News in Brief

New Brunswick budget proposes tax changes

FREDERICTON — Payroll departments will have to implement both income tax and harmonized sales tax (HST) changes this year as a result of proposals announced in New Brunswick’s budget.

The government announced it plans to eliminate the top marginal personal income tax rate of 25.75 per cent and to reduce the second highest tax rate from 21 per cent to 20.3 per cent, retroactive to Jan. 1. 

The new 20.3 per cent rate would apply to taxable income over $150,000. The tax bracket would be indexed, like the other brackets, beginning next year. 

The provincial government only implemented the 21 per cent and 25.75 per cent rates last year. Finance Minister Roger Melanson says the changes in this year’s budget are in response to the federal government introducing a new top marginal federal income tax rate of 33 per cent on taxable income over $200,000 as of Jan. 1. 

Melanson also announced the government will raise the provincial portion of the HST from eight per cent to 10 per cent on Jul 1. The change will increase the overall HST rate in New Brunswick from 13 per cent to 15 per cent.

Employer-paid health, dental plans top employee benefits: Poll

TORONTO — Employer-paid premiums for health and dental plans and group-term life insurance are the top two employment benefits Canadian employers provide to their workers, says the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA).

The CPA recently released results from a survey it conducted on employment and retirement benefits in Canada. The results, based on responses from nearly 4,000 respondents, show that insurance-related benefits are the most popular offering, followed by job-related training, motor vehicle allowances and gifts and awards.

Other popular benefits include cell phone, counselling services, disability-related employment benefits, income maintenance and related plans, and employer contributions to employees’ registered retirement savings plans.

The survey also found the most challenging benefits to administer are security options and employer-provided parking.
The least common benefits offered include childcare expenses, employer-controlled frequent flyer programs and employer payment of spousal travelling expenses.

The CPA says many employers risk breaking tax rules when they offer benefits because they are unaware that many employer-provided benefits are taxable. Improper assessment of taxable benefits and allowances is a common finding for Canada Revenue Agency auditors, the association says.

“It is important for employers to educate themselves and their staff on payroll compliance requirements as a way to avoid costly penalties and fines,” says Janet Spence, the CPA’s manager of compliance services and programs. 

Unemployment rate rises to 7.2 per cent in January: StatsCan  

OTTAWA — Canada’s economy lost about 5,700 jobs in January, raising the country’s unemployment rate from 7.1 per cent to 7.2 per cent, Statistics Canada reports. 

Industries where employment declined included agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, and public administration. Employment was up in information, culture and recreation as well as in the ‘other services’ industry. 

On a provincial basis, Newfoundland and Labrador continued to have the highest unemployment rate at 14.4 per cent, unchanged from December. The unemployment rate in Ontario also remained steady at 6.7 per cent.

The unemployment rate went up in Alberta (from seven per cent to 7.4 per cent), Manitoba (from 5.9 per cent to 6.1 per cent), New Brunswick (from 8.9 per cent to 9.3 per cent), and Saskatchewan (from 5.5 per cent to 5.6 per cent).

The unemployment rate went down in British Columbia (from 6.7 per cent to 6.6 per cent), Nova Scotia (from 8.6 per cent to 8.5 per cent), Prince Edward Island (from 9.8 per cent to 9.5 per cent), and Quebec (from 7.9 per cent to 7.6 per cent).

In the United States, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the American economy added 151,000 jobs in January, lowering the unemployment rate from five per cent to 4.9 per cent.

Average weekly earnings down slightly in November: StatsCan  

OTTAWA — Average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $951 in November, down slightly from $953 in October, Statistics Canada reports. Statistics Canada revised the October numbers from the previously reported $959. 

On a year-over-year basis, weekly earnings increased 1.4 per cent in November. The increase in weekly earnings during the 12 months to November reflected a number of factors, including wage growth, changes in the composition of employment by industry, occupation and level of job experience, as well as average hours worked per week. 

Non-farm payroll employees worked an average of 32.9 hours a week in November, little changed from the 33 hours reported for October.  

Year-over-year earnings of non-farm payroll employees increased in all provinces, but Alberta and Saskatchewan, in November. 

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