Increases in top personal income and corporate taxes are making it more difficult for B.C. to compete for highly skilled workers compared to neighbouring U.S. states, according to a new study from the Fraser Institute.
B.C.’s top combined federal and provincial personal income tax rate is 49.8 per cent, applying to income of $150,000 and up. That’s about 13 per cent higher than the rate in Washington and Alaska, neither of which has a state income tax.
“The B.C. government has recently made worse the province’s long-standing tax competitiveness problem with recent hikes to personal and corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, carbon taxes, vehicle taxes and property taxes – all of which make it harder to attract potential skilled workers, investors and businesses,” said Ben Eisen, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and co-author of Assessing British Columbia’s Tax Competitiveness.
“B.C.’s tax regime is simply uncompetitive with not only neighbouring U.S. states, but several Canadian provinces.”
The study ranks B.C. ninth highest among provinces and states in North America in the top personal income tax rate. For tax rates on business investment, the survey finds B.C. to be highest among provinces.
The gap is made more significant by major tax changes implemented last year by U.S. President Donald Trump. B.C.’s corporate income tax rate is “in the middle of the pack” for provinces, the study says. But using a measure called “marginal effective tax rate” that calculates the broader application of sales tax to businesses, B.C. goes to the top.
The harmonized sales tax, implemented in B.C. in 2010 and then repealed in 2011 after a province-wide petition demanded it, was designed to make business more competitive by spreading sales tax across more services and lifting it from manufacturing and other business inputs on the way to delivering a final product.
B.C. businesses are now coming to grips with the new employer health tax, a new tax on payrolls of more than $500,000 a year that takes effect as of Jan. 1 to replace provincial revenue from the Medical Services Plan tax. Some businesses are paying both for 2019, with the MSP rate reduced by 50 per cent and eliminated in 2020.