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  • Charles Rotenberg


In the midst of all of the controversy over Finance Minister Morneau’s small business tax proposals, and his own conflict of interest controversy, he bought himself a few days of 'relative calm' by announcing that he would table the Government’s Fall Economic Statement today. That period ends today.

He delivered nothing to change any of the proposals related to small business. Attached to the posting from the Department of Finance were links to documents already tabled last week, of which I have already written.

This was a meek attempt at a feel good statement about the deficit, increasing the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) and moving up the start of indexing the Canada Child Benefit (CCB).

Morneau announced a reduction in the deficit by $8.5 Billion. This is not insignificant, except that the Liberals came into office projecting a deficit of $10B and the deficit is approximately double that. The Liberals promised that “the Budget will balance itself” by 2019. Now there is no time projected when the Budget will be balanced.

The earlier indexing of the CCB means that for the 2019–20 benefit year, for a single parent with $35,000 of income and two children (one under the age of 6 and one aged 6 to 17), the accelerated indexation of the CCB will contribute $560 to the family income.

The WITB is a refundable tax credit that provides income support by supplementing the earnings of low-income workers (by up to $1,043 for single individuals without children and $1,894 for families.

The Liberals have put money back into the economy. After all, they did pay over $200,000 for design and art work for the 2017 Federal Budget document. When asked in an interview on CTV news for a promise not to do that again, he avoided the issue.

There was no news for small and medium business – no clarification of the rules related to passive income, income sprinkling, capital gains, or any of the other provisions introduced on July 18th, and then amended slightly on October 16th.

In the July 18th proposals, there were rules to prevent small businesses from paying dividends to family members who, in the opinion of the Canada Revenue Agency, did not make a “reasonable contribution” to the business. There was a minor comment about simplifying these rules in the October 16th document. BUT, there are no details as to how this will be implemented or administered AND the rules are scheduled to come into force January 1st, 2018.

What is clear from today’s “non-announcement” and the announcements from last week, is the following:

  1. Morneau has not addressed the harm that his tax proposals will cause to small businesses and farm families. For him, and Trudeau, to continue to argue that the proposals will not affect anyone earning less than $150,000 per year is an outright lie.

  2. The difficulty, and cost, of complying with the new rules, whatever they will be, will be unfair and substantial.

  3. The new rules related to income sprinkling, and the taxation of passive investment income are unclear, and are an attack on existing small business structures implemented for business and estate planning purposes based upon rules that have been in place, in many cases for 45 years. They have not allowed any reasonable time for taxpayers to adjust their affairs.

  4. The new rules related to passive income are uncertain. They will add tremendous complexity, and increased compliance costs, primarily for small and medium businesses.

  5. The change to the passive income investment rules announced last week, belies Morneau’s comments about “dead” capital. By providing that pre-2018 capital will not be included under the new rules, the “dead” capital is not affected. What will be affected is the ability of younger entrepreneurs to accumulate capital. These provisions benefit “old” money and directly attack small and medium businesses that Morneau and Trudeau claim to be trying to benefit.

  6. Small Businesses and Farm Families have to keep the pressure on Members of Parliament * and Senators ** to have a proper review of the tax system and have fairness in any new rules being introduced, including a reasonable time frame to have any new rules implemented.

  7. There is immediate action required for all small businesses to pay out dividends to “non-contributing” family members, before the end of 2017.

If last week’s announcement of today’s Fall Economic Statement bought Morneau any short term honeymoon period while we waited for some substantive announcements, the honeymoon is over.

I look forward to working with my friends and clients to ensure that your businesses are in the best possible position, in the circumstances, as we head into a new tax regime in 2018.

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