Canada: The 2017 Federal Budget: Three Things Every Executive Needs To Know

On March 22, 2017, the Trudeau Government unveiled its second budget, continuing the Liberal Party theme of job creation and helping the middle class. Executives will recall that when the Liberals were elected in 2015, their promises included raising taxes on the rich (which happened in Budget 2016) and changing the taxation of stock options (which didn't happen in 2016).

Despite weighing in at 280 pages, Budget 2017 is more notable for what is missing rather than what is included (probably not a bad thing, from an executive's perspective). Here are our three important takeaways for Canadian executives:

1. No changes to the capital gains rates.

In the weeks leading up to Budget 2017, the rumour mill was buzzing with the possibility of an increase to the capital gains rate from the current 50% to 66.67% or even 75%. Although this seemed to be far-fetched (given the uncertainty in the U.S. surrounding proposed cuts to income tax and corporate tax rates), it did seem to fit within the Liberals' "Robin Hood" mantra of taxing the rich to help pay for programs for the middle class. Thankfully, Budget 2017 is silent on any change to the capital gains rates. This will be well received by any executive who has managed to save some after-tax dollars to invest in the stock market. One caveat is that the budget does contain buried language referencing a study that the Government is currently conducting into "the use of tax planning strategies involving private corporations that inappropriately reduce personal taxes of high-income earners." Stay tuned for what this might mean for executives (or other residents of Sherwood Forest).

2. Still no changes in the taxation of stock options.

Our readers might recall that, while the Liberal Party's 2015 platform included a promise to tighten up the taxation of stock options, concerns expressed by the technology industry (in particular) convinced the Government not to proceed with this plan in Budget 2016. In fact, Finance Minister Morneau announced that there would not be any changes to the taxation of stock options during the current Liberal mandate. This revised promise was kept in Budget 2017, which is silent on the taxation of stock options. Note that the decision not to raise the capital gains rate is significant in this respect. Because stock options are designed to be taxed at rates akin to capital gains (if certain conditions are met), any tax increase on capital gains would also, in effect, have been a tax increase on stock options. All of this is great news for Canadian companies (especially technology companies that often rely heavily on stock options to compensate employees) and their executives.

3. More tax credits bite the dust.

I know what you are thinking: I still had some tax credits that I could utilize to reduce my taxes – did anything happen to those? Budget 2016 phased out many of the credits that executives could use, including the Children's Fitness Tax Credit and the Children's Arts Tax Credit. Budget 2017 continues this trend by eliminating the Public Transit Credit, starting in July. On top of this is the introduction of a sales tax on Uber (and Uber-like) rides. Carpooling may soon become a hot topic around the water-cooler!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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