Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Liberal Tax Controversy

Andrew Scheer
The Liberals are targeting local business owners with a political campaign that plays up the politics of envy and resentment, pitting one group of Canadians against another, dividing us instead of uniting us.

What has struck me over the past year since the Liberal government took office is that every time they see a problem, the answer is always to raise taxes. When the Conservatives see an issue, a problem, or an aspect in our tax system, we always look for ways to lower taxes.  This is the fundamental difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives. (Hon. Andrew Scheer)

Pierre Poilievre
Hon. Pierre Poilievre (Carleton, CPC)


   That, given the proposed changes to the taxation of private corporations as outlined in the Minister of Finance's paper “Tax Planning Using Private Corporations” will have a drastic negative impact on small and medium sized local businesses, the House call on the government to continue, until January 31, 2018, its consultations on these measures.

   He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. Leader of the Opposition.

   The government says it wants to avoid unintended consequences from its proposed tax changes.   Here is one. What if these proposals simultaneously raise taxes and reduce government revenue?

   Let us consider the government's new tax on so-called passive income. Under the present system, when all is said and done, small business earnings are taxed at the same rate as wages. The only difference is timing. Assuming a 50% personal income tax rate, a wage earner pays 50¢ on the dollar in the year it is earned. A business, by contrast, pays 15¢ in the year it is earned and the remaining 35¢ when she takes the money out of the company. The government claims that this is allowing the business owner to invest that 35¢ inside her company, growing a bigger nest egg than she would if she had paid all the tax up front. This, according to the finance minister, is unfair.

   To prove it, the finance minister's so-called consultation document has a table showing how much better off this small business woman is from investing the after-tax proceeds of $100,000 of business earnings versus investing the after-tax proceeds of $100,000 in wages. In the first instance, the business owner has starting capital of $85,000, with the small business tax rate being roughly 15%, in most provinces. As an employee, she would have only $50,000 as starting capital.

   The result is that if both she and her employee had the same money and invested the after-tax proceeds, she, as a small business owner, would have $62,000 at the end of a 10-year investment, and the employee would have about $58,000, using the round numbers the government provides in table 7 of its consultation paper. It is $62,000 at the end of the day at the end of the 10-year period for the small business woman, and $58,000 for the employee. It is not fair, right? However, there is one key detail the finance department excluded from this table. In fact, the only detail that matters is excluded, and that is who actually paid more tax, the small business woman or the employee, after the 10-year period, assuming a 3% rate of return, as the department's table does. The government omitted that calculation altogether. It did not want people to know who paid more taxes at the end of the day.

   I had a respected tax modelling firm, headed by Jay Goodis, the chartered professional accountant and CEO of Tax Templates, do the math the government left out of the consultation paper. Let us break it down. It is true that the employee paid more tax up front: $50,367, to be exact. He then paid another $8,023 on the interest earned in the subsequent 10 years, for a total tax bill of $58,390.

   The business woman, on the other hand, paid admittedly less money up front: $14,400. She then paid another $5,412 on her interest. So far it is true that the business person paid a little bit less. However, at the end of the 10-year period of investment, when she took the money out, she actually paid a whopping $45,238, because that tax was not avoided; it was merely deferred. She paid a total of $65,050, or about $6,700 more than the employee.

   How is it possible that the small business person actually paid more tax and had more money at the end of the 10-year cycle? The answer is that the money on the deferred tax grew to a larger total, so when she pulled it out, there was more money to tax. In other words, both the business owner and the government are actually better off. This, again, is under the scenario the government put in its consultation paper, lest my friends across the way try to accuse me of contriving the right circumstance to get the right result.

   To be fair, we need to take account of inflation. The business owner did pay the $35,000 in tax at the end of the 10 years, as opposed to the beginning, and during that time the value of money declined. The Bank of Canada has a target rate of inflation of 2%, which reduces the value of that $35,000 by $6,403, but still, even if we subtract that $6,403, the small business woman paid $250 more in tax than the employee did in this scenario.

   The scenario of course was perfectly contrived by the government to produce the best possible result to make its case. Now I am using it to make mine, but if that business person and that employee had earned, say, 6%, which is still a very reasonable return, then the business woman would have paid almost $8,000 more in tax after inflation was factored in than the employee in the exact same circumstance.

 Also, the calculation is extremely conservative. I am excluding the benefits of having the entrepreneur invest the money up-front and to pay the taxes later. For example, the companies she is lending to or investing in are paying her 3% for a reason. They are using her capital to hire people and buy profit generating assets, which also generate tax revenue for the government. I am excluding all of that revenue from my calculation.

   The finance minister suggests that these types of passive investments inside a company constitute dead money. He is dead wrong. In fact, this bizarre claim contradicts his own consultation paper, which calculated that these very investments generate $27 billion in income every year. The only way these investments could possibly generate these returns is if the companies receiving the investments use them to fund their own growth.

   How much of that growth would be lost if the government deleted the initial investment by forcing the business owner to pay that extra 35% up-front on the principal, or a new double tax of 73% on the resulting income? The $27 billion in growth is a lot of money and it cannot be the result of dead money because we know that dead things do not grow.

   The calculation I put forward also excludes other behavioural responses that would inevitably result from the government's proposed tax increase. With the punitive 73% tax rates the government is threatening to impose on passive income, how many of the investments I just described would simply not happen in the first place? How many young people would look at the diminished reward and simply say, why should I bother taking the risk, or why should I not just invest in another country? Even if none of these behavioural changes happen, if we believe the contrived scenarios the finance minister has developed to make his case, the government will still be getting less lifetime revenue, according to the calculations provided by Jay Goodis, at Tax Templates.

   When I asked the Finance officials these questions, they said it was true that the government would get less revenue, but that it would be fairer because it would be more neutral. That is the kind of negative, adverse thinking that the government has toward our entrepreneurs. This is not a policy of wealth distribution, it is a policy of wealth destruction. The only reason the government wants a policy that will reduce its revenue is that it will increase the revenue in the very short term as money floods out and into the coffers, because the Prime Minister wants to spend the money now and so he wants to tax it now. Our view is that he should consult more, fix these problems, scrap this tax increase, and focus on growing the wealth of the nation so that the rising tide will lift all ships.

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.):  

   Madam Speaker, the current tax system is unfair and needs to be changed since a professional making $250,000 a year and who takes advantage of the current rules could end up paying a lower tax rate than the middle-class employee on salary.  It is very clear that the Government of Canada understands and appreciates the true value of Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it.

Once again, we see a policy coming from the government that reinforces the view that a strong Canada means a strong middle class, yet we see the opposition again trying to attack the government's ability to ensure there is fairer tax for all Canadians.

Why does this opposition oppose having a fairer tax system?

Hon. Pierre Poilievre:  

Madam Speaker, this July the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance made a selfless announcement that the rich should pay more tax, meaning of course that the Prime Minister might have to give up the inherited Mercedes he received from his father and that the finance minister's billion-dollar company would pay much pay much higher tax rates, and that both of them would make great sacrifices so that everyone else could pay less. Just kidding.

In fact, they will not pay a penny more. The billion-dollar family business of the finance minister is excluded, and the family fortune of the Prime Minister is excluded. Just the plumbers, the electricians, and the farmers will pay new tax under this particular proposal.

Speaking of fairness, let us deal with the inequalities they are creating in this system. The passive income from investing in someone else's business will be taxed at higher rates that investment in one's own company. Indeed, there will be a 73% tax on so-called passive investments within a small private company, but no tax increase on a larger publicly traded Bay Street company. There will be pension splitting for government and corporate workers, but no retirement income splitting for retired business people. Furthermore, farmers will pay higher tax in selling their family farm to their kids than to a foreign corporation.

If the Liberals are just trying to create neutrality in the tax code, why will there be so many new inequalities and so much more unfairness?

Mr. Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, NDP):

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my Conservative colleague a question, but first I would like to remind him of something that the Liberals do not like to hear.

The Liberal platform of 2015 indicated that they wanted to look at all tax measures, billions of dollars' worth, but nothing was said about targeting just small and medium-sized businesses. They talked about looking at the bigger picture when it comes to tax measures in order to create greater tax fairness. They also promised to lower the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses, which they have not done.

Instead of looking at the bigger picture, the Liberals botched the consultation process by holding it in the middle of the summer and talking about only one thing, namely, small and medium-sized businesses.

Does the member agree with the NDP that not only should there be more consultation, but that the consultation process should look at the entire tax structure, as the Liberals had promised?

Hon. Pierre Poilievre:  

   Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

   It is true. The proposed changes are targeted with surgical precision to exclude the wealth of Liberals, ministers, and their friends. For example, tax havens, which the hon. member often talks about, were totally excluded from these changes. We wonder why the government is not looking at areas relating to corporations and billionaires who avoid paying taxes here in Canada.

   If I could just pick up on the earlier premise of my speech, that less revenue might result from these increased tax rates, that is exactly what happened as a result of the Liberals' first tax increase. They said they would collect more money in taxes from the rich. In fact, according to the finance department's annual report, they collected $1 billion less in tax revenue from the wealthiest Canadians as a result of the changes brought in during their first year.

   By the way, how much will it cost to fund compliance with these new changes? Will they actually make more money as a result or will the cost on the taxpayer simply increase, just as they increased the burden on small business?

Hon. Andrew Scheer (Leader of the Opposition, CPC):

   Madam Speaker, I want to start by thanking my colleague, the shadow minister of finance, for sharing his time with me today.

   Today, our Conservative opposition is demanding that the government give Canada's local business owners a little respect.

    For the past couple of months, our Conservative opposition has heard from Canadians across the country. They come from all walks of life and live in cities and rural areas. They own small local businesses and have people working for them. They are the mechanics and their employees who maintain our cars. They are the coffee shop owners who provide us with a place to meet our friends. They are the farmers who provide us with fresh, healthy food, who want to hand over the family farm to the next generation. They are unanimous when it comes to the Prime Minister's tax increases. The proposed tax increases are a serious threat to their jobs, their livelihood, and their community.

   Small businesses are the backbone of Canada. They are the heart of our economy in communities large and small. That is where we get our first jobs or where people get a fresh start.

   That is why we simply cannot stand by and allow the Liberal government to attack those people. We have been hearing for months of the very real threat these tax hikes pose to local business. The government needs to listen to those voices. That is why we are calling for the consultation period to be extended. There is simply too much on the line for so many hard-working Canadians for the government to get this wrong.

   We are not talking about big multinational corporations, but about our neighbours and people like Bowen Lew, a first generation Canadian I met last week in the market. Bowen owns a company that sells hardwood flooring. He employs five workers. He came to Canada from China because he believed that this was the right place to build his business and raise his family. Bowen wants to expand. He wants to open another location. He wants to hire more workers. That is job creation in action. It is a small business hiring a few more people. However, the Liberal government's new taxes on passive investments and income are putting his expansion plans in jeopardy. It will make it much costlier for him to save within his company.

   The government likes to talk about fairness. It says that it is raising taxes on business operators like Bowen in the name of making things fair for the middle class. That makes no sense.

   That is not fair. Those business owners are honest, hard-working people. They do not have paid vacation or employment insurance benefits to help them. They do not keep track of their overtime hours. Instead, they put everything they have into their business to get people working and to make their community stronger.

   The government demeans people like Bowen and millions like him by calling them “tax cheats”. The Prime Minister has said that “a large percentage of small businesses are actually just ways for wealthy Canadians to save on their taxes”. That is astonishing. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and the finance minister run in the kinds of circles where many people do set up these types of corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. However, the millions of Canadians across this country like Bowen are doing it to create something for their family, an opportunity. The Liberals are targeting local business owners with a political campaign that plays up the politics of envy and resentment, pitting one group of Canadians against another, dividing us instead of uniting us.

   The decision to raise taxes is being made by a government with a major spending problem. The Liberals broke their promise to run a deficit of only $10 billion, and they will not balance the budget by 2019. According to the government's own estimates, Canadians will be paying off its debt for the next 35 years. The government chose local businesses to pay back its out-of-control spending. Rather than taking responsibility for its own mistakes, the government is punishing small businesses.

   Higher taxes help no one, but the Liberal government is determined to impose a massive tax hike with no care for the cost to jobs or the impact on local communities.

   The Liberal government is hurting the very people it claims to help. The Liberals campaigned on a promise to help the middle class. However, according to a recent study, 80% of middle-class families are now paying $800 more a year in taxes as a result of a series of tax hikes, which include an increase in payroll taxes and Canada pension plan premiums, the cancellation of many tax credits that families needed, and a lower TFSA contribution limit.

   That is not all. The Liberals also imposed a national carbon tax. These tax hikes are just another major blow to Canada's small businesses.

   What is so frustrating is listening to the rhetoric that comes from the government. We are asked to believe that this is about fairness. We have already established that what the Liberals are doing is not fair, but let us explore that a bit deeper.

   The Liberals are causing a whole bunch of people to lose out with these proposals, such as anyone who has ever used a passive investment account to save during good times to get through the bad times, female entrepreneurs who decide to self-fund their own maternity leave, and successful business owners who want to save money to open a second location. Perhaps for some years that money was not invested directly into the business. Instead, it was put to work elsewhere in the economy. It was invested in any number of productive enterprises that helped others grow and expand. After those funds were out there for some time, helping with that growth, earning interest and compounding, the owner used that money to open a second location. Anyone who did that is going to lose out under these new proposals.

   It is not dead money, as the finance minister would have us believe. I do not know how he is going to show his face around serious economists after having said that. Does the minister actually believe the money that is saved in investments does not do any good? Is he going to tell all of his millionaire friends, who got exceedingly rich by taking money from Canadians and investing it for themselves, that they have somehow damaged the economy by doing that? His solution for that dead money is to take these defibrillators full of tax hikes and revive that dead money back to life with a 73% tax rate. That will get the job done.

   As so many people will lose under these proposals, we have to ask ourselves who the winners are. Who will be better off? The big answer is nobody.

   The government admits that the current rules on passive income do not cost the government in the long run. At the end of the day, the tax is not avoided; it is deferred. In other words, nobody else has to pay higher taxes because of that tool. Nobody will benefit from tearing people down.

   The answer must be that the Liberals just cannot wait. They need the money now. There will be a temporary spike in government revenue in the year these changes are made, as the deferral is essentially eliminated. That is why the Prime Minister is doing it. The Liberals are desperate for cash after raiding the savings that the previous Conservative government left them.

   Just as the Liberal government is indifferent to the needs of hard-working Canadians, our Conservative opposition is here to give them a voice. We will not stand by and let the government cripple local businesses and threaten jobs with these tax hikes. That is why we are fighting these increases every step of the way.

   Today, the Liberal government has the chance to start repairing the damage it has already done. It has a chance to demonstrate some good faith toward Canada and local business owners. It can extend the consultation period on these tax proposals until January 31, 2018, and why not? What is the downside and what could possibly be wrong with listening to Canadians for a few more months and getting that feedback?

   Extending the consultations would allow local businesses and farmers to really make their voices heard. It is about respect for the people who work hard to create jobs and contribute to their communities. It is high time the government started treating local businesses with the respect they deserve. Canadians expect nothing less. We, the Conservative opposition, will always be there to stand up for them. We are the voice of prosperity and opportunity for all Canadians.

Ms. Kamal Khera (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, Lib.):  

   Madam Speaker, let us be absolutely clear. Middle-class Canadians and hard-working small business owners are not the focus of these changes. In fact, 83% of all passive income is earned by individuals who make more than $250,000 per year. We also know that a professional making $250,000 a year who takes advantage of the current rules could end up paying a lower tax rate than a middle-class employee on salary.

   How is that fair?

Hon. Andrew Scheer:  

   Madam Speaker, I am sure that local business owners who have to lay off an employee after these changes go through will take solace and comfort from knowing they were not the target of these tax changes and that they were hit hard accidentally. They will feel much better about themselves and the government, knowing the government did not mean to kill those jobs or hurt those opportunities. They will feel much better when they go home at night and write that big cheque to the taxman instead of the employee, knowing they were not really the intended target.

   I do not think any Canadian will buy that. That will not comfort anybody who loses his or her job because of these tax changes.

Mr. Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, NDP):  

   Madam Speaker, what does the member think about all the broken promises of the Liberals. It would be very interesting, because they were supposed to help small businesses by reducing their taxation from 11% to 9%, but they did nothing. They were supposed to study the whole system of tax evasion, but they are targeting only small businesses. They were promising to tackle the loopholes of big CEOs, which is costing almost $800 million per year.

   Why are they targeting families and small businesses but are leaving their friends on Bay Street safe and alone?

Hon. Andrew Scheer:  

   Madam Speaker, my colleague pointed out so much in his question, which I think more and more Canadians are starting to realize. The issue here is that no matter what the Liberals say they are trying to do, it is always the people they claim to help who are hurt the most by their policies. Whether it is protecting their friends on Bay Street, while attacking all those on Main Street, this is just another example.

   All the Finance Minister's friends on Bay Street, his colleagues at Morneau Shepell, all those who attend those $1,500 cash for access fundraisers will not pay more. Those who own shares in publicly-traded, multinational companies will not be affected by this. That is what is so hypocritical about these Liberal proposals.

Ms. Yasmin Ratansi (Don Valley East, Lib.):  

   Madam Speaker, we are all here to solve a problem. We all know that small and medium-sized enterprises create jobs. However, the member has suggested that the proposal will affect contractors, plumbers, and small and medium-sized enterprises. I have the proposed changes in front of me. Could he tell me which section applies to that? I would really like to know.

Hon. Andrew Scheer:  

   Madam Speaker, that question exhibits the need for this motion. She clearly has not been listening to Canadians who are coming to town halls and explaining how this will affect their businesses. Since the member has just demonstrated to her colleagues why we need a longer consultation period, because clearly Liberal members have not been hearing enough from Canadians, how will she vote on this motion today? Will this be a free vote? Will Liberal members who are hearing from constituents be allowed to vote in favour of this motion to extend the consultation period?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate reading original source material.