Without policies that foster small business growth, the province s productivity, level of innovation, and overall competitiveness stand to suffer.

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1 Alberta Investor Tax Credit Solving the Venture Capital Draught Issue The inaccessibility of early-stage capital investment is a major impediment to the growth and sustainability of Alberta s small businesses. Often lacking the resources and administrative capacity to raise capital via debt financing, these businesses rely heavily on equity investments made by angel investors and venture capital firms. Despite this need, Alberta is currently one of the only provinces in Canada without an income tax credit for those who invest in local small businesses. 1 The province lacks an incentive structure aimed specifically at encouraging private sector agents to purchase equity in local capital starved enterprises. Without policies that foster small business growth, the province s productivity, level of innovation, and overall competitiveness stand to suffer. Background With In their 2013 Report on Competitiveness, the Alberta Economic Development Authority identified key competitiveness indicators, and compared the province s performance against other jurisdictions both within Canada and abroad. The report found that one of the greatest obstacles to the provinces overall competitiveness was a lack of access to venture capital. In the report, Alberta was ranked near last in terms of both venture capital investment relative to GDP, as well as the number of venture capital deals per 100,000 people. Venture capital is vital in the development of innovative companies within the province. This inability is intrinsically 1

2 linked to Alberta s other low scores in non-resource export growth, employment in high-tech manufacturing, and employment in knowledge-intensive services. 2 Increased business investment also contributes to the overall macro-economic health of the economy. In their Monetary Policy Report: October 2014, the Bank of Canada identified weak business investment as a major economic risk factor. The report outlined the economy s over reliance on household spending, and the need to shift toward business investment as a key driver of growth. 3 Therefore, policies must be developed to encourage investment when individuals or corporations would otherwise save, or consume non-capital goods. Currently, provincial programs have focused mainly on the demand-side of the business development equation. Through the Alberta Innovation Voucher program and support in R&D funding, there has been an attempt to spur the creation of new businesses and start-ups. These programs are important for creating investment ready businesses, 4 but more must be done in encouraging private sector investment to help these ventures move forward. Early stage equity investment is a necessary component in allowing small businesses to grow and become sustainable enterprises. Enterprise Alberta is one body which provides public funding to such ventures. Yet, a sustainable ecosystem for small business investment in Alberta is not possible without greater private sector involvement. New businesses backed in large part by public venture capital tend to underperform compared to those funded by private investors, both in terms of patent production and the likelihood of a successful market exit via an IPO or third party acquisition. 5 However, due to the government s unique ability to provide funding to companies whose societal benefits may not be realized in the free market, there is still a role for public sector investment. Econometric studies out of the University of British Columbia and Shanghai Advance Institute of Finance have shown that the best investment mix is of majority private capital, with some early stage public funding. Mechanisms for public funding, such as Enterprise Alberta, are already in place. Therefore, the most effective policies going forward are ones which take steps to increase the flow of private capital into these firms. Structures Other jurisdictions have successfully used an income tax credit to spur investment in small businesses. With high pickup rates, low costs, and general efficiency, they illustrate how such a program may be structured and potential outcomes

3 The following table outlines how investor tax credits are designed in some other provinces. The table provides a rough outline of what such a program could possibly look like in Alberta and areas where policy makers have leverage to tailor it to meet Alberta s unique needs. British Columbia 6 Manitoba 7 New Brunswick 8 Nova Scotia 9 Program Name Amount of Credit Credit Limit Limit on Investment Received Refundable Investor Eligibility Investment Capital Program Small Business Venture Capital Tax Credit Program Small Business Investor Tax Credit 30% 45% 30% for individuals 15% for corporations and trusts Individual investor claim $60k/year Carried forward 4 years No limit for corporate investor Business may raise max $5M of direct investment, Business may raise max $10m from multiple VCC in any 2 year period Individuals: Yes Corporations: No At arms-length from business or major share holders B.C taxable individual or corporations Max credit earned $202.5k Claim max $67.5k/year Carry forward 10 years, or back 3 Raise min $100kmax $10m Earn a max credit of 75k Carry forward 7 years, or back 3 Raise min. $10k At least 3 investors -may not be replacement shares Equity Tax Credit 35% $17.5K/year Carry forward 7 years, or back 3 N/A No No No Invest min $20k- $450k In the last 24 months, must not have owned more than 35% of issued shares of issuer Accredited investor, or signed Acknowledgement of Risk Individual invest min. of $1k Corp or trust invest min. of $50k Resident of Nova Scotia, over 19 years of age

4 Business Eligibility <100 employees 75% of wages to B.C residents (50% if engaged primarily in exports) Engage in prescribed activity Already raised $25k in equity capital -Incorporated in B.C, Federally, or extraprovincially <50 fulltime employees 25% of employees Manitoba residents <$15m in gross revenue Non-reporting issuer Previously issued less than $10m under program At least 25k in stated assets CCPC May not use investment proceeds in ineligible business activities <40m in assets 75% of wages to NB residents (50% if primarily engaged in exports) Private company Incorporated or registered to carry out business in NB <25m in assets and revenue 25% of wages paid to Nova Scotia residents May continuously apply for program, as long as they stay below the cap May not be accountant, dentist, lawyer, medical doctor, veterinarian, or chiropractor Share stipulations Other Program Details Common or preferred Held for 5 years Investment may be made through direct investment, venture capital corporation, or the employee shared ownership program (varying stipulations) Common or preferred Represent new shares issued by issuer Held for 3 years Issuers are required to provide annual report to administers for each fiscal period in which they issue shares under the program Held for 4 years Minimum of 3 investors Held for 5 years non-convertible, voting, common shares Must have 3 investors during each offering Option of investing in a Community Economic Development Fund, which in turn invests in businesses Similar programs exist in other jurisdictions as well, including the Yukon and Prince Edward Island. Quebec has a number of programs supporting investment, including labour sponsored venture capital corporations, stock saving plans, and a tax credit for individuals who purchase shares in a venture capital company. 10 One notable exception is Ontario, which currently has no incentive structures in place for investors. However, a 35% refundable investor tax credit based on the B.C model was a key element in the Mcguinty Liberal s re-election platform in It is unclear why this popular campaign promise was not acted upon. However, the Ontario Liberal s minority government, a

5 change in party leadership, and an unexpected era of austerity due to a projected $30billion dollar deficit by , all seem to be contributing factors. 12 Results There has been a paper published out of the University of British Columbia, evaluating their province s program. Looking at data from 2001 to 2008, it found that $256 million in tax credits issued helped to attract $2.3 billion of equity investments, helping to create over 4,000 jobs. They also estimated that the average company participating in the program raised a total of $2.14M of equity. In the same period, every $1 given as a tax credit generated $2 in provincial tax revenue, making it a net financial gain for the province. A 2010 survey of B.C investors found that 73.8% of respondents said they would invest less without the tax credit and 11.9% said they would not invest at all. If this program did not exist 41.3% said they would seek to invest more in the US, 23.8% more in Canada outside B.C. 15 In Nova Scotia, the program has been incredibly popular, and there are strong advocates for its expansion. Between 2002 and 2011, $115.7 million was invested using the program, in exchange for $35.7 million in tax credits. It hit a historical peak in 2006, right before the recession, with $5million in tax credits being leverages into over $16million in investment. The success of this program, has led some to suggest an Atlantic Canada-wide initiative to attract capital investment. 16 Other Consideration In 2015/16, the B.C program s estimated cost will be $25million dollars. 17 o By comparison, Alberta s Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Credits cost an estimated $82 million dollars in o The Equity Tax Credit in Nova Scotia is estimated to only cost $1.5million in foregone revenue. 19 British Columbia has implemented an online system to minimization registration time (2 weeks) and compliance costs for businesses strategy.sauder.ubc.ca/hellmann/pdfs/angels%20in%20bc%20preliminary%20survey%20report%20october% pdf

6 o May be easily integrated in Alberta s Small Business Resources website framework Generally high utilization of allocated credits (seen multiple expansions across jurisdictions) Early stage investment spurs more investment from other sources and a legacy effect in which successful businesses make generous contributions back into the overall business community A program in Alberta does not necessarily need to limit credit to prescribed activities but it may be leveraged in the future to increase investment in specific sectors Conclusion In order to increase capital investment in small businesses, and contribute to the overall stability and growth of the Albertan economy, the provincial government should incentivize investors through an income tax credit. Considering Alberta is the only jurisdiction without this type of program, it stands as an effective tool that the province should take advantage of. As has been shown in British Columbia, it is possible to create a very successful program without a loss to tax revenue and large administrative costs. This creates a more efficient outcome than direct government participation in investment decisions, and keeps both the investment of capital and the subsequent rewards within the province. Alberta is fortunate to have large pools of capital, yet a system must be put in place to encourage the flow of this capital back into the province s small businesses. This tax credit is a hands-off approach which puts the onus on investors to make the final decision on risk and efficiency, but incentivises them to keep their money within Alberta and put it toward high-growth businesses. A program such as this is an important step towards protecting the long-term health of the Albertan economy, while ensuring that the province remains competitive for both investors and small businesses owners.

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