Categories
Taxation

Income trust foreign takeovers may be a good thing

There’s been a lot of activity lately on the income trust front. Foreign firms are making bids left and right to acquire the Canadian entities, in the wake of the 31.5% trust tax introduced by the Conservative government.

Jack Mintz, a professor at Rotman, the business school at the University of Toronto, discusses in a recent Globe and Mail article that trust takeovers are not always a bad thing:

Trusts were shielded from takeovers prior to the federal trust tax announcement because their relatively high market values made purchases more prohibitive. It allowed managers to avoid the threat of takeover and therefore encouraged inefficiency.

Makes sense to me. I’ve come around to the idea that trusts were not all they were cracked up to be. That the trust tax is a good thing. Maybe not for investors who plowed most of their assets into units instead of shares or bonds, but it didn’t make sense that a business could choose to structure itself in a way such that it would pay no tax while other entities would.

Prof. Mintz says trusts could end up being run more efficiently and productively by new management.

“When you are operating as an income trust and have the high valuations at that point – and the very high distributions – it made it difficult for someone to come in and do a takeover based on such a very high valuation,” Mr. Mintz said.

Canada has been lagging in productivity for years compared to our neighbours to the south. This could help close the gap, but it could also result in a dramatic increase in foreign ownership, which could potentially lower tax revenues for the government which set in motion this chain of events in an effort to strengthen the tax base!

What do you think? Could trust takeovers be a good thing for our productivity? Will the increased productivity make up for the potential lost tax revenues?

Categories
Technology

The case for digitized perm files

Having lugged around three thick files representing the full permanent file for an audit client for the past few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that my firm needs to consider digitizing these things.

Perm files for accountants consist of client documents that carry forward year to year. For example, engagement letters are good for three years before they need to be updated and signed the client again, so a copy goes in the perm file for that time. Loan and lease agreements and their related payment schedules straddle multiple periods, as do rebate/royalty/license agreements. Articles of incorporation or amalgamation, and anything to do with share purchases and sales.

There’s no good reason to continue to keep physical copies of all these documents, rather than storing them in PDF or similar format and printing them when a hard copy is required (if ever).

The advantages are many:

  • Cheaper to store
  • Can easily be reprinted if hard copy is ever required
  • Increased mobility due to weight savings and digital format
  • Backups are simple and easy to do frequently
  • More secure storage on protected hard drives
  • Searchable (becomes really helpful as the file gains documents)

The same can basically be said for digitizing whole work paper files each year, but there are still situations where having a physical copy with work done directly on it is needed. I think tablets could be useful in ushering out the era of paper-based files, but who knows when the big firms will start to use them.

How far away from a truly paperless client file system is your firm?

Categories
Personal Finance

Always have exact change

CoinsThis struck me as sort of interesting, possibly useful, and probably a little compulsive. One blogger’s way of slowly using change is to carry the optimal number of each denomination of coin in his pocket.

Everyone has coins they want to get rid of. I randomly thought of an easy way to carry change and always have enough change for a purchase. For the sake of this article, I consider change to be less than $1 of coins. To be able to make any change combination, you need to carry $0.99 of change through 10 coins…

I almost never pay with exact change, but that’s probably because I find a sick satisfaction in rolling my coins every few months and taking them to the bank. I crave that big mountain of coins because when I was a kid it was easy to imagine a big pile of coins were treasure.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Categories
Taxation

Simpler corporate income tax filing requirements

An agreement reached between the Canadian Federal government and the provincial Ontario government will simplify corporate taxes by 2009. The Ontario tax return, known as the CT23, will be amalgamated with the Federal return.

Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara had this on the much-lauded move:

“Businesses have been asking us to reduce administrative overlap and duplication,” the Ontario treasurer said. “When governments work together, we can improve efficiency and help businesses free up resources that they can then invest in creating jobs.”

There’s no doubt this is a great move to simplify taxes in Canada – it leaves Alberta and Quebec as the only remaining provinces that require separate returns.

I’m not sure how much this is going to save businesses, however, since the only major difference between the information on an Ontario return compared to a federal one is with capital tax. I suppose that’s why the savings is only $100-million for all business in Ontario.

I hope this means only one Notice of Assessment to deal with, and a single toll-free number to call and get instalment amounts and other details.

But it will certainly allow the government(s), if they can manage it, to slim down and make operations more efficient on that side. I like to think we’re all winners when government improves.

Categories
Taxation

Bank of Canada chief pushes smarter provincial sales tax

David Dodge, the governor of the Bank of Canada and the current architect of our monetary policy, suggested the province of Ontario should revamp the provincial sales tax (PST) to more closely resemble the value-added federal GST in a rare appearance before the Commons industry committee.

The suggestion is a solid one, as it would allow producers some relief from their tax burden and still tax ultimate consumption by end users. The GST is an interesting tax in that producers deduct the GST they pay on inputs from the GST they collect on outputs, hence they are only taxed on the value they add to their product. Turning Ontario’s 8% PST into a value-added tax would help producers compete in the global economy.