Sovereign Wealth and Pension Funds Controlling Canadian Businesses: Tax-Policy Implications
25 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2013
Date Written: February 5, 2013
In a world without taxes, investors that take over companies would do so because they expect to be able to operate the business efficiently and at a high rate of return. But in Canada today, some acquirers enjoy tax advantages over others. And that could mean that certain buyers, who may not be best suited to owning a particular company, are able to outbid those who are better positioned to run that company at optimal efficiency.
That is a problem not just for investors who end up outbid, due to Canada’s uneven tax policy, but for the Canadian economy, which suffers from the resulting economic inefficiency.
With respect to registered pension plans, the so-called 30-per-cent rule puts a cap on the amount of voting equity in a company that they are permitted to own. Meanwhile, however, sovereign wealth funds — whether controlled by China or Australia — face no such limit when purchasing stakes in Canadian firms.
The number and size of sovereign wealth funds, globally, is only growing — and rapidly. But as Canada increasingly attracts foreign capital, with foreign-controlled government-affiliated funds seeking out Canadian takeover targets, much of the discussion around public policy has focused primarily on the Investment Canada Act and the “net benefit test” for foreign direct investment.
Another component in ensuring that Canadian interests are preserved, however, is the question of whether Canadian institutional investors can operate on a level playing field with foreign sovereign wealth funds. With the 30-per-cent rule limiting equity purchases for one but not the other, it would appear that they are not.
The most appealing remedy to this imbalance is a tax solution: limiting the corporate deductions on interest, fees, royalties, rents, and the like, that so often factor in to the takeover calculation, as part of a tax-minimization strategy. This would not only put pension funds and sovereign wealth funds on equal footing, but it could also be applied to investors operating from low- or zero-tax jurisdictions, as well. This approach is not without disadvantages. But overall, the neutrality it could achieve among different types of institutional investors, and the potential it has to enable those investors best able to maximize management excellence and synergies, make it the preferable policy direction for ensuring the greatest level of efficiency in the Canadian economy.
Keywords: pension, wealth, state, owned, public, government, ownership, tax, efficiency, plan, investment, sovereign, policy
JEL Classification: H25, H21, G38, F21, L32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation