OECD: Canadian economy resilient but more diverse reform needed
The Canadian economy is adjusting to the fall in commodity prices, but additional policies are needed to boost productivity, reduce financial stability risks and make future growth stronger, greener and more inclusive, according to a new OECD report.
The latest Economic Survey of Canada, presented today in Montreal by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría and Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau, underlines the slowdown in growth attributed to falling output in natural resource-based sectors, particularly energy. The Survey projects GDP growth of 1.7% this year and 2.2% in 2017, as the economy shifts toward non-resource-based activity.
“The Canadian economy is proving resilient, but continues to face headwinds from the low growth trap facing the global economy,” Mr Gurría said. “Canada’s economic policy settings are appropriate, given the risky international environment, but there is still scope for reforms to boost competition, stimulate business dynamism and ensure better economic outcomes for all Canadians.”
The Survey points out that vulnerabilities relating to house prices and household debt are acute and says that a continued tightening of macro-prudential measures will be necessary to prevent the risks from building further. Targeting such measures on the hotspots of Vancouver and Toronto, including through increased capital requirements, may be beneficial.
To boost productivity growth and lay the foundation for future economic expansion, the Survey suggests that Canada eliminate the high barriers to competition in network sectors and reduce foreign ownership restrictions in air transportation, telecommunications and broadcasting, where cultural objectives could be achieved by other means.
Barriers to competition in fragmented electricity markets could be reduced through development of new east-west interconnections, when there is an economic case to do so. Liberalisation of the generation and distribution sectors would encourage wholesale and retail competition in jurisdictions that have not done so yet.
Harmonising provincial and territorial regulations for trade in goods and services would remove key barriers to internal trade and could be promoted through establishment of a pan-Canadian regulatory cooperation council.
A more dynamic small business sector, with higher start-up rates and strengthened ‘up-or-out’ dynamics, would increase productivity by speeding up the diffusion of new technologies. Governments can create a better environment for small business dynamism by reviewing small business programmes, including preferential tax arrangements, the Survey said.
Increasing federal investment in physical infrastructure, social housing, education and innovation, as planned, would help make growth stronger and more inclusive, as will the new government's enhanced efforts to share more of the fruits of economic growth with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.
Canadian governments should also act on their recent Vancouver Declaration to ensure that an adequate price is placed on carbon emissions across the country to allow Canada to meet its international climate change commitments.
An Overview of the Economic Survey, with the main conclusions, is freely accessible on the OECD’s web site at: www.oecd.org/canada/economic-survey-canada.htm.
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Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda
New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.
According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.
And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.
Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.
Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax
Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.
According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”
Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models
Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.
Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected
in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.
"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."
Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities
Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.
At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”
Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting
Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.
Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact
Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements
Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.