Message from the Executive Director

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July 2020


Hello to all CTF members— 

I would like to accomplish three things with this month’s message: to provide you with an update on some of the Foundation’s initiatives in support of tax research and policy in Canada; to share with you some other timely and relevant developments; and to profile some of the outstanding scholars involved in these initiatives and developments.

Before I do so, however, I would like to offer my congratulations to Kevin Milligan, a co-editor of the Canadian Tax Journal, and responsible for its Policy Forum feature. Kevin recently started an executive interchange with the Privy Council Office, where he will be making a significant and valuable contribution that will benefit all Canadians. During his secondment, he is taking a leave from the University of British Columbia, where he is a professor of economics, and from his editorship of the journal. Congratulations, Kevin, on this important appointment and on the recognition of your talent that it reflects.

I am delighted that Frances Woolley has agreed to join the editor group at the Canadian Tax Journal and, in Kevin’s absence, to take the lead on the Policy Forum section. Frances is a professor in the Department of Economics at Carleton University, where she has taught since 1990. Her research focuses on families and Canadian public policy. She is a former president of the Canadian Economics Association and an accomplished scholar, and her long record of publications includes many contributions to Foundation publications, including the Canadian Tax Journal.

As the co-editor now responsible for the journal’s Policy Forum section, Frances is seeking feedback from readers on the feature’s current format, and she is looking both for prospective contributors and for suggestions on topics. Typically, the Policy Forum feature consists of three or four articles offering a variety of perspectives on a topical policy issue. Recent topics have included election platform costing, provincial finances, the reform of corporate taxation, and offshore tax evasion. I encourage interested members to share your thoughts with Frances by completing the survey.

I am also very pleased to announce the launch of a timely new series of articles on digital services taxes (DSTs). Professor Allison Christians will be authoring the CTF Digital Tax Log, with the goal of providing to the tax community prompt, comprehensive updates on the details and progress of the DST measures adopted in various countries. The OECD continues its work on developing a consensus-based solution to the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the global economy. In the meantime, unilateral measures proliferate around the world, and the pace of change is rapid.

The name of the CTF Digital Tax Log reflects both its format and its content; it will comprise a regular series of open-access posts on the Foundation website that will analyze the state of play of DSTs around the world, with commentary on the key features of proposed and adopted regimes, analysis of convergences and divergences across regimes, and notifications about relevant communications as they arise. The inaugural instalment, which is now on our website, provides an overview of the landscape, comparing some of the key features of proposed and adopted DSTs and providing a visual timeline of developments to date. Subsequent entries will track the trends as they develop through the end of the year, including any developments in continued US trade-related scrutiny.

Allison is Associate Dean (Research) and the H. Heward Stikeman Chair in the Law of Taxation at the McGill University Faculty of Law. Her research and teaching focus on national and international tax law and policy issues. She is also actively engaged in the ongoing discussions of international taxation, and I look forward to her thoughts and analysis. I am confident that the CTF Digital Tax Log will be of interest both to our members and to the broader community of tax experts, policy makers, and policy observers around the world. To that end, we welcome comments and inquiries from readers (with a comments section coming soon), and we hope to host a dialogue on our site about the nature and practical implications of this fascinating and fast-moving area of international tax.

Finally, I would like to update you on some exciting developments in one of our longstanding publications. For almost 60 years, the Canadian Tax Foundation published information on public finance through an annual monograph, Finances of the Nation, and its predecessor, The National Finances. In 2014, this content was incorporated into the Canadian Tax Journal’s Finances of the Nation (FON) feature, which presents annual surveys of provincial and territorial budgets, along with topical articles on taxation and public expenditures in Canada.  For decades, these publications have served tax experts and policy makers as a single, easily accessible source of aggregated public finance data in Canada, with enduring value as a resource and historical record. The static presentation, however, has limited the utility of this information for researchers. A new and more cutting-edge approach was required.

Under the sponsorship of the Foundation and the guidance of economists Michael Smart (University of Toronto), Ken Mackenzie (University of Calgary), Trevor Tombe (University of Calgary), and their team, an ambitious project is underway to gather and publish the public finance data online, along with current and historical articles on public policy in Canada.  This project will assemble datasets and build tools to make new analysis and data more widely available—to researchers, practitioners, government officials, journalists, and the general public. The first datasets on the FON website address government revenue and expenditures, statutory tax rates, information gleaned from the Canada Revenue Agency's T1 Income Statistics, and the specific cost and benefits of various taxes and programs. We expect this open-access website [https://financesofthenation.ca/] to be very useful and to help address the data limitations that currently restrict robust public policy analysis. FON researchers will continue to publish policy analysis regularly in the Canadian Tax Journal, but the FON website will be an additional outlet for shorter works of commentary on policy issues. Members are invited to visit the website, and to send comments and suggestions to admin@financesofthenation.ca. We at the Foundation are excited to collaborate on this important effort, and the timing—as our country looks for insight into post-pandemic economic recovery—is particularly good.

I hope that you will find all of this new content useful and that it will create additional opportunities for engagement and discussion.

See you next month.

Heather L. Evans,
Executive Director and CEO