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Tax Reform to Better Reflect the Reality of Today’s Families

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In recent weeks, family law has been the topic of a Quebec government public consultation. To maximize this necessary reform, it must include a review of family taxation. The reason is quite simple: there is a disconnect between tax rules and the reality of today’s families.

An in-depth review is needed

It’s obvious that the Canadian tax system is simply outdated as it applies to both our SMEs and our families. In fact, our country’s tax system has not undergone an in-depth review since the 70s. Today, the Canadian and Quebec family taxation system is simply a patchwork of measures that have been added over time without changing rules or making any in-depth amendments to the legislation. The result is ongoing involuntary breaches of neutrality.

The neutrality of the tax system for families was reviewed by Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton and the UQAM’s École des sciences de la gestion (ESG UQAM) in an innovative study published in September 2018. The study showed that in more than 70% of the situations studied, the tax rules are not neutral depending on a family’s social profile and economic class, and the couple’s legal status. One of the unfortunate consequences of these breaches of neutrality is that Canadian and Quebec families are forced to make choices based on tax implications rather than on the needs of the family’s situation.

Consider for example governments’ main incentives such as the TFSA, RRSP, RESP and RDSP. When deciding on a type of savings, families with limited financial resources must make a decision regarding these programs on the basis of tax rules, to the detriment of their real needs, limiting their financial flexibility. Moreover, consider that family businesses are still faced with tax inequity on an intergenerational business transfer at the federal level. Provincially, family businesses must also deal with transaction restrictions such as the requirement to undertake a total, rather than a partial, business transfer or the inability to retain an interest after the sale.

Quebec and Ottawa must both work on this

The Quebec government can play a key role in the Canadian family taxation reform. The current consultation on family law initiated by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Quebec, Sonia Lebel, is an opportunity to look at potential options regarding tax changes for a more extensive review of family-related measures. By changing the tax rules so that they are better suited for today’s families and no longer impact taxpayers’ choices, Quebec would be sending a clear message to Ottawa to harmonize measures and reduce the gaps between tax policies and family dynamics.

Our study already identified several areas for consideration in the course of the current initiative.

For example, why not introduce a system based on family rather than individual income, implement a tax rate structure based on the size of the family, create a registered general savings plan (RGSP) or authorize the possibility of a rollover at the time of death to a trust established exclusively for a dependent child?

The Quebec government and Ottawa should both be encouraged to review family taxation so that it’s more representative of our Quebec and Canadian values, such as equity and equality. It’s in everyone’s interest.

Let’s take action together!

This article appeared in La Presse + on June 25, 2019 (in French) with Emilio B. Imbriglio, the firm’s president and CEO from 2013 to 2021.

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