Tax changes for business could hamper innovation: Hootsuite CEO

Tax changes for business could hamper innovation: Hootsuite CEO

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The head of one of Canada’s best-known tech darlings says Ottawa’s proposed changes to small business taxes could hamper innovation and prevent Canada from becoming a hotbed for technology giants.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur and a small business owner for a large part of my career. I know that a lot of those businesses operate on the margins,” Ryan Holmes, CEO of social media management platform Hootsuite, said in an interview at the Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference.

“I would encourage the government to look very closely because […] it is causing a lot of concern to business owners,” he said.

In mid-July, the federal government released a three-pronged plan to end several tax provisions used by some small businesses.

One provision at risk of being eliminated is income sprinkling, a practice that permits business owners to lower their taxes by passing income to family members, even those not active in the business, who are in lower tax brackets.

Read: How proposed tax changes target income sprinkling

The government is also proposing limits on the use of private corporations as a way to gain tax advantages when making passive investments, and limiting the conversion of a corporation’s regular income into capital gains, which are typically taxed at a lower rate.

Read: How Finance’s tax proposals will squeeze biz owners

If the government wants more head offices in cities like Vancouver, the way to do that isn’t by convincing established companies to move to the West coast, said Holmes, as that involves significant cost — among other issues.

“If we want to get more head offices there, we need to create more Hootsuites,” he said. “I think you need to be very favourable at the small end of the market.”

Those startups can become big businesses with large, local headquarters.

Hootsuite, which launched in 2008, now employs close to 1,000 people in Vancouver and several offices abroad, according to its website.

Holmes is not the first to criticize the controversial tax proposal. Doctors, lawyers, tax professionals, shopkeepers and others who have incorporated their small businesses to reduce their tax bills are among those speaking out.

The criticism from Hootsuite’s CEO and other small business owners is directed at a federal government that has put innovation front and centre. The buzzword received hundreds of mentions in the budget, and the Liberals have committed to $950 million to a supercluster program.

Tech firm leaders have been successful in changing the Liberal government’s mind about policy in the past. After discontent from a number of tech firms, Ottawa abandoned a plan to cap how much could be claimed through stock option deductions.

The prime minister’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, responded to criticism of the proposals on Wednesday morning with a recognition that the measures are not just a question of fairness but also of boosting government revenues.

“If we all want the Canada we say we want, we have to pay for it. If our government encourages our wealthiest citizens to opt out of progressive income tax, we will not be able to do that.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously said the government is holding public consultations to hear Canadians’ concerns and ensure there are no unintended consequences. The consultations end Oct. 2.

Also read:

Urgent: Talk to business clients ahead of income sprinkling measures

Opinion: Why insurance advisors should care about small biz tax proposals

Case study: Small business owner debates expansion

How tax rules disadvantage family business succession

Salary or dividends: Which is better for business owners?

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Published at Wed, 13 Sep 2017 11:37:35 -0400