That change – one initiated under the previous Conservative government before the Liberals put it on hold – could encourage some business owners and entrepreneurs to stay in, or even move to, Canada, given how competitive the rate is with that of the United States, where the lowest rate for small businesses is 15 per cent.
But, considering the effects of the other proposed tax changes, any net positive effect is far from a given, observers say.
“If you’re a small business in Canada earning less than $500,000, you stand to save $7,500 in federal tax,” Greg Leslie, tax partner at Collins Barrow, said of the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement.
“But if you’re a small business in Canada that’s sprinkling income and that’s taken away, the 1.5 per cent change won’t help much.”
Income sprinkling is one of the “loopholes” Trudeau targeted in his tax reform proposals that have put the government through the ringer since they were announced in July.
WATCH: Trudeau government fulfills campaign promise, lowers small business taxes
The proposed tax reforms may affect a minority of Canadian taxpayers, but reaction was fierce.
Proponents of the plans, including many Liberals and some prominent economists, have painted the changes as a measure to make taxes fairer by preventing high-earners from using sophisticated accounting techniques to dramatically slash their tax bills.
On the other hand, opponents of the proposed changes, including the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, have said the changes risk “destabilizing” health-care delivery and discouraging people from starting businesses.
Enter the small-business tax rate reduction.
“Canadian businesses currently benefit from a combined general corporate tax rate that is 12 percentage points lower than that of Canada’s largest trading partner, the United States,” the government wrote in a release about the change.
“Further tax reductions will allow businesses to retain more of their earnings to reinvest – supporting economic growth and job creation in communities across Canada.”
WATCH: Small business tax rate cut will not be a shield for wealthy, Trudeau says
The rate cut will “certainly” give Canada a competitive advantage over the U.S., said Dave Walsh, partner and tax service line leader at BDO.
“I’ve always been a big proponent of our corporate rates being much lower than the U.S.,” he said in a telephone interview with Global News.
But it’s not that straightforward, said Leslie from Collins Barrow.
Stacked up against the other proposals – details of which the Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau said will come throughout the week – a tax rate reduction for small businesses isn’t enough to keep people in Canada, he said.
“Income sprinkling is a big one for doctors,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday. “A 1.5 per cent tax change won’t be enough to keep doctors from going south of the border.”
WATCH: Morneau facing heat over business ventures
Given the context of the tax rate announcement, which came as Morneau was firmly planted in the eye of a political firestorm and after the Liberals faced months of attacks from the opposition, Leslie said it’s difficult to see the timing in any other way than a political move.
“We have to withhold judgment until the end of the week, when we have more details … Hopefully, by the end of the week, we’ll have a better grasp of what the tax environment will look like.”