enhancement?
A: Well, it would better if the federal government came on board to make it nationwide. I mean if we just have it province by province, then it’ll be more of a patchwork. This could influence inter-provincial mobility. We don’t want to discourage full inter-provincial mobility by Canadians.
Q: Well – and, of course, the other issue is – just like pension legislation across the country, which is similar, but actually very different when it comes to the details – we run the risk of getting ten or 11 completely different plans.
A: And that would result in over-regulation and an increase in transaction costs although the whole point of this is to minimize and optimize the costs of running the fund — which is why CPP is good model.
CPP is viewed as one of the best universal, mandatory state-sponsored pension plans in the world. It would be a shame for us to have to rely on province-by-province, patchwork participation in such a scheme.
Also, you know, at the end of the day, this is really something that benefits all Canadians, regardless of what age or generation they are in. One way or the other, taxpayers will be taking care of older Canadians who are poor. It’s better that Canadians have their own resources to take care of themselves; and that’s an optimal use of taxpayer resources.
So, I just really think it’s a good idea, and I really think that this is the ballot question for the upcoming federal election this year. We saw this 50 years ago when CPP was introduced. I believe this year there will be a renaissance of that issue.
Q: Thanks, Ari. It was great to talk to you.
A: My pleasure, Sheryl. Be well.
This is an edited version of the podcast posted above which was recorded on February 3, 2014.