Tax incentives for individual innovators

Question:How can Canada become the best country in attracting and developing talent?
on 10/27/2016







From the airplane and the liquid-propellant rocket, to modern computers, software and social media, many of the technologies that have shaped and continue to shape our modern world have been the result of individuals, amateurs, and small groups of enthusiasts, often working in their spare time with extremely limited resources, rather than as part of a company.  

Not only does the work of such individuals sometimes lead to significant new technologies and viable companies, it also provides them an unmatched opportunity to develop their own creativity, skills and expertise in a hands-on way that can be of immense benefit in helping them to succeed and contribute to Canada’s economy. 

That success may come directly as a result of an idea they are working on, but it can equally come indirectly, as a result of the experience they have gained and the skills they have developed.  Such self-motivated innovation and experimentation can thus be both a means of developing talent and a means of encouraging innovative work that could lead to new products or companies.  

Yet they tend to face significant obstacles and there tends to be very little support available to them to pursue such work.  If those individuals are only able to pursue their work in their spare time, they may not have the means of incorporating a company and gaining access to the incentives that are available to businesses.

One way the government could lend its support to such self-motivated innovators would be through tax incentives, for example allowing any investments they make related to their innovative activities to be tax-deductible against their primary income, if they do not happen to have their own profitable business to claim it against.  If the costs they incur, for example purchasing a tool or piece of equipment, buying parts to build a prototype or proof-of-concept, taking a relevant course or joining a “hackerspace”, could be used as a deduction against their primary income, this would serve as one practical incentive to encourage and aid them in the pursuit of their work, and would help promote the idea that individuals who take the initiative to engage in their own innovative work and hands-on skills development are actively supporting Canada’s innovative economy and should be encouraged to do so.  

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Adam Trumpour by Adam Trumpour

As an added thought, this could have further benefits in light of finance minister Morneau's recent comments about increasingly common "job churn" and lack of long-term stable employment.  In such an environment, measures that encourage and support Canadians to invest in developing their own skills and/or work on developing innovative ideas, creations and potential future businesses are particularly valuable.  This idea would be a way to help achieve this through the use of tax incentives.   

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