moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for bringing this to third reading because it is a privilege to speak in the House to Bill C-208, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, transfer of small business or family farm or a fishing corporation.
I want to begin my remarks by thanking a few of my colleagues who helped get my private member's bill to third reading much quicker than originally planned. Particularly, I want to thank my good friend, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Grasswood, who traded his private member's bill spot during the second reading, which allowed a vote to occur a few weeks earlier than scheduled. I also want to thank my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle, who traded his private member's bill spot. That is the reason we are debating Bill C-208 this evening.
The reason I am highlighting and thanking these two specific members is that time is of the essence. No one knows what the future holds or when an election is going to occur. These matters are outside of my control, so I want to focus on getting this legislation passed to support all small businesses. We must correct this massive injustice within the Income Tax Act that unfairly punishes individuals when they sell their qualifying small business, farm or fishing operation to their own family.
For those members who have not been closely following the debate, I will give a brief overview. As it stands, when a qualifying small business, farm or fishing operation is sold to a member of the owner's own family, the Income Tax Act treats the sale differently than if it were sold to an absolute stranger.
Yes, members heard that right. There are currently two sets of rules, and in some cases, it can result in the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars. For some, that might not sound like a lot, but in many cases it could result in a parent making the tough decision to sell their business to a complete stranger rather than to their own children. That is wrong, and I intend on fixing it once and for all.
During my first hour of debate, I gave two examples of why Bill C-208 is needed.
The first involved a family wanting to sell their bakery to their daughter. If they sold the bakery to a stranger rather than their daughter, they would have an effective tax rate of 10%, after using their lifetime capital gains exemption. However, if they sold their bakery to their daughter, she would be obligated to repay their loan with personal tax dollars, which is a significant tax penalty.
The second example was a father wanting to sell his farm to his son to fund his retirement. If the father were to sell his farm to a stranger, he could use his capital gains exemption on the sale, resulting in an effective tax rate of 13.39%. However, if the farmer sold his farm to his son, that sale would be recorded as a dividend rather than a capital gain, and the farmer would pay 47.4% in tax. That is a huge difference, and I think we can all agree that it is completely unfair.
Since I introduced this legislation, I have been contacted by numerous agricultural and business organizations. People across the country have contacted my office to let me know how important this legislation is to their family. Every single constituency in Canada would be positively impacted by this legislation, and it would result in more locally owned and operated businesses, the type of businesses whose owners are deeply involved in their communities and provide steady employment for countless individuals, and it would help keep farms and fishing operations in the family.
Bill C-208 sends a strong message of hope to young farmers who want to carry on what their family started and to other young family entrepreneurs included with them. Most of all, it would bring tax fairness to the Income Tax Act. No longer would parents have to be given a false choice of having to choose between a larger retirement package by selling to a stranger, which has no charge, or a massive tax bill because they sold to a family member.
Other than Finance Canada officials, I received zero push-back from any of the expert witnesses who appeared in front of the finance committee. Witness after witness came to support the bill and to answer the questions put to them. All my colleagues who sit on the finance committee did their due diligence and asked insightful questions. I want to thank the chair of the finance committee, who helped shepherd this legislation, for scheduling ample time for witnesses.
I am pleased to report that the concerns put forward by the Liberal MPs were fully answered. While I do not know how they will vote at third reading, I would kindly ask for their support. Now that we have had hours of debate and a thorough committee study, there is sufficient evidence to justify the changes I am proposing.
The Income Tax Act is complex. It has been changed and amended over the years, and in many circumstances one needs a lawyer or accountant to decipher its intent. With that in mind, the finance committee prudently invited multiple tax experts. In many cases, they gave real-world examples, so members were able to better grasp the implications of the bill. Due to the member for Kingston and the Islands laying out Finance Canada's concerns during second reading, we knew exactly what questions the Liberal MPs were going to ask. Because the government outlined its argument during second reading, the tax experts and I had time to prepare in order to put its fears to rest.
We know what the bill will cost, due to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's analysis, as I have said in previous speeches. We know there are safeguards built into the legislation to ensure people do not skirt tax rules. We know the legislation is squarely focused on small and medium-sized qualifying businesses. We know the legislation, as drafted, will achieve its intended aim, which is to level the playing field in such transactions.
For those members who want further reasons to support the bill, I will highlight some specific comments and evidence provided to the finance committee.
Brian Janzen, who is a senior tax manager at Deloitte, appeared at the finance committee. As someone who has been handling business transfers for close to 30 years, he understands the Income Tax Act and the implications of section 84.1, which he said has been a thorn in the industry's side for many years.
In his opening remarks, he provided an example of what would happen with or without the current wording of section 84.1 regarding the sale of a business. He gave the example of a restaurant that is worth a million dollars. If the owner sells the restaurant to a stranger, he, according to Mr. Janzen, “will walk away with after-tax proceeds...of around $971,000.” He would pay roughly $29,000 in taxes, but if the restaurant were to sell to a family member, the taxes paid would be roughly “$466,000 because of the deemed dividend. That's a difference, between the two scenarios, of $437,000.”
I think Mr. Janzen summed it up quite nicely when he said, “That's just crazy.” I agree with him. It is crazy. This sort of scenario is playing out every single day, and it needs to stop.
Mr. Janzen also said in his opening remarks, “This bill is helping the lower end of the small business community; it is not helping the huge, rich companies even if they're family owned.”
Cindy David, who is the chair of the board for the Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting in Canada appeared at the finance committee and spoke about the necessity of getting this bill passed. She said:
...there's some urgency around the need for the government to act in amending 84.1.... [as] small businesses employ 70% of the private sector and have been major contributors to employment growth over the past decade. A vast majority of those businesses have fewer than 20 employees.
The last comment I want to highlight was made by Dustin Mansfield, who is a chartered professional accountant at BDO Canada. Mr. Mansfield knows first hand the challenges the current wording of section 84.1 causes for families and how it unfairly taxes them at a different rate.
Of Bill C-208, he said, “the legislation would put a successor child of a business in the same shoes as an unrelated party upon the transaction of the business. Why does a stranger receive better tax treatment than a child, when the purpose is to keep businesses within the family?” I do not think Dustin posed this as a rhetorical question.
The fact remains that there are some who do not want this legislation to pass. However, we were elected to lead, to improve the quality of life of those we represent and to make sure that we pass down a stronger nation than the one we inherited. We cannot take our prosperity for granted.
I urge my colleagues to carefully review the testimony provided at the finance committee; call their chambers of commerce, or local farmers and fishers; go make a few phone calls to local accountants or other tax experts; and speak to those who have been impacted to ask them if they think it is fair that they had to pay more taxes for the business to stay in the family. Members will find almost universal support for this bill. They will also find there is bipartisan support. We need to pass this bill and send it to the Senate.
Private Members' Business gives all of us an opportunity to set aside our political allegiances, and I would kindly ask my Liberal colleagues to allow this legislation to go to a vote. If the debate carries on, it will be even further pushed back. Once again, I thank all my colleagues who supported Bill C-208 and helped to get it this far. Out of all the attempts made to fix this unfair tax treatment, we have made it the furthest in Parliament.
By working together, we can support our entrepreneurs, small businesses, farmers and fishers who make up the backbone of our economy, so let us roll up our sleeves and get this job done.