Last week’s Fall Economic Statement featured updates to Canada’s economic outlook and corporate tax changes, specifically, the Capital Cost Allowance measures. However, the Finance Minister also proposed a controversial $595 million package to support Canada’s media sector, including tax breaks for those who subscribe to some online media outlets.
Speaking on November 21 to his support for journalism in Canada Morneau said, “We’ve made some investments to ensure that we continue that we have an important free press and to ensure that we have a strong and healthy democracy by protecting the vital role that independent news media play in our democracy and in our communities…”
To that end, the government will be creating an independent panel made up of members of the media, in order to implement these proposed tax-relief provisions:
- A temporary, non-refundable 15-percent tax credit for qualifying subscribers of eligible digital news media. Dates and eligibility criteria will be determined by the panel.
- A donations tax credit for contributions to a new category of “qualified donee” for non-profit journalism organizations. This will allow these organizations to issue receipts for donations from both individuals and corporations and open the door for foundations to provide financial support to media.
- A refundable tax credit for qualifying news organizations that “produce a wide variety of news and information of interest to Canadians.” Specifically, the tax credit will apply to the labour costs associated with producing original content and will be open to both non-profit and for-profit news organizations. An independent panel drawn from the news industry will be established to define eligibility of the measure, which will take effect January 1, 2019.
Opposition critics have expressed concern about these measures and their impact on journalistic independence. Additional concerns relate to the creation of the panel that will define eligibility criteria, expected before the next federal budget in the spring.
The donations credit is also puzzling, considering that the March 22, 2017 federal budget removed the 25% First-Time Donor’s Super Credit, originally introduced to encourage young people to give to charity. It cited the following reasons in the budget: “. . .Budget 2017 confirms that the First-Time Donor’s Super Credit will be allowed to expire in 2017 as planned, due to its low take-up, small average amounts donated, and the overall generosity of existing tax assistance for charitable donations.”
It would appear the government has had a change of heart on using the overall generosity of existing tax assistance for charitable donations in the case of journalism.