Legislative roundup: Changes in payroll laws and regulations from across Canada

Changes to tax deductible meal expenses • Reduced EI premium rates rising for 2011 • WorkSafeBC revises interest payment policy • B.C. MSP premiums rising • Tax cuts suspended in B.C. • Sunday shopping changes in Manitoba • Sales tax rate going up in Quebec • New Brunswick minimum wage going up • Tax rate changes in N.B. • Minimum wage going up in Northwest Territories
|Canadian Payroll Reporter|Last Updated: 03/02/2011


Changes to tax deductible meal expenses

The federal government has increased the tax deductible portion of meal expenses for long-haul truck drivers to 80 per cent, effective Jan. 1, 2011. This is the final step towards fulfilling the commitment the federal government made in 2007 to restore the meal tax deductibility to 80 per cent by 2011, and the limit has been gradually increasing each year. The Canadian Trucking Alliance said it welcomes this change, which will allow Canadian long-haul truck drivers to enjoy the same meal deduction allowances as their counterparts in the United States. To be eligible for the tax deduction, drivers must generally be away for at least 24 consecutive hours and the purpose of the trip must be to transport goods beyond a 160-km radius from the home location. The vehicle must have a gross vehicle weight of greater than 11,788 kg.

Reduced EI premium rates rising for 2011

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) released the reduced EI premium rates for 2011 for employers with registered wage-loss replacement plans:
•category 1 plans: x 1.248 the employee premium (1.209 for Quebec employees)
•category 2 plans: x 1.175 the employee premium (1.116 for Quebec employees)
•category 3 plans: x 1.181 the employee premium (1.123 for Quebec employees)
•category 4 plans: x 1.164 the employee premium (1.102 for Quebec employees).
The category refers to the group to which HRSDC assigns the employer, based on the type of wage-loss replacement plan the employer has set up.


WorkSafeBC revises interest payment policy

The province’s Workers’ Compensation Board has revised its policy on interest payments on amounts it refunds to employers for overpayments. Under the amended policy, interest is payable from the date an employer overpaid its assessment to WorkSafeBC. Previously, interest was payable to an employer from the date the employer requested a review or filed notice of an appeal.  The board may pay interest on overpaid assessments in the following situations:
•The overpayment was the result of a blatant error no reasonable person should make.
•The employer prepays an administrative penalty or a penalty assessment pending a review or appeal and is successful.
•The board returns an amount to the employer as a result of a successful review or appeal of issues such as assessments, classification, compensation or rehabilitation.
The decision is retroactive to Sept. 22, 2010.

B.C. MSP premiums rising

Just a reminder: Effective Jan. 1, 2011, the government increased the Medical Services Plan (MSP) premium rates. For a single person, the maximum premium will increase from $57 per month to $60.50. The maximum premium for a family of two will rise from $102 per month to $109 and for a family of three or more it will increase from $114 per month to $121.

Tax cuts suspended

The provincial government has changed suspended proposed tax rate reductions. In late October, Premier Gordon Campbell announced the government would lower the income tax rates for the first two tax brackets from 5.06 per cent to 4.3 per cent and from 7.7 per cent to 6.525 per cent, respectively, as of Jan. 1, 2011. One week after proposing the tax cuts, Campbell announced his intention to resign as leader of the British Columbia Liberal Party. The party will choose a new leader on Feb. 26, 2011. The government’s executive council decided  until a new leader is selected, “It is important decisions are not made that would unnecessarily limit executive council’s ability to set priorities and implement their agenda for government,” said Campbell in a news release. As a result, the personal income tax rates remain unchanged at 5.06 per cent, 7.7 per cent, 10.5 per cent, 12.29 per cent and 14.70 per cent. Due to the indexing of the tax system, the income thresholds for each rate will be revised for next year.


Sunday shopping changes

The province has amended its Retail Businesses Holiday Closing Act to allow stores to open anytime on a Sunday that falls on Boxing Day (Dec. 26). The change applies to retail businesses that are now allowed to open on Sundays between the hours of noon and 6 p.m. The bill does not require Sunday shopping in communities that do not want it. Instead, it allows municipalities the option of prohibiting or restricting shopping hours when Boxing Day falls on a Sunday. Boxing Day fell on a Sunday in 2010. The next time it will occur on a Sunday will be in 2021.


Sales tax rate going up

Just a reminder: Effective Jan. 1, 2011, the Quebec Sales Tax (QST) rate increased from 7.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent. As a result, the combined Goods and Services Tax (GST)/QST rose from 12.87 per cent to 13.92 per cent on Jan. 1, 2011. The prescribed rate employers use to calculate the QST on automobile operating expense benefits also increased from 4.7 per cent to 5.4 per cent.