Ottawa's new tax measures to force Big Tech to begin charging sales tax
The federal government is forecasting a $381.6-billion deficit in fiscal 2020-21 as the COVID-19 pandemic prompts an unprecedented peace-time spending program. Here’s what you need to know about the latest fiscal plan from Ottawa.
Goodbye fiscal anchor, hello guardrails.
The government has abandoned its previous plan to judge fiscal responsibility by a declining debt-to-GDP ratio, with that key metric forecast to peak at 52.6 per cent in 2021-22 before slowly declining through the end of the forecast period. Instead, Ottawa is outlining a “fiscal guardrail” approach that will help it determine the appropriate time to wind down stimulus, at which point it will reestablish a long-term fiscal anchor.
Up to $100 billion in additional stimulus
Ottawa is planning to unleash between $70 and $100 billion in additional stimulus to accelerate the recovery from the pandemic over the course of the next three fiscal years. The exact timing and size of that stimulus program are up in the air, with the federal government laying out four potential scenarios for when that money will be spent. However, the Liberals did highlight that the bulk of that stimulus spending will likely not occur until there is a widely-distributed vaccine and the threat of further lockdowns is over.
Sector-specific aid for tourism, air sector and the arts
The federal government has outlined targeted support measures for some of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, notably the tourism, air sector and the arts. The feds have earmarked 25 per cent of the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund’s resources for the purpose of aiding the tourism sector. For workers in the live events and arts industries, Ottawa is providing $181.5 million to the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian Council for the Arts to expand funding programs. And while the airlines have yet to get direct support from the federal government, Ottawa did earmark hundreds of millions of dollars in support for regional airports and in rent relief.
Bolstering wage and business supports
Ottawa is planning to extend the terms of some of its high-profile wage and business support measures as the country deals with a second wave of the pandemic. The feds plan to extend the maximum subsidy rates on the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy, the Canadian Emergency Rent Subsidy and the Lockdown Support measure through to March -- accounting for the bulk of a $25.1-billion increase in spending plans since the fiscal snapshot was released in the summer. The Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy is also being boosted back to a maximum of 75 per cent of lost wages, after the cap was cut to 65 per cent in the summer.
Beefing up child benefits
The feds plan to temporarily boost payments to families entitled to the Canada Child Benefit. The move would increase support to up to $1,200 a year for each child under the age of six per low- or medium-income household. The temporary boost to the program would cost about $2.4 billion in 2021.
Taxing the digital economy
While there’s been plenty of talk about a so-called “Netflix Tax” in Canada with little in the way of concrete action, the feds unveiled plans to have foreign-based digital enterprises collect and remit GST and HST on their sales to Canadian consumers. The measures would apply to goods and services, meaning short-term accommodation platforms like Airbnb would also be subject to the new rules. The government also proposed applying GST and HST to all sales of goods passing through domestic fulfillment warehouses on their way to Canadian households.