Last week's federal budget included key tax, regulatory and expenditure changes. We've listed some provisions that are likely to affect you.

How the budget affects you
By Peter Diekmeyer o Bankrate.com

Federal budgets tabled by minority governments tend to be generous, and last week's version was no exception. Finance Minister Ralph Goodale announced spending increases ranging from defense to more aid for seniors. These were accompanied by a slew of taxation and regulatory changes. To help you sort through it all, we've listed key provisions that are likely to affect ordinary Canadians.

Personal taxes
One of the most promising changes, was a proposal to increase the basic personal amount from $8,012 to $10,000. That means anyone earning less than $10,000 will not pay any federal income tax.

This measure, which will be phased in between now and 2009, will also simplify the tax code and ease paperwork, since businesses will no longer have to make source deductions for a growing number of low-income employees. Provinces set their own basic personal amounts, and it remains to be seen whether they will follow suit in making the changes.

More money for seniors
Seniors are the most active and vigorous voting block in the country, and not surprisingly the budget included lots of goodies for them. An additional $2.7 billion over five years will be pumped into Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits for low-income seniors. The money will boost monthly benefits by $36 for singles and $58 for couples starting in January 2007.

Adoption care credits
The government also proposed a 16 percent non-refundable federal tax credit to help prospective parents who need help to cover some of their adoption expenses. The credit, which will be effective starting in 2005, will apply to the first $10,000 of eligible expenses such as legal costs, adoption agency fees and other reasonable expenses.

Air-travel security charge
If the budget passes, air travel security charges will be cut from $12 to $10 for domestic round-trip flights, and from $20 to $17 for international flights.

Small business tax changes
Self employed Canadians and small business owners can take comfort in several measures that will reduce their tax burden. The corporate surtax is to be eliminated by January 2008, a move that will have the net effect of reducing the corporate income tax rate by 1.12%. The small business rate, which is applicable on the first $300,000 of active business income will drop from 13.12 percent to 12.0 percent.

RRSP and pension changes
In an aging society, retirement savings options are an increasingly important priority. The budget provides for numerous changes that will make it easier for Canadians to save and invest for their retirements.

The annual RRSP contribution limit for upper income earners will increase from $18,000 to $22,000 between now and 2010. For registered pension plans, the limit will move from $19,000 to $22,000.

In addition the ceiling which caps the amount of foreign securities that RRSP holders are permitted to invest in at 30 percent, will be scrapped. That's good news for investors. Canadian equities represent only about 2.0 percent of the capitalization of the world's stock markets. This measure will give Canadians greater flexibility in allocating their retirement savings. It should also potentially boost the returns they get on their portfolios over the long term and it will make it easier to diversify investment risk across multiple economies.

Changes could hit certain stocks
The only problem is that some investment professionals believe that the 30 percent RRSP cap artificially boosted the value of domestic equities, especially TSX stocks, by forcing Canadians to keep a significant portion of their funds in Canada. They argue that removing the cap will have the reverse effect over time, as mutual funds slowly divest a portion of Canadian holdings in favor of better alternatives elsewhere.

According to Pierre Lapointe, a market analyst at National Bank Financial, there are several categories of companies that are most likely to be affected. These include large Canadian companies in sectors in which they are not world leaders. The presumption is if Canadian investors and mutual fund managers are no longer forced -by ownership limits,--to buy domestic issues, they'll buy the best stock available.

Canadian companies that trade at lower valuations than their international peers are also vulnerable, as are firms with low foreign ownership. Fortunately the adjustments to stock prices are unlikely to take place overnight.

"The impact on these companies could be spread over time," Lapointe said. "Fund managers are often evaluated in comparison with specific benchmarks, and they might limit diversification initially to reduce tracking errors."

Canadian individual investors are also likely to remain cautious Lapointe said, noting the U.K. example. Despite having no foreign content limit, U.K. investors, still keep about 75 percent of their investments in domestic issues.

For more information about the Federal budget and how it will affect you, you can check out the following Web-sites.

Web-sites:
Grant Thornton: http://www.grantthornton.ca/
Deloitte & Touche: http://www.deloitte.com/dtt/home/0%2C1044%2Csid%25253D3557%2C00.html
Budget info: http://www.fin.gc.ca/budtoce/2005/budliste.htm

 

Peter Diekmeyer (http://www.peterdiekmeyer.com/) is a Montreal based business writer.

 

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