28 Apr Federal Budget Commentary: Business Measures
Small Business Deduction
Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPCs) benefit from the small business deduction (SBD), a reduced corporate tax rate on active business income from the 15% general rate to 9% federally. Each province also has an SBD regime. A “business limit” of $500,000 of annual income (shared between associated corporations) limits eligibility to the SBD federally, and in all provinces except Saskatchewan, which has a $600,000 provincial business limit.
The business limit is reduced for corporations or associated groups which have “taxable capital” in excess of $10 million, with the business limit reduced by $1 for every additional $10 of taxable capital over the $10 million threshold, until it is eliminated where taxable capital equals or exceeds $15 million.
Budget 2022 proposes to reduce the business limit by $1 for every $80 of taxable capital in excess of $10 million, such that the limit will be more gradually reduced, and only eliminated where taxable capital equals or exceeds $50 million. This measure is proposed to apply for corporate taxation years beginning on or after April 7, 2022.
No changes are proposed to the parallel reduction to the business limit where adjusted aggregate investment income exceeds $50,000.
Anti-Avoidance Measures – Corporate Investment Income
In addition to being ineligible for the SBD, investment income (such as interest, royalties, rent and taxable capital gains) earned by CCPCs is subject to a significantly higher corporate tax rate of 38 2/3% (plus provincial tax which, in most provinces, results in a combined tax rate of over 50%). A similar regime (Part IV Tax) applies to portfolio dividends received by CCPCs. This is intended to result in corporate taxes similar to the top personal tax rates.
A portion of this tax is refundable when taxable dividends are paid by the corporation to its shareholders, so that the combined corporate taxes after this refund and personal tax paid by the ultimate individual shareholders is comparable to the tax that would have been paid if the investments had been made personally, rather than corporately.
As these special rules apply only to CCPCs, some planning strategies have been developed where corporations are structured to fall outside CCPC status. These include the use of corporations governed by a foreign country’s corporate legislation, or the issuance of options or voting shares to non-Canadians. A number of taxpayers who have implemented such strategies have been challenged by CRA, with appeals to be heard by the Tax Court of Canada, however such challenges are both time-consuming and costly for the government.
Budget 2022 proposes that private corporations which are not CCPCs, but are factually controlled by one or more Canadian persons, be subject to the same investment income rules as a CCPC. An anti-avoidance rule will also apply this treatment to any corporation falling outside the technical rules, where it is reasonable to consider that one or more transactions were undertaken to avoid these rules. This measure will generally apply to taxation years that end on or after April 7, 2022, with possible deferral where an arm’s length sale pursuant to a written purchase and sale agreement was entered into prior to that date.
Intergenerational Business Transfers
A complex anti-avoidance rule prevents the sale of shares of closely-held corporations by individual shareholders to related corporations from resulting in capital gains, instead causing the seller to realize dividends. In addition to attracting higher taxes than capital gains, dividends are not eligible for the lifetime capital gains exemption (LCGE).
This provision has been a source of frustration for business owners wishing to transition a family business to the next generation, denying them access to the LCGE which would have been available on a similar sale to unrelated parties. On June 29, 2021, legislation (Bill C-208) exempting sales of shares of small business corporations or family farm or fishing corporations from parents to corporations controlled by their children from this provision, allowing the realization of capital gains potentially eligible for the LCGE, was passed into law.
The government had indicated that they were concerned that this legislation could permit transfers beyond genuine intergenerational business successions to benefit from this lower tax cost, a practice commonly referred to as “surplus stripping,” and that further amendments would be made to limit these transactions to their intended purpose.
Budget 2022 reiterates the government’s intention to amend the legislation to restrict these transactions to genuine intergenerational business transfers, while continuing to facilitate legitimate business successions. It announces a consultation by the Department of Finance, with specific mention of the agriculture sector, to close on June 17, 2022. Comments can be sent to email@example.com. The government indicated that amending legislation would be included in a bill to be tabled in the fall after the conclusion of the consultation process.
Flow-through share agreements allow corporations to renounce or “flow through” specified expenses to investors, who can deduct the expenses in calculating their taxable income. These are common in the resource sector, where they allow certain resource pools to be claimed by investors, rather than the corporations incurring the costs. A Mineral Exploration Tax Credit equal to 15% of specified mineral exploration expenses incurred in Canada and renounced to flow-through share investors also applies to some flow-through shares.
Increased Credit for Critical Minerals
Budget 2022 proposes to introduce a new 30% Critical Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for specified minerals, specifically copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, graphite, rare earth elements, scandium, titanium, gallium, vanadium, tellurium, magnesium, zinc, platinum group metals and uranium. These minerals are used in the production of batteries and permanent magnets, both of which are used in zero-emission vehicles, or are necessary in the production and processing of advanced materials, clean technology, or semi-conductors. This will effectively double the credit for exploration expenditures related to such minerals.
This enhanced credit would apply to expenditures renounced under eligible flow-through share agreements entered into after April 7, 2022 and on or before March 31, 2027.
Elimination of Flow-through Shares for Oil, Gas and Coal
Budget 2022 proposes to eliminate the flow-through share regime for oil, gas and coal activities. Such expenditures would not be permitted to be renounced to share purchasers under flow-through share agreements entered into after March 31, 2023.
Other Business Measures
Several business measures proposed in Budget 2022 target specific sectors. These include the following:
- Budget 2022 announces a federal review of housing as an asset class, including the examination of potential changes to the tax treatment of large corporate players that invest in residential real estate. Further details on the review will be released later in 2022, with potential early actions to be announced before the end of the year.
- Budget 2022 announces that anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing requirements will be extended to all businesses conducting mortgage lending in Canada.
- Budget 2022 proposes to launch a new purchase incentive program for medium- and heavy-duty Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEVs). Transport Canada will work with provinces and territories to develop and harmonize regulations and to conduct safety testing for long-haul zero-emission trucks. Natural Resources Canada will expand the Green Freight Assessment Program, which will be renamed the Green Freight Program, to support assessments and retrofits of more vehicles and a greater diversity of fleet and vehicle types.
- Budget 2022 announces a consultation with experts to establish an investment tax credit of up to 30%, focused on net-zero technologies, battery storage solutions and clean hydrogen. Further details will be announced in the 2022 fall economic and fiscal update.
- Air-source heat pumps primarily used for space or water heating acquired and becoming available for use on or after April 7, 2022 will be eligible for inclusion in Class 43.1 or 43.2, special accelerated CCA classes for investments in specified clean energy generation and energy conservation equipment. In addition, the manufacturing of such air-source heat pumps will be included in the definition of eligible zero-emission technology manufacturing or processing activities, eligible for reduced federal tax rates (halved rates for taxation years beginning in 2022 to 2028, then gradually increased to the standard rates, with no reduction for years beginning in 2032 or later).
- A refundable tax credit for the cost of purchasing and installing eligible equipment used in an eligible carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) project will be implemented. Eligible expenses incurred after 2021 until 2030 would benefit from credits ranging from 37.5% to 60%, with expenditures incurred until 2040 eligible for credits at half of these rates. New capital cost allowance classes at rates of 8% and 20% are also proposed for certain CCUS equipment.
Business Investment Initiatives
- Budget 2022 proposes to create the Employee Ownership Trust, a new type of trust to support employee ownership. The government will engage with stakeholders to develop rules for these trusts.
- Budget 2022 proposes the Canada Growth Fund, an independent public investment vehicle that will invest using a broad suite of financial instruments, with the goal that every dollar invested will attract at least three dollars of private capital. Further details will be announced in the 2022 fall economic and fiscal update.
- Budget 2022 announces an independent federal innovation and investment agency, with further consultation later this year. Support delivered through the innovation and investment agency is expected to enable innovation and growth within the Canadian defence sector and boost investments in Canadian defence manufacturing. Further details will be announced in the 2022 fall economic and fiscal update.
- Budget 2022 announces a review of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program, to assess its effectiveness in encouraging R&D that benefits Canada, and to explore opportunities to modernize and simplify the program. As part of this review, the government will also consider whether the tax system can encourage the development and retention of intellectual property, including seeking views on the suitability of adopting a patent box regime.
- Budget 2022 announces the government’s intention to launch a financial sector legislative review focused on the digitalization of money and maintaining financial sector stability and security. The first phase of the review will be directed at digital currencies, including cryptocurrencies and stablecoins.
- A one-time 15% tax on bank and life insurance groups, based on taxable income in excess of $1 billion for taxation years ended in 2021, would be imposed for the 2022 taxation year and payable over five years. For subsequent years, a 1.5% additional tax would apply to income of such corporate groups in excess of $100 million.
- A new accounting policy requirement, IFRS 17, will require insurers to defer recognition of contract service margins (CSMs) for accounting purposes commencing on January 1, 2023. Budget 2022 proposes that this deferral will not be permitted for income tax purposes. The timing of income inclusions for CSMs for income tax purposes will be set by legislation.
- Proposed anti-avoidance measures will impact certain hedging and short-selling transactions undertaken by Canadian financial institutions and registered securities dealers.
Combatting Aggressive Tax Planning
- Budget 2022 proposes to provide $1.2 billion over five years for CRA to expand audits of larger entities and non-residents engaged in aggressive tax planning; increase both the investigation and prosecution of those engaged in criminal tax evasion; and to expand its educational outreach.
- The General Anti-avoidance Rule (GAAR) is proposed to be amended to allow CRA to challenge transactions that affect tax attributes (e.g. asset costs, losses carried forward, paid-up capital, capital dividend account) that have not yet become relevant to the computation of tax. This specific measure overrides a 2018 Federal Court of Appeal decision that held that GAAR could only be applied when the tax attribute was utilized to reduce income taxes.