Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will introduce the Liberals' first federal budget, which is expected to contain several significant tax measures that may affect a broad swath of your clientele, on March 22.
Here are three potential changes and what, if anything, you should be talking about with your clients in the short time leading up to the budget:
1. Small business owners
The Liberals stated in their election platform that they "will ensure that Canadian Controlled Private Corporation (CCPC) status is not used to reduce personal income tax obligations for high-income earners rather than supporting small businesses." Their platform quoted a University of Ottawa study estimating that "approximately $500 million per year is lost, particularly as high-income individuals use CCPC status as an income-splitting tool."
It's widely expected that the government may introduce rules to restrict access to the small business tax rate — i.e. the low tax rate that applies to the first $500,000 of active business income — to private corporations. Perhaps the government will follow Quebec's lead by requiring a minimum number of employees to gain access to the small business deduction. Beginning in 2017, Quebec businesses that are not in the primary sector (which is largely resource based) or the manufacturing sector will no longer be eligible for the province's small business deduction unless they have more than three full-time employees.
The other possible rule change could be to restrict the ability for professionals to split income with a spouse/partner or adult children by imposing a version of the "kiddie tax" that currently applies to private company dividends payable to minor children by taxing them at the highest marginal rate and thus removing the ability to split income.
Your Advice: If you have clients, including professionals, that own their own businesses who are thinking about incorporating, advise them to hold off until after March 22, when we will have a better idea of how they may be impacted.
2. Employees with stock options
Another tax change included in the Liberals' election platform was to limit the benefits of the 50% employee stock option deduction by placing a cap of $100,000 on annual stock option gains eligible for the deduction. The Liberals quoted a Department of Finance estimate that 8,000 "very high-income Canadians deduct an average of $400,000 from their taxable incomes via stock options."
Your Advice: You can calm down any clients with unexercised, in-the-money employee stock options by advising them that they don't need to rush out and exercise their options before the budget date. That's because in late November 2015, Mr. Morneau said that "[a]ny decision we take on stock options will affect stock options issued from that date forward."
Furthermore, recent news reports indicate that Mr. Morneau may postpone or even drop such a change altogether in response to intense lobbying by companies in the technology sector that rely on non-cash stock option compensation to attract top talent.
3. Parents with children under 18
The Liberals' election platform also promised to replace the universal child care benefit (UCCB), the Canada child tax benefit (CCTB) and the national child benefit supplement (NCBS) with a new tax-free Canada Child Benefit (CCB) that will be tied to household income. The UCCB, which is not income-tested, began in 2006 at $100 a month per child under the age of six; it was enhanced last year to $160 a month for kids under the age of six, with an expansion to include a new benefit of $60 a month for kids aged six through 17.
The platform indicated that no benefit will be available once a household's income exceeds $200,000. To help pay for this new program, income splitting for families — formally known as the "Family Tax Cut" — will be eliminated.
Your Advice: You may want to remind clients with kids that they can claim the Family Tax Cut for the last time on their 2015 returns and that after July 1, 2016, those monthly UCCB payments will cease.
Editor's Note: Register now for Investment Executive's post-budget webinar with Jamie Golombek on Wednesday, March 23 from 12:00 to 13:00 ET.