Flaherty's rationale for killing income trusts:
November 2, 2006: “You have to either leave it alone or fix it,” Mr. Flaherty shrugged Wednesday. “We were going to see the two largest telecommunications companies in the country not pay corporate taxes. That's a clear and present danger to fairness in the Canadian tax system. I thought we had to act.”
Prentice's approval of same:
April 9, 2008: “Federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice has given his approval to the proposed takeover of BCE by a group led by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, the company said Wednesday.”
The utter stupidity and hypocrisy of the Harper government:
April 18, 2007: FLAHERTY'S TAX CONUNDRUM
BCE Privatization Could Cost Him $800-Million In Tax Leakage; More Tax Loss Than From BCE & Telus As Trusts!
OTTAWA - Jim Flaherty, the Minister of Finance, could face another major tax loss headache --on the scale of what he attributed to income trusts -- should a buyout deal be reached between BCE Inc. and a consortium of private-equity investors.
Financing experts say a buyout of BCE -- led by tax-exempt pension funds Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board -- would produce virtually the same results, taxwise, had the Montreal-based company converted to an income trust as planned.
"It is basically income trusts revisited," said Laurence Booth, an expert in structured finance at Toronto's Rotman School of Management. "And the implications for Ottawa are pretty much the same".
Yesterday, BCE confirmed it was in talks with the Caisse and CPPIB about taking the publicly traded company private. If successful, it would result in the largest buyout in Canadian corporate history.
It has been estimated the conversions of BCE and competitor Telus Corp. would, collectively, shrink corporate tax revenue by $800-million a year. David Lambert, a telecom analyst at Canaccord Adams, said yesterday he estimates that BCE alone pays, on a per-share basis, about $1 per share from its free cash flow toward taxes.
BCE has 808 million shares outstanding, which would translate into an annual $808-million tax bill under Mr. Lambert's calculations.
Last year, BCE had announced its intentions to convert to an income trust. But those plans were killed when Mr. Flaherty slapped a tax on income trust distributions to put an end to the popular corporate structure that allowed companies to avoid tax by dishing out most of the cash flow to investors [who paid the tax personally].
Mr. Flaherty said he decided to act because the investment vehicles were costing Ottawa $500-million in lost revenue annually, and warned that planned conversions would further threaten federal finances. [He failed to mention that individual trust investors would have paid even more taxes than the trusts would have, by way of the personal tax imposed on the distributions they received from the trusts.]
Under private-equity transactions, or leveraged buyouts, the investors finance the acquisition mostly with debt and a small equity component. The interest payments on that debt allow the private-equity investors to avoid, or greatly reduce, the amount of tax paid. [And there are no longer any trust investors to pay personal taxes on the revenues generated by the new company].
Further compounding possible problems for Mr. Flaherty is that pension funds can defer taxes owed. So if they own equity, dividends from those shares flow through without facing a tax hit.
"Financial markets are getting more innovative and you are getting some very low-risk businesses that can support more debt, and [investors] are finding ways of having them carry more debt in order to avoid the corporate income tax," Mr. Booth said.
He likened the Finance Minister's efforts to stem tax leakage to the title character in a Dutch legend. "[He] is a bit like the Dutch boy who has his finger in the dyke. He plugs one hole but then, bingo, another hole pops up."
Friday, April 18, 2008
Posted by Fillibluster at 10:57 AM