The one-time payment of $500 to every adult earning $100,000 or less has been the main takeaway from Quebec’s spring budget, tabled on Tuesday by Finance Minister Eric Girard. Yet, the document contained several under-the-radar measures that could have an impact on businesses. Here are six of them.
1 – A More Efficient, Digital Tax Agency
Quebec’s government will invest 123.4 million dollars over five years to make it easier for taxpayers to fulfil their tax obligations. This investment will allow Revenu Québec to deploy project VISION, which aims to transform the way it provides services to individuals and businesses by using technology to create a more efficient, digital tax administration model.
Project VISION focuses on five main areas, including simplifying the client experience, improving services to businesses, strengthening information security, and fighting tax evasion and fraud.
This is a 10-year project that could have a tangible effect on businesses. Several groups have asked repeatedly for tax agencies to cut paperwork. This announcement is definitely a step in that direction.
The government sees benefits for everyone: “Since meeting tax obligations will be made easier, a larger number of taxpayers can be expected to fulfil their responsibilities with no intervention from Revenu Québec, which will benefit all Quebecers.”
2 – Cracking Down on Crypto-Crime
The budget highlights the Quebec government’s growing attention to cryptocurrencies. It perceives the emerging cryptoasset market as “fertile grounds for the emergence of new types of crime”.
The government is signaling it wants to crack down on illicit financial products, fraudulent practices, the use of ransomware, the theft of cryptoassets, as well as tax evasion and money laundering schemes using cryptocurrencies.
Last year, Québec set up an Interagency committee on cryptocurrencies to develop best practices across government departments and bodies to respond to the rise of the cryptoasset industry and “combatting cryptoasset crime”.
Since the fall of 2021, Revenu Québec has been tasked with enforcing the Money-Services Businesses Act. It has conducted 700 inspections so far and will boost its inspection and auditing activities to ensure that online trading platforms and cryptoasset ATMs comply with their obligations.
3 – Protecting and Promoting French
The CAQ government has made the protection and promotion of French language one of its priorities, including with the introduction of Bill-96 in May 2021. With this in mind, $14.4 million will go to the implementation of the Bill. The budget also allocated nearly $200 million over the next five years to ensure foreign workers’ integration and the promotion of French, in particular by improving access to language courses in the workplace. Other such investments include an $80 million envelope over four years to attract foreign students in Quebec regions and reduce the tuition fees charged to foreign students enrolled in programs offered in French.
4 – Personal Information and Cybersecurity in the Digital Age
In the wake of high-profile leaks such as the Desjardins data theft, the Québec government adopted Bill 64 aimed at modernizing the use and protection of personal information in the private sector. This budget allocates $19.5 million by 2026-2027 to strengthen the role of the Commission d’accès à l’information, which is the body responsible for the implementation and enforcement of Bill 64 in the private sector, hoping that this will help the organization getting the right resources and assist businesses with the interpretation of their new obligations.
5 – Closing the Productivity Gap
Closing the wealth gap between Quebec and Ontario has been a recurring theme for premier François Legault’s since he returned to politics in the early 2010’s. Tuesday’s budget, the last one before the upcoming fall elections, is a reminder of this priority, at a time where job creation has become harder in the province due to the labour shortage and as other factors such as inflation and the Ukraine crisis continue to generate economic and political uncertainty. As such, the budget tries to encourage businesses in Quebec to increase their investments, particularly in technological equipment, and to intensify their presence on export markets in order to accelerate their development.
6 – Ukraine Fallout
Quebec’s economy has rebounded more strongly than expected after the pandemic. The government expects that trend to continue. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced it to revisit its economic forecast. “The war in Ukraine has pushed up the prices of energy and other commodities, which will add to the inflationary pressures already present,” the document points out. Canada and Québec will be affected by the fallout, “but to a lesser extent”. High crude oil prices will help Canada’s economy, as the country is a net oil exporter. But Quebec is a net importer of oil. That means higher gas prices will affect its trade balance.