Written by Matthew London
In the fall 2022 semester, I authored a paper titled “Incentivizing Giving via the Removal of Capital Gains Tax from the Donation of Private Company Shares” for my Philanthropy and the Law seminar course at Robson Hall, the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba. Within this paper, I explored the anticipated effects of Bill C-240 and advocated for fairer tax treatment for entrepreneurs donating shares, regardless of whether they held publicly listed securities or privately held corporations.
When an individual donates publicly listed securities to a registered charity, the tax assistance comprises two components. Firstly, the individual receives a Charitable Donation Tax Credit for the entire fair market value of the donation. Secondly, they enjoy a tax exemption on the capital gains tax that would have been applicable had the shares been sold rather than donated. Conversely, for private enterprises, family-controlled businesses, and any non-publicly traded businesses, individuals donating private company shares only receive the Charitable Donation Tax Credit, not the tax exemption on accrued capital gains upon donation. This disparity, aimed to be addressed by Bill C-240 (though unsuccessfully), results in individuals having to pay capital gains tax and, consequently, being unable to donate the entire value of the shares to charity.
The advantages of the proposed measures, as identified in my research, include increased funding for the charitable sector, enhanced equity for entrepreneurs irrespective of the public/private nature of shares, and a positive net cost to society. I also scrutinized concerns regarding the proposal, such as its potential regressive nature, fears of valuation abuse, challenges in liquidating private company shares, the argument that Canada’s tax incentive system is already generous enough, and worries that the proposal would disproportionately benefit large charities and institutions like hospitals and universities over smaller, local charitable organizations.
With an academic background in economics, I looked into considerations of the substitution effect of giving, the income effect, taxpayer price elasticity concerning the costs of giving, the impact of COVID-19 on charitable giving, and an assessment of philanthropy levels against underlying economic conditions. Writing this paper proved timely, not only due to the defeat of the proposed bill in June 2022 but also considering reduced donation levels to charities overall due to the pandemic, inflation, and a stagnating economy in Canada.
In the summer of 2023, Dr. Michelle Gallant informed the class of an opportunity to submit our papers to the Canadian Tax Foundation for its Student Paper Prizes, particularly if our papers from Philanthropy and the Law touched on tax-related subjects. As I learned from the class, philanthropy and charity are undeniably intertwined with taxation.
By the fall of 2023, I learned that I had been awarded The Canadian Tax Foundation-Bert Wolfe Nitikman Foundation Award for the Western Provinces. I was subsequently invited to the Canadian Tax Foundation’s annual conference in Montreal to receive my award, and I extend my gratitude to the Desautels Centre for its support in facilitating my attendance.
During the conference, I had the opportunity to attend panels featuring Tax Court of Canada Judges, representatives from the Department of Finance, and individuals from the Canada Revenue Agency. I also participated in sessions covering topics such as Mandatory Disclosure, Common US Structures, Private Equity Structuring, GAAR, Economic Substance, and Asset Management. I was able to network with practitioners and learn about opportunities that may be available as I finish my degree.
My selection as a recipient of this award is noted below on the CTF website, where the full article will soon be available: https://www.ctf.ca/ctfweb/EN/Volunteer_Spotlight/Writing_Awards/Student_Paper_Award/EN/Volunteer_Spotlight/Student_Awards.aspx?hkey=91dad5cb-f421-489d-a4d0-2b10fa697da0
An abstract of my paper will be published in an upcoming 2024 issue of the Canadian Tax Journal.
Thank you again to the Desautels Centre for supporting my attendance at the 2023 CTF Conference.
The views and opinions expressed in the blogs and case reporter are the views of their authors, and do not represent the views of the Desautels Centre for Private Enterprise and the Law, the Faculty of Law, or the University of Manitoba. Academic Members of the University of Manitoba are entitled to academic freedom in the context of a respectful working and learning environment.