Tag Archives: taxes

Is Ubisoft Hurting Canadian Tech Businesses?

National Post, a Canadian newspaper, as well as La Press, Montreal based French newspaper, recently published an op-ed piece about why they think Ubisoft is taking away talent from other tech firms across Canada. Here is a short summary.

Ubisoft has generated over $2.6 billion dollars in revenues last year, and is currently employing over 4,000 in the province of Quebec. It has also promised to invest further $9 billion dollars over the next 8 years into the province of Quebec.

But now, as pointed out by National Post in English and La Presse, Ubisoft became so successful it has started to hurt local tech companies because they can not attract and hire talent like Ubisoft can.

Quebec subsides gaming industry by providing the tax credit — between 26.25 and 37.5 % of total salaries paid to employees developing video games and other related multimedia products.

It made sense to subsidize the industry 10-15 years ago when Quebec’s economy was in a recession and dying for companies to come there, but now with shortage of IT staff in thousands, it might be the time to end the subsidy according to few local tech companies.

Eric Boyko, the CEO of Stingray Digital Group, a company headofficed in Quebec with about 250 staff in Montreal and another 200 in other places, criticized Quebec’s government decision to keep the subsidy:

“Every CEO I speak to in Montreal and in Quebec, their No. 1 challenge is attracting young employees and technology employees.” Boyko says it is outrageous that gaming companies can get the same employees as they hire at Stingray at up to 37.5% discount.

Eric Boyko, the CEO of Stingray Digital Group

Boyko also said that Ubisoft drives up the competition for software developers and therefore ups the salaries by up to 20 to 30 per cent, to around $80,000 to $120,000.

Dax Dasilva, CEO of Lightspeed, another decently sized software company in Quebec, said in his interview to the Globe and Mail:

Despite the sizable contribution domestic technology companies make toward Quebec’s economic prosperity, government policies regarding innovation have featured incentivizing for the expansion of foreign branch plants in Quebec over the growth and success of homegrown companies locally and around the world. This has had a negative effect on Quebec’s ability to scale domestic companies into global giants.

Canada is already facing a high-skills talent creation and retention problem, particularly in the digital industries. A recent study from the Information and Communications Technology Council states there will be nearly 220,000 unfilled tech jobs across Canada by 2020. In Quebec’s tech sector, we have been at full employment for a decade.

Despite this, government officials in Quebec and across Canada have been investing considerable amounts of time, energy and political capital into attracting multinational technology companies to Canada without any studies on the effect they have on the domestic tech ecosystem and our economy as a whole.

More concerning, these large companies pay little to no taxes to the governments underpinning their growth, as the profits they earn are realized at their foreign headquarters – not in Quebec. Local wealth creation is important because the taxes domestic companies pay on their revenues are reinvested by governments into the important social and infrastructure programs all businesses use and Quebeckers care about. The same goes for the capital gains reinvested by local investors and funds such as Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec, Fonds de solidarité FTQ and others.

Boyko continued saying that the foreign company that gets subsidies to come to Quebec does not create 300 jobs, but it instead steals 300 jobs from local companies.

Yannis Mallat, who runs Quebec’s Ubisoft office does not agree with Dasilva and Boyoko saying that:

“This program is helping to make Quebec and Quebecers richer. We are contributing to net growth in terms of the economy. When you [make] such a big investment, of course you want some guarantees.”

The Institut du Quebec recently published a new study that states that Quebec about 100,000 jobs are un-filled right now. South Ontario and Vancouver are in very similar positions even though their subsidies are not as generous.

What we need to do in Canada now with this historically low unemployment rate is to grow our wealth, not just create jobs.

Maybe instead of trying to import success we can give local tech companies a chance to grow. The new study, Narwhals Top 40 List, pointed out that Canada has failed to produce even one billion dollar business in the last 3 years while US for example had over 19 companies that grew to be valued at over $1b in the same period of time.

While tax subsidies might have been a good idea in 1995 when it was first created – now they make no sense according to La Presse – as we have now very mature market with a well established industry. If we would eliminate the tax credits, the jobs will not be lost, but rather transferred to other companies that are starving for some good talent.

New NAFTA increases online shopping duty free for Canadians

After months of negotiations Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau have finally come to an agreement and there is much to be celebrated about this new deal when it comes to Canadian online shopping.

Canadian online shoppers will be pleased that now they will be able to ship more goods into Canada without paying duties as new agreement increased the minimum cross-border purchase price for duties and taxes, known as deminimis threshold. We wrote in an article not so long ago pushing for this change in increase to duties exemptions. I guess Trump and Trudeau have listened to our rumblings.

Canada’s deminimis threshold was $20 since the 80s and have not been updated since. That means that anything you ship into Canada over $20 must incur a duty and a tax unless the product is exempt.

Under the new NAFTA or the new name of NAFTA, USMCA, these thresholds will be increased. Canada has agreed to increase deminimus to $40 for tax purposes (ie GST/HST) and $150 for duty purchases.

Canadian retail was not pleased with the change as they say hundreds and possible thousands of retail jobs will now be lost.

Mexico has also upped its deminimis to $100 US or about $130 Canadian while US has decided to decrease their deminimis from $800 to $100 US.

So Canada has now officially the largest duty free exemption in North America. Sounds like a win for Canadian consumers. Time to load up that www.amazon.com.

Canada’s Tech Going Down South

Brain Drain – here we are again. Just like in the 1990s – early 2000s, when living was easy south of the border in California with its nice weather year around, the exchange rate US Canadian dollar is extra 35% top up, salaries are double what you make home (in Toronto at least, more than that when compared to Montreal / Vancouver), and taxes are lower (by about 3% lower in California vs Ontario on $100k USD).

So it’s not difficult to see why the new study published, led by Zachary Spicer, a senior associate with the Munk School of Global Affairs’ Innovation Policy Lab at University of Toronto, revealed that an alarming rate of young graduates head south of the border for work as soon as they finish their degrees here in Canada.

The study found that at least 25% of recent science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates from three of the country’s top universities – University of Waterloo, University of British Columbia and U of T were working outside of Canada within few years of finishing school. The study surveyed 3,162 graduates from 2015 and 2016 in 22 STEM programs at the three universities based on their LinkedIn profiles and select follow-up interviews.

The numbers are much higher as seen from the graph below when it comes to Software Engineers. It shows that 66% of new grads in that field end up in the US. That’s 2 out of 3 recent grads.

This study was surprising due to the fact that for the last few years many media outlets paint Canada as rising tech star and place where people want to live and work.

And why not? If you can have endless summers, you are young (no health care issues) and can get double the pay as per recent study by Indeed.com that pointed out average salaries in Toronto around $73k vs $142k in San Francisco and almost the same real estate cost, and have skills to back it up and have no family to support (ie no need to pay for healthcare, daycare, school, etc.) Than moving to the USA is no brainer.

Tech Salaries in San Francisco, California, USA vs Toronto, Ontario, Canada

That’s a big concern for the Canadian government that is in the business of heavily subsidizing university education. Computer Science degree at University of Toronto for example for Canadian students will only costs you around $5k USD vs around $50k USD a year for Ivy League schools in the US.

Some LinkedIn were calling on the Canadian government to “react to this brain drain problem fast and effectively.”

But the problem is maybe simple economics, Canada is a country which has politeness, shyness and under ambition when it came to money as pointed out by recent KPMG report. Instead of growing Canadian startups into billion dollar corporations, a lot of founders decide to exit via acquisition. The average exit is only $8m. With almost 2 million Canadian companies in existence, the ones that scale up and go the distance and achieve true scale can be counted on your fingers.

Also in some places like Montreal, you will end up paying 17% more in taxes when comparing to places like Austin, Texas on salaries over $130,000 (41% in Quebecs vs 24% in Texas).

Sheldon Levy, former education minister told Globe and Mail

If two-thirds of our very best people [are leaving] because they don’t see the equivalent opportunity of developing a world-beating career in Canada … then yes, we have a problem.

The founders of the study call on the Canadian government to create “national talent retention strategy” and help pay back the loans, asking Canadian companies to pay more to compete with the US and hire more students faster.

But as summarized by the study’s own author Adam Froman

I’m not expecting we’ll turn this around [completely]. If you’re a 24-year-old kid, it’s kind of exciting to get paid $100,000 to go down to the Valley.

Why Online Shopping in Canada Is So Expensive

Welcome to Canada, where everything costs 15-25% more expensive than same product south of the border in the US.

Most of things you want to buy in Canada will most likely cost much less in the US. Why not shop in the US and get it shipped to Canada you say? Well, that is because Government of Canada will hit you with a big duty fee that will be anywhere between 10%-50% of the item value when you cross the border with it.

ParentRap / Pixabay

Why Canadians Pay More For Online Shopping

What happens when you order online from the US and ship it to Canada – your order will fall under the provision of the Postal Imports Remission Order of Canada: if someone mails you an item worth CAN$20 or more, there is duty or tax payable.

Example – buying stroller for your little one:

putevodnik / Pixabay

USA – $599 USD + no tax: because your are shipping to Canada: https://www.buybuybaby.com/store/product/britax-reg-b-free-travel-system/3343161

Canada – $799 Canadian plus 14% provincial tax: https://well.ca/products/britax-b-free-travel-system_141411.html

So if you want to buy that $600 USD stroller in the US (manufactured in China) vs buying it in Canada for $900 plus HST or PST/GST (about 14%), you think you are saving $737 Canadian vs $1,026 Canadian for a total savings of almost $300 – not bad for a quick research.

BUT not so fast: the problem is that now Government of Canada will ask you to pay the applicable duty, the GST or HST, and any PST on the item’s full value duty, which you can calculate yourself here https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/dte-acl/est-cal-eng.html. This will amount to about $200 if you import into Quebec or Ontario. So you are still saving about $100 but not as much as $300.

Difference between Canada and the US

The difference is that when you ship anything to the US instead of $20 exemption like in Canada they have $800 US exemption. With the new NAFTA review, the US government is pushing Canada to up and match the exemption.

Why Canada Does Not Want to Match US $800 exemption?

You would think that this would be a good thing for everyone if Canada upped the exemption. However accounting firm PwC – commissioned by the Retail Council of Canada released a report saying that 300,000 jobs will be lost because Canadians will be paying 20-30% less and that usually goes to retail people’s salary. Even if exemption limit is pushed only to $200 – the study says still 280,000 people would lose their jobs in Canada.

Canada Retail is furious that hard working Canadians trying to save a buck or $300 if you are buying above mentioned stroller and say that it is ridiculous that you want to save money:

“It would be a bizarre public-policy choice to incentivize people to shop anywhere but here,” said Karl Littler, the Retail Council of Canada’s vice-president of public affairs. “This would be an incentive not to invest here. It would, in fact, be an incentive to invest elsewhere in order to gain access to the tax and duty advantage.”

Why US wants Canada to match it?

GDJ / Pixabay

US does not agree. Mr. Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, is pushing $800 exemption, because he says its unfair to Canadians and Americans. He says that NAFTA might get cancelled if this point is not dealt with.

The American side says that they will reduce wait times, and increase revenue for the American government and companies in the US.

“The facts are that the government spends more to go after de minimis than they collect,” said Maryscott Greenwood, chief executive of the Canadian American Business Council, who added that a higher threshold would benefit Canadian exporters and consumers.

“The public wants to be able to buy things for convenience online,” she said.

What can you do to help to raise the exemption?

There are few petitions going on, you can sign it if you wish:



Under the Postal Imports Remission Order, goods imported from another country are exempt from taxes and duties if the value does not exceed $20; $60 on gifts. That’s right, for an item worth more than $60, you have to pay to receive a gift. This is known as the de minimis threshold. (de minimis: too trivial or minor to merit consideration, especially pertaining to law) This threshold was put in place in 1985, long before the emergence of e-commerce, which many of us use today. This regulation is completely outdated and out of step with our NAFTA peers, and this limit of $20 is one of the lowest in the developed world.

Canada is a part of NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) along with the United States and Mexico. The U.S. has a de minimis threshold of $800USD, and Mexico a threshold of $300USD.

There are many, many items that simply cannot be purchased within Canada. When importing, with duty and taxes as well as brokerage fees that may occur, you may end up paying much more than (sometimes even double) the actual price of an item. This doesn’t just harm consumers, but also small to medium-sized businesses. Commercial goods above $1600 are exempt from duties and taxes, protecting many larger businesses from encountering these harsh fees. It’s time to stop penalizing the small guys so heavily for trying to take part in the global economy, or even just the North American economy for that matter, and wasting so much money, time, and manpower doing it.

Netflix To Set The Record Straight on Canada

After facing some bad publicity in Canada, Netflix went full force to “set the record straight” on their investment into Canada. In case you missed it Netflix has agreed to $500m investment over next 5 years into Canada. Also Province of Quebec decided that they will charge taxes on Netflix whether it has offices in Canada or not, no matter what the federal government decides to do.

Netflix critiques’ blame it for not paying taxes in Canada and not providing enough Canadian content yet having around 6 million users (40% of Canada adult population over 16 and if you include household that number is probably closer to 60% of Canadian).

See their well written response below by Corie Wright, Netflix’s Director, Global Public Policy. Enjoy.

WerbeFabrik / Pixabay

Full Netflix Letter to Canada is Below

Last week, we received approval under the Investment Canada Act from the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Hon. Melanie Joly, to create Netflix Canadaa new home for Netflix original productions in Canada. It’s our first permanent production presence outside of the U.S. Netflix will use Netflix Canada to work directly with Canadian producers, creators, talent and crews to create more great content.

As part of this approval, Netflix committed to invest at least half a billion CAD in movies and television shows produced in Canada, both in English and in French, over the next five years. This means certainty that Netflix will continue to play a large role in the Canadian production community. We have invested in Canada because Canadians make great global stories. That says more about the quality and strength of Canadian content, talent, and crew than a commitment of any dollar amount.

We have more work to do when it comes to finding great stories from Quebec told in French. That is why on top of the half a billion CAD investment, we made a commitment to invest CAD $25 million dollars in market development activities over five years. Netflix will use that additional investment to host pitch days, recruitment events, and support local cultural events to ensure Netflix Canada reaches vibrant Canadian production communities, including the French-language community in Quebec.

Setting the record straight

Since the announcement we’ve seen lots of excitement, questions, and even some conspiracy theories about our investment. We’d like to set the record straight:

  • The recent price increase has nothing to do with our investment or commitments.That price increase was planned a long time ago.
  • We have not made any deals about taxesOur investment was approved under the Investment Canada Act. No tax deals were part of the approval to launch our new Canadian presence.
  • Netflix follows tax laws everywhere we operate. Under Canadian law, foreign online services like Netflix aren’t required to collect and remit sales tax.

Netflix is an online service, not a broadcaster

Some say Netflix got special treatment because the government didn’t force us to meet special content quotas as part of our investment — that’s wrong. Netflix is an online service, not a broadcaster. No online media service — foreign or domestic — is subject to traditional broadcast media regulations like quotas or content levies; they’re also not eligible for the regulatory benefits that traditional media enjoy. The CRTC decided in 1999 (before Netflix even had a streaming service) that these regulations would not apply to internet-based media. We think that’s the right approach. Internet-native, on-demand services like Netflix are consumer-driven and operate on the open internet. We don’t use public property like broadcast spectrum or rights of way and we don’t receive the regulatory protections and benefits that broadcasters get (and, by the way, we’re not asking for them).

Canada’s exceptional, world-class stories and production community

People choose what they want to watch on our service so we have to invest in the best content from around the world. We didn’t invest in ANNEFrontierTravelers or Alias Grace to fill a quota, we invested because they are great global stories. We will continue to invest in great Canadian content, and in other productions made in Canada like Hemlock GroveA Series of Unfortunate Events, and Okja, that are not Canadian content but that make use of, and showcase to the world, Canada’s outstanding talent, facilities, resources and locations.

What’s next

We understand that people are curious and eager for immediate details about what comes next. But remember: our commitment marks a long term investment in Canada — not just a next week, next month, or next year investment. That means that now that we’ve been given the green light to establish a local production presence, we have some planning and hard work to do before we can make any additional official announcements.

There is more to come. Stay tuned….

-Corie Wright,

Director, Global Public Policy

Canadian Government Decided They No Longer Need Small Businesses

How do you know the Liberals are running the country? It is for some reason they have decided they no longer need small businesses.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau have announced some crucial tax overhaul changes in 50 years. To make a long story short (if you do not have time to read below) here is a quick summary of proposed changes:

  1. Business owners would no longer be able to “sprinkle” income to their family members (children over 16 and their spouses) who do not work directly for the business.

  2. Businesses would no longer be able to convert income into capital gains as a way of paying less tax

  3. Owners would no longer be able to use an incorporated small business as a vehicle for making passive investments unrelated to the business.

See below petition for the new proposed tax laws which will impact Entrepreneurs and Startups. Please sign if you agree.

Liberal government’s new rules come at uncertain time for Canadian small businesses when American President Trump is renegotiating NAFTA, minimum wage is being increased by 30%+ ($15 an hour in some Provinces), and increases to CPP and EI.

The current tax system is fair and was designed for businesses to take risks and motivate people to make their own Canadian dream: work hard, buy a house, raise kids, make a lot of money and retire in Florida 😉 Canada Small businesses are backbone of this country and generate thousands of jobs.

Finance Minister is saying all “high income individuals” need to pay their share and play by the book. He says they now have unfair advantage. But do not let them fool you – proposed changes will punish all small businesses.

When Finance Minister is talking about those “high income individuals” he is talking about your friends, family, neighbours, all good smart law abiding Canadians trying to make a buck. These include doctors, your electrician, guy who does your lawn, guy who fixes your computer, etc.

They are the ones with their families who take the highest risk of starting and running a business. They do not even get the same benefits as normal employee – there is no parental leave, maternity leave, no pension, health benefits or vacation pay.

Here is a video from Allan Madan explaining the changes we have outlined below as well:

Now is the time to call your MP and tell him or her you will not stand for these unfair changes to small businesses.

What are the proposal to change the tax system for small businesses in Canada? There are three:

  • Income sprinkling

Now you can employ your spouse and even your kids in your small business to help you with various tasks and for these you pay them from the business and therefore lower tax bracket for everyone. Say you generated $150,000 (which is taxed at 32% if you take it as your income) but can go down to as low as 150-20% or less if you pay yourself, your wife, and your 2 kids. Essentially this way you can save around $20,000 on $150,000.

Liberals want to eliminate this – their reasoning is why employed people who make $50,000 need to pay more tax than people in small businesses who make $150,000.

Liberals also want to eliminate what is called lifetime capital gains exemption (LCGE) – basically if you start your business now and it becomes successful and you want to retire and sell the business for profit – now you do not need to pay taxes when you sell it for up to $835,716 this year. You work hard, now you can benefit from all this dough. Not so fast: Liberals do not like that and want to eliminate this and slap you with hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.

  • Passive income

Basically now if you make profit $100,000 in your small business, you would pay 15% or $15,000 in taxes and can keep the other $85,000 in what is called holding company and reinvest it say in stocks. You do not have to take the money out personally out of the company. If you would take money out personally you would end up paying almost 50% marginal tax rate.

Government thinks it is unfair for you to keep the money in your small business and pay small business tax, and invest and grow your portfolio. They want to introduce punishments to businesses who decide to keep the money in the company for investment purposes. They are saying that this way they will eliminate the “cheaters” who abuse the tax system for the last 50 years (since this was introduced). Basically making more money is now a crime.

  • Converting income to capital gains

Business owners may decide to convert their salary into capital gains. Government is trying to eliminate this.

Conservative Government is Fighting Back

Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party Leader, is fighting back against the Liberal changes and says:

This morning I visited Vimy Brewing Company, a start-up business operated by Kevin and Michael, two brothers and former Navy reservists.

They took a risk and left their jobs to start this new venture. Now they’re worried that the Liberals are putting their operation in jeopardy, by taxing away their future.

Kevin and Michael are not rich, they’re middle class Canadians – exactly who Justin Trudeau claims he wants to help.

Today I asked why he’s putting the future of Canadian job creators, like Kevin and Michael, at risk with this increased tax hike.



Quebec is the most taxed province in Canada; expect to pay $10k more in taxes on senior developer salary

UPDATE 1: Some people have disagreed with salary #s indicated in this article for Montreal market, instead of including one $, we have updated it to provide a range. Please note all salary #s are with bonuses included.

We love how beautiful Montreal is in the summer, the European charm, the Old Montreal streets, so one day you decide to move there, get a job and become a good member of society.  Quebec they say is one of the most socialistic places in North America however it is also the most taxed place.

If you are a senior software developer / programmer with 8+ years of experience you might get recruited by big companies in Montreal like Morgan Stanley or Ubisoft. The salary you might get will be around $90k-$110k plus say $10k-$20k bonus and stock options – so about $130,000 through payroll.

What a lot of Quebec marketing campaigns do not say when trying to attract talent is that you will pay $10,000 more than say in Alberta. You will say – hey at least I get cheap day care – not so fast – you will now need to pay $20 a day or more a for subsidized daycare  and around $40 a day for private daycare if your household salary is over $100,000.

Seth Daniel, developer who recently moved to Montreal from San Francisco, is not very happy about his new adoped city’s taxes – “atrocious … low.. salaries  with the highest taxation. Seriously the lowest paid dev salaries in the western world” as he calls it:

I am actually from SF (now living in Montreal) so I can tell you from experience that my dev friends in the Bay Area making 140k are doing much better than we ever will in Montreal. Indeed, rent is cheaper here but literally everything else is WAY more expensive. I was in Tennessee last summer and was able to go to the grocery store, spend $60 and feed a family of 5 for an entire week. The cost of living argument is really weak when you take more than just rent into consideration.

But what if you incorporate and become an IT consultant and run your own small business that way? Not so fast, Quebec has increased its small business tax for corporate IT consultants this year mind blowing 50%.

We compare 4 salary brackets and amounts taxed in 3 provinces below:

Out of School / Entry Level Developer Salary of $40,000 – $60,000 a year – $2k-$2.5k or around 5% difference a year: 

  • Quebec – $7.7k
  • British Columbia – $5.8k
  • Alberta – $6.4k

Intermediate Developer Salary of $60,000-$80,000 a year – $4k-$5k or around 6% difference a year : 

  • Quebec – $20k
  • British Columbia – $16k
  • Alberta – $16k

Senior Software Developer of $90,000 – $130,000 a year – $7k-10k or around 8% difference a year: 

  • Quebec – $45k
  • British Columbia – $35k
  • Alberta – $35k

Vice President of a company $150,000 – $200,000 a year – $16k or 8% difference a year: 

  • Quebec – $80k
  • British Columbia – $66k
  • Alberta – $64k

* please note all salaries indicated are with year end bonuses attached to them.

However before jumping to conclusions – you should compare all the costs of housing, education, insurances, etc.

For example when it comes to early education, few people in Quebec business community commented that, in the rest of Canada (or ROC), you are at disadvantage when you have kids going to daycare because in Quebec you just pay about $15-$20 a day vs $40-50 in ROC. Even though Quebec advantages might soon come to an end due to neighbouring Ontario’s recent annoucenment promising to let all 2.5 year old and older kids go to day care for free.

So even if you exclude Ontario, in Quebec you still would need to have 3 kids subsidized day care (which is very hard to get into) to offset $10k in extra taxes you will be paying as senior dev.  Also that is only for 3-4 years before they go off to elementary school. And unlike rest of Canada, in Quebec, you will most likely send your kids to private school either in French ($4,000+ a year) or English ($12,000+ a year). Unless you want to send them to public school with up to 20% drop out rates (highest rates in Canada). Private schools in Quebec generally have much higher success rates, no matter the language.

Also cost of living in Montreal can save you another $3,000 – $5,000 on 2 bedroom apartment a year as rent prices in Montreal are 38.98% lower than for example in Toronto.

But before you get excited, even with lower cost of living, and subsidized day care, you will most likely get salary about 20% less in Montreal than in Toronto or Ottawa for example. That could be a difference of around $20,000 for a senior web / app developer.


SOURCE: https://simpletax.ca/calculator

SOURCE: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Canada&country2=Canada&city1=Toronto&city2=Montreal&tracking=getDispatchComparison

SOURCE (drop out rates): http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/dismal-dropout-rates-among-french-speaking-students-worry-minister-1.2771757