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.
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