About 35 people turned out last week to listen to a couple of presentations on the federal government’s proposed Fair Tax Plan. Bonnie Nash of Nash Giroux LLP, the local accounting firm, did a slide show on the plan. Peace River – Westlock MP Arnold Viersen spoke on it from the political viewpoint.
Both presenters encouraged attendees to make noise in opposition to the proposed tax changes, which they say will hurt small business owners.
“They say they’re targeting the top one per cent,” said Nash. “But it’s not written that way.”
The government’s purported effort to close ‘loopholes’ that allow business or professional corporation owners to pay less income tax than their employees does not take certain realities into account, said Viersen. One is that the “tax grab,” as he calls it, will result in businesses investing less in their businesses, depressing economic growth that might have happened. And as much as it may be aimed at that ‘top one per cent,’ it will hurt ‘mom and pop’ business owners who use the current tax rules to hang on to money for their retirements.
“Most small business owners – their business is their pension plan,” said M.D. councillor Brian Rosche during the question period. “That isn’t being mentioned.”
Viersen, in his remarks, said the government is doing it to raise money. But it isn’t addressing what his party regards as “a spending problem.”
Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman asked Nash if there are any accountants who say the Fair Tax Plan is a good idea. Nash said National Post columnist Andrew Coyne (not actually an accountant, though he does have a degree in Economics) is not opposed to the ‘income sprinkling’ aspect of the plan. That’s the one that seeks to reduce the tax advantage in assigning part of a business’s profit to family members who don’t contribute to the business. “But he does have issues with the timing and passive investments.”
The timing is tight. Oct. 2 is the deadline for feedback from the public. It can be done online at [email protected]
The ‘passive investment’ aspect of the Fair Tax Plan seeks to limit the tax advantage of investing business profits in things unrelated to the business.
One member of the audience, who works in the health care profession, said the tax plan proposal “has driven a wedge between doctors and nurses.” The national nursing association, she said, supports the plan, while doctors are opposed to it.
Another audience member said he feels the implication in ‘going after the top one per cent’ is that risk-takers are not appreciated.
Judging by the comments from the audience members, nobody present thought there was any merit in the proposed tax changes. But Warman observed that business owners are a minority, and that “our employees probably think it’s great.”
“Discuss it with your employees,” Viersen urged. He also encouraged people to lobby the feds for an extension of the deadline for submissions on the plan.