Saskatoon

Sask. plans to create its own revenue agency, take more control over tax collection

The provincial government wants to take greater control of the way taxes are collected in Saskatchewan.

'These guys are a bunch of virtue signalers,' says opposition's finance critic

The Saskatchewan government has introduced a bill aimed at taking more control of tax collection in the province. (Matt Duguid/CBC News)

The Saskatchewan government wants to take greater control of the way taxes are collected in the province.

It introduced the Saskatchewan Revenue Agency Act, which aims to establish a new government agency, in the legislature Monday afternoon.

In a news release, deputy premier and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said it's the "first step" in a larger transformation of the province's corporate tax system.

"This act is among the steps our government is taking to protect and defend Saskatchewan's economic autonomy, industries and jobs from federal intrusion and constitutional overreach," Harpauer said.

The new agency would be responsible for administering taxes and related programs in Saskatchewan, stated the news release. That includes taking control of the provincial portion of the corporate income tax system from the federal government.

However, the province currently does not want to take on personal income tax collection, meaning that responsibility would remain with the Canada Revenue Agency, Harpauer said on Monday.

"At this point we are just looking at corporate [tax]," said Saskatchewan's finance minister.

"There is about a two-year delay in getting the information from the Canada Revenue Agency on the corporate income tax."

The changes would mean additional income tax forms for Saskatchewan corporations, according to Harpauer.

NDP calls it a backwards plan

Harpauer said she didn't have a concrete number yet related to the potential costs of setting up the Saskatchewan Revenue Agency.

"There will be a cost, but there's also a revenue stream that would come with it," she said.

"Right now the agreement that we have with the federal government does not cost us, but they charge us for any changes we make."

Overall, the province hopes the new Crown corporation would be very close to revenue neutral, she said.

Donna Harpauer is Saskatchewan's deputy premier and finance minister. On Monday she said Alberta already collects its own corporate income taxes, while Quebec collects all their taxes. (CBC)

Saskatchewan NDP's finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said his party is not buying the idea of revenue neutrality. 

"Not a chance," he said.

"It's gonna be less efficient as well. You have businesses having to file twice, for example. It certainly has the risk of adding significant complexity to the tax system."

The Saskatchewan Revenue Agency Act is the latest in a series of developments aiming to clearly define or increase provincial powers. Those include measures to assert control over natural resources and firearms regulation.

Wotherspoon does not believe the new act will help the province to protect its economic autonomy, as the government claims in its news release.

"These guys are a bunch of virtue signalers that are trying to pretend they're doing something on this front," he said.

"But all they're doing is growing a bigger government and making things more cumbersome for businesses."

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