Canada plans 2015 tax breaks but mum on income-split pledge

Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:20pm EST
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By Randall Palmer and Julie Gordon

OTTAWA/NORTH VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's Conservative government will deliver tax relief to families when it balances the budget in 2015, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Friday, but he wouldn't confirm whether it will stick to a controversial pledge on "income splitting".

The Conservatives pledged in 2011 that once the budget is balanced they would let couples with children reduce taxes by sharing their income for tax purposes, similar to U.S. rules whereby couples get a lower tax bracket when they file jointly.

But Flaherty surprised political observers on Wednesday when he said he wasn't sure the measure would benefit society overall, suggesting a split in the Conservative ranks on whether to renege on the pledge.

"We will reduce taxes for families next year when we have a surplus, and that's what the prime minister has said as well. There are various ways of doing that," Flaherty told a news conference in North Vancouver, British Columbia, that was dominated by questions on income splitting.

Flaherty echoed comments made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday in which he said the Conservatives, in power since 2006, will cut taxes for families, without specifying whether the income-splitting idea is now dead.

The 2011 Conservative platform estimated income splitting, which would apply to couples with children under 18, would cost the government C$2.5 billion ($2.25 billion) annually.

The question came to the fore this week as Flaherty delivered a budget that forecast a healthy surplus for 2015-16.

On Wednesday, Flaherty pointed to a number of studies saying that income splitting would benefit a relatively small portion of society, and especially the rich.   Continued...

Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie