Journey to Parliament Hill
On February 27th, the Canadian government released the 2018 Federal Budget. For me, this was a momentous day as it marked the first time in my career that I attended an unveiling of the budget in Ottawa.
Over my years as a tax professional, I have developed a passion for tax – thinking about tax law and pondering the tax policy reasons behind the law. In my current role as a tax manager with RSM Canada, I study both tax policy and the implications of tax changes to our middle market clients. With one stroke of a pen, the government in power can have a significant impact on the Canadian business landscape, positive or negative. The visit to Ottawa gave me the opportunity to see this firsthand.
At my current job level, the opportunity for tax professionals to witness the unveiling of a Federal Budget is rare at other firms. This line of sight in a tax professional’s career does not exist; it is almost impossible to participate in the presentation of the budget unless you are at the partner level. Typically, the Federal Budget release involves the top tax advisors in the country, experts and members of think tanks who shape Canada’s economy. Having the opportunity to be a part of it not only sated my craving to witness tax policy in action, it inspired me to continue doing my utmost to bring the most insightful tax advice to our clients.
Developing points of view to deliver the power of being understood
As first-choice advisors to our clients, my colleagues and I at RSM Canada work hard every year to offer viable, informed responses to every tax issue that may affect our clients as a result of changes to the budget. The experience of being in Ottawa was akin to what I imagine it’s like being in a war room. I participated in a roundtable discussion with several RSM partners and directors, including Maria Severino, the national tax leader for RSM Canada, anticipating changes. We discussed controversial tax topics – such as the tax changes to income splitting and passive investments held in a corporation proposed in July 2017 – as well as the likelihood of them becoming law. As a team, we devised various recommendations to assist our clients, should the worst-case scenarios actually become part of the budget.
I also spoke with a political advisor who had been working within the government and witnessed numerous budget unveilings over the years. The non-tax perspective I learned was extraordinarily useful. There are a myriad of reasons why certain tax decisions are made. Having the discussion with both tax and non-tax people showed me how politics impact these decisions. I developed an understanding of how the government responds to extenuating factors in driving certain tax policy. This knowledge will serve me well in the coming years as I counsel clients on tax policy developments.
As it turned out, the government softened their stance and backed away from the worst-case scenarios we had discussed earlier that day. Alongside my colleagues, I took the budget apart and simplified the topics that I had been assigned to, arriving at the essence of each topic and looking at its impact, both for our clients and the industries we serve. For example, many of RSM Canada’s clients would have been deeply affected by the proposed changes to the taxation of Canadian private corporations. We also looked at the impact of the budget on the private equity firms we work with – both Canadian and foreign – who are investing in and outside of Canada. Overall, my experience in Ottawa gave me insight that will deeply enrich my work with my clients.
Commitment to growth in first-choice advisors at all levels
Giving me the opportunity to experience the budget firsthand not only demonstrated RSM Canada’s commitment to developing its team members, it also showed me that the firm values my opinion. Rather than limiting such opportunities exclusively to senior leadership in our firm, RSM Canada offered me the chance to do this kind of exciting work at the tax manager level. Working together with the team in the thick of the Federal Budget release is an adventure I’ll never forget.