Notley signals small business tax cut coming in Alberta budget

Premier says there will be new measures to create jobs and diversify and economy.

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is signalling that a tax break for small business owners may be coming in the budget.

Notley made the comment when asked by reporters about a proposal by the opposition Wildrose party to lower the small business tax from three per cent to two per cent to help out an economy reeling from the plunge in oil prices.

The premier declined to rule out a tax cut.

“On the issue of the small business tax, I would suggest that we simply all stay tuned for the budget.”

The 2016-17 budget will be presented by Finance Minister Joe Ceci on April 14.

Ceci and Notley have already said it will have new measures to create jobs and diversify and economy, which has seen more than 80,000 job losses due to the collapse in oil prices.

Ceci has already said the budget is expected to include a $10.4-billion deficit.

The province has already announced close to $2 billion in loan and investment incentives to help new ventures take off and small and medium-sized businesses grow and diversify.
Earlier Tuesday, Wildrose Leader Brian released his team’s 12-point plan to create jobs.
He pointed out that at 3%, Alberta’s small business tax rate is the highest among the four western provinces.

British Columbia is at 2.5%, Saskatchewan is at two per cent and Manitoba is zero.

The Wildrose estimates that a one-percentage-point drop in the small business tax rate would return a high-end estimate of $150 million to businesses and the economy.
The party said the tax break could replace the NDP’s job creation plan that was announced last year but is now on hold.

That plan would have spent $178 million over two years to fund a portion of salaries for new private sector hires up to $5,000 per person.

The NDP had promised the program would start in 2016 and create 27,000 jobs.

The Wildrose also pitched drawing down more than $1 billion from the Workers’ Compensation Board treasury to give employers a temporary break on WCB premiums during the downturn.

The Wildrose said the WCB has about $10.2 billion in its funds against $7.5 billion in liabilities.

Jean said drawing down $1 billion or so would still leave the WCB within its mandated savings zone.

The plan would be to cut premiums in half for the first 100 workers in a company and have no premiums for new employees.

“They will be hired to encourage new employees,” said Jean. “We feel there’s about 3 1/2 year’s worth of surplus funds that are available to lower the tax burden on small businesses.”

Notley mocked the plan, saying while the Wildrose didn’t want the NDP to give $5,000 to hire new employees, it’s OK with giving employers an equivalent amount of WCB money, if not more, with no strings attached.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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