Canada has moved up three places to eighth in a global comparison of the most advantageous place to pay corporate taxes, placing the country in the top 10 for the first time.
The annual study by PwC, in conjunction with the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, shows Canada moving sharply up in a 185-country comparison.
Canada placed 28th as recently as 2010, but continuing reductions of the corporate rate both federally and provincially, as well as reduced red tap, has dramatically improved its standing.
The advance, from a business point of view, coincides with the federal government’s efforts to brand a 25% national corporate tax rate, harmonization of sales taxes in Ontario, and improvement in the easy of filing taxes.
“As far as most countries are concerned, we’re actually a pretty friendly jurisdiction,” said Jason Safar, a partner with PwC’s tax service in Toronto.
“Canada’s current tax laws have attractive tax regimes, which impact all companies — in particularly small-medium sized domestic companies.”
The new study, which is being issued early Monday, is not the only one to have judged Canada’s corporate tax regime favourably from a business viewpoint.
Last year, Forbes magazine ranked Canada the best country in the world to do business, citing its dropping tax rate, sound banks, investor protection and relative lack of red tape.
The PwC comparison looks at three specific metrics — tax rates, the average number of hours businesses devote to paying taxes each year, and how many times a year they must file. The latter two relate to the ease of operating in the country, and PwC says it is more important than many believe.
“The economic analysis to compare the paying taxes indicators with gross domestic product and foreign direct investment suggests that while higher business taxation can be linked to slower economic growth and international investment, reducing the administrative burden and complexity of the tax system can potentially be linked to a greater change in overall growth,” the report states.
“The implication is that minimizing the time and effort which businesses need to spend on complying with the tax system is equally important for governments when considering how best to stimulate and sustain economic growth.”
Safar said the tax ease indicator may simply be measuring the efficiency of a country’s economy.
Africa and South America score poorly on the measures, while North America is near the top of the class.
PwC said it took on average 131 hours for a typical Canadian company to comply with its annual tax obligations, just over half the global average. As well, while a typical Canadian firm makes six payments a year, the world average is 27.
In the overall comparison, the United Arab Emigrates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia place in the top three. Ireland, at six, is the only other designated industrial country in the top 10.
Among Canada’s direct economic competitors, the United Kingdom scores the closest at number 16, followed by France at 53, the United States, 69, Germany 72, Japan, 127 and Italy, 131.
Canada’s total average tax rate on medium-sized domestic companies is listed as 26.9%, the U.K.’s at 35.5% and the United States at 46.7%.
Safar said the amount individual companies pay in specific jurisdictions may vary — but in the real world most firms pay less taxes in Canada than comparable companies in the U.S.
“And that’s different from what it was in the 1990s. Canadian corporate rates used to be up in the low to mid-40s, now the top corporate rate is in the mid-20s,” he said.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, against opposition criticism, has pushed lowering corporate rates since coming to office in early 2006, arguing that the more money left in company hands, the greater the benefits in terms of investment and job creation.
Critics argue that Canada has now reached a level of diminishing returns. Even Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney has taken the corporate community to task for sitting on about $500 billion of “dead money,” when the country needs firms to invest on efficiencies and expand.
The report does not try to settle the issue, although Safar said there are probably good reasons firms don’t feel now is a good time to radically ramp up investment, particularly given the uncertainty about the economy.
“If you are a little bit unsure where things are headed, you are not going to jump in with both feet and furthermore, you are not going to spend the money because you have it,” he said.