Ottawa estimates corporations dodged up to $11.4 billion in 2014 tax payments

Very interesting article published on June 18th, 2019 via the Canadian Press, regarding what appears to be Canadian Corporations avoiding the payment of $11.4 billion dollars in taxes owing to the CRA.

My initial reaction to that headline was likely similar to what others who saw this headline probably felt – that corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes, that corporations get all these tax breaks and that the government allows corporations to not pay taxes.

But before I would be able to properly comment on this, I would have to read the article a few times to figure out what the actual story is.

According to the article, the issues are these;
“Corporations avoided paying Ottawa between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion in taxes in 2014″, according to a new federal report created by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which estimated these figures.

The report estimates the “tax gap”, or the difference between what is owed to the government and what was collected by the CRA — for small and medium enterprises is between $2.7 billion and $3.5 billion and for large corporations, between $6.7 billion and $7.9 billion.

“The corporate figures bring the total estimated 2014 tax gap from a series of studies by a dedicated CRA unit to between $21.8 billion and $26 billion — or 10.6% to 12.6% of revenues — not including funds recovered or lost due to audits.”

By not including funds recovered or lost during audits, and not going into detail as to what “audit” specifically means, it could represent the amount of taxes assessed during an audit (where the CRA found additional taxes owing), or lost (where the CRA had assessed a corporation, only to find out during an audit that the assessment was inaccurate or invalid, and thus reversed, revised or reduced).

Taking a closer look at the figures, might be a huge shock to anyone who feels that corporations get it easy in Canada.

In 2014, Corporate tax filers reported approximately $298 billion in taxable income and $40.9 billion in total federal tax payable. Even though they made up only about 1% of the 2.1 million corporate tax filers, large corporations reported about 52% of the total corporate taxable income and contributed about 54% of the federal tax.

More than half the taxes collected in this country come from large corporations!

After being fed data which explained that the corporate tax gap for 2014 was between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion, then the government goes on to mention that the “total” estimated 2014 tax gap is $21.8 billion and $26 billion, meaning between $12.4 billion and $14.6 billion is taxes owed by individuals who are not paying their taxes…

Then the government explains that after the audits, which were left out of the equation, are finalized, the corporate tax gap will actually be reduced by between 31-40% for small enterprises and between 64-75% for large corporations, which means overall, the corporate tax gap for 2014 is actually somewhere between $3.3 billion and $5.3 billion and not $9.4 billion to $11.4 billion.

Clear, right?

So that means the actual tax gap, taking into consideration the post-audit figures that the CRA anticipates, is actually between $15.7 billion to $19.9 billion, and of those taxes owing, most of it is owing from individual Canadians who are not paying.

Meanwhile, large corporations pay 54% of the total taxes paid to this country to fund services, roads, healthcare, and the many benefits that we have all come to appreciate.

Why is this article geared towards corporations? Shouldn’t it be thanking the corporations and pointing fingers at the Canadians who are not paying their fair share? Why was it positioned this way?

Since that answer could be anything, ranging from inaccurate reporting to political manoeuvring, then the only question that remains from this article surrounds what constitutes “taxes owing”? Is that figure based on amounts reported by Canadians who just never paid the taxes, or does that figure include assessed amounts owing that the CRA created, and which may or may not be owing? If it’s the latter then it’s highly likely that the tax gap is even smaller.

NOTE

Ask me one day to tell the story about the notional assessments that I raised while working at the CRA at the request of my team leader to “get the attention” of the business… It got the attention of more than the business! It got the attention of the Minister of Finance. Lesson learned.

So, to conclude, there is a tax gap. There will always be a tax gap because not every Canadian has the ability to pay their taxes in full and on time, each and every year. As well, not every Canadian files their taxes on time, or are required to file on time, which means the full picture will never be forthcoming because of all the moving parts.

The timing and content of this article leads me to believe that the Federal government and the CRA going to come after corporations.  They shouldn’t, based on the actual figures, but corporations do not vote in elections – people do.

What the true intent of this article is, however, is very unclear to me.

Tax Freedom Day – For Canadian Corporations is Today, January 30th.

Unsure of year
Corporate Tax Rates Around the World.

Corporate Tax Freedom Day, or the day that corporations will have paid their taxes to all levels of government, is today, January 30th, 2013. But don’t feel left out, if you are not a shareholder of a Canadian Corporation, because Personal Tax Freedom Day is also on its way – not as quickly mind you because Corporations have the ability to make much more money, much quicker than the average employee and the Corporate tax rates are considerably smaller than personal income tax rates.

From the CRA;
  • 15% on the first $43,561 of taxable income, +
  • 22% on the next $43,562 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $43,561 up to $87,123), +
  • 26% on the next $47,931 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $87,123 up to $135,054), +
  • 29% of taxable income over $135,054.

Then there are the Provincial tax rates;

Provincial/territorial tax rates (combined chart)
Provinces/territories Rate(s)
Newfoundland and Labrador 7.7% on the first $33,748 of taxable income, + 12.5% on the next $33,748, + 13.3% on the amount over $67,496
Prince Edward Island 9.8% on the first $31,984 of taxable income, + 13.8% on the next $31,985, + 16.7% on the amount over $63,969
Nova Scotia 8.79% on the first $29,590 of taxable income, + 14.95% on the next $29,590, + 16.67% on the next $33,820, + 17.5% on the next $57,000, + 21% on the amount over $150,000
New Brunswick 9.1% on the first $38,954 of taxable income, + 12.1% on the next $38,954, + 12.4% on the next $48,754, + 14.3% on the amount over $126,662
Quebec Go to Income tax rates (Revenu Québec Web site).
Ontario 5.05% on the first $39,723 of taxable income, + 9.15% on the next $39,725, + 11.16% on the next $429,552, + 13.16 % on the amount over $509,000
Manitoba 10.8% on the first $31,000 of taxable income, + 12.75% on the next $36,000, + 17.4% on the amount over $67,000
Saskatchewan 11% on the first $42,906 of taxable income, + 13% on the next $79,683, + 15% on the amount over $122,589
Alberta 10% of taxable income
British Columbia 5.06% on the first $37,568 of taxable income, + 7.7% on the next $37,570, + 10.5% on the next $11,130, + 12.29% on the next $18,486, + 14.7% on the amount over $104,754
Yukon 7.04% on the first $43,561 of taxable income, + 9.68% on the next $43,562, + 11.44% on the next $47,931, + 12.76% on the amount over $135,054
Northwest Territories 5.9% on the first $39,453 of taxable income, + 8.6% on the next $39,455, + 12.2% on the next $49,378, + 14.05% on the amount over $128,286
Nunavut 4% on the first $41,535 of taxable income, + 7% on the next $41,536, + 9% on the next $51,983, + 11.5% on the amount over $135,054
Canadian Corporate Tax rates for 2013 are;
The basic rate of Part I tax is 38% of taxable income, 28% after federal tax abatement.

For Canadian-controlled private corporations claiming the small business deduction, the net tax rate is 11%.

For the other corporations, the net tax rate is decreased as follows:

  • 19% effective January 1, 2009
  • 18% effective January 1, 2010
  • 16.5% effective January 1, 2011
  • 15% effective January 1, 2012

Provincial or territorial rates

Generally, provinces and territories have two rates of income tax – a lower rate and a higher rate.

Lower rate

The lower rate applies to the income eligible for the federal small business deduction. One component of the small business deduction is the business limit. Some provinces or territories choose to use the federal business limit. Others establish their own business limit.

Higher rate

The higher rate applies to all other income.

Provincial and territorial tax rates (except Quebec and Alberta)

The following table shows the income tax rates for provinces and territories (except Quebec and Alberta, which do not have corporation tax collection agreements with the CRA).

These rates are in effect on January 1, 2012, and may change during 2012.

Province or territory Lower rate Higher rate
Newfoundland and Labrador 4% 14%
Nova Scotia 4% 16%
Prince Edward Island 1% 16%
New Brunswick 4.5% 10%
Ontario 4.5% 11.5%
Manitoba nil 12%
Saskatchewan 2% 12%
British Columbia 2.5% 10%
Yukon 4% 15%
Northwest Territories 4% 11.5%
Nunavut 4% 12%

For more information, go to Dual tax rates.

Corporations also have to pay the CRA employer share of payroll source deductions for the year for employee pay and bonuses as well as any GST/HST if they are selling more than they are purchasing and also don’t forget the dividends Corporations pay out of earning to you, your friends, neighbours, parents and grandparents.

If you read some of the mainstream, err, left-leaning media tales of Corporate Tax Freedom Day you would think that we should be taxing these evil Corporations at 50% or more because all they do is pay out insane salaries and bonuses to their CEO’s and Board or Directors while giving little back to the community or the country.

For all that, I call bullshit, and not because I agree with insane salaries, bonuses, buyouts and golden handshakes – I hate them in sports and entertainment as well – but Corporations are free to operate in whichever town, city, province or country they choose to and a raise in Corporate tax rates increases the risk that corporations will back up their belongings and flee where rates are more favourable.

So while it’s great to call out Corporations for all their flaws, it would be nice once in a while if mainstream media reported on those cities and towns left with high unemployment and no jobs because a Corporation propping up their area closed up or left for a different location.

Now there are some legitimate arguments around how accountable Canadian Corporations should be and what they do with their reserves, especially in light of the recessionary times we currently live in, and by holding on to these reserves in case the economy worsens, Corporations are keeping a nest age they hope to not have to dip in to, but this “dead money” may never see the light of day when the economy picks back up and it gets swallowed up as profits or paid out as a bonus when it should be put to work right away to invest in Canada and create jobs.
Might there be other ways to increase government revenues so that the government will need to borrow less money to finance programs – driving up the debt and deficit – possibly. One suggestion by the head of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), Ken Georgetti, suggested that “the government should target tax credits to companies that invest in machinery and increase productivity.”

With Canadian Corporate taxes are already lower than (unconfirmed) elsewhere in the G7 nations, organizations like the CLC disregard the fact that business investment had increased by 6.2% since the official start of the recession, September 15th, 2008. If consumer confidence remains weak or if a Liberal government were to take power in Canada, look for the vultures to circle looking to pick through the remains of any and all Canadian Corporations which remain here after an increase in the Corporate Tax Rate.

Garron Decision Upheld by Tax Court of Canada

December 2nd, 2010.

The Tax Court of Canada (TCC) decision in Garron, now known as St. Michael Trust Corp., was upheld in a recent Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) decision that serves as a warning that residency issues for trusts — and for corporations — should be taken seriously.

The decision concerned the residency of two trusts, and held that similar considerations should apply as are required to determine the residency of a corporation.

The FCA agreed with the TCC’s determination that the trusts at issue were resident in Canada and not Barbados since, among other reasons, the trusts’ real decision makers were their beneficiaries, who were Canadian residents. Therefore, the capital gains realized by the trusts were taxable and not treaty exempt. There is also a lengthy discussion in obiter of other issues in the event the trusts were resident in Barbados, including the application of section 94 of the Income Tax Act, the application of the Canada-Barbados Tax Treaty to exempt the gains and the application of the General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR).

Had residency in Barbados been successfully established for the trusts, the tax planning would have been successful, i.e., the gains would have been exempt under the treaty and the GAAR would not have applied.