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.
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.