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April 5, 2022

Canada Needs an “IP Box” to Spur Flagging Innovation

  • Canada needs to create an Intellectual Property (IP) Box to improve its lacklustre innovation performance, according to a new study from the C.D. Howe Institute. An IP Box would tax income from patents and other intellectual property at a special low rate. This initiative would boost Canada’s flagging business investment in R&D, raise our low commercialization rate, and stem an outflow of IP profits to tax havens.
  • Author John Lester examines Canada’s case for an IP Box, and describes how it could be designed and implemented.
  • The key argument for this measure is that it defends against “poaching” of highly mobile IP income by low tax jurisdictions, particularly tax havens, writes Lester. The standard counterargument is that IP Boxes trigger competition for mobile IP income, which will eventually drive the preferential tax rate down to zero. However, this criticism has lost its force due to two developments. The first is an OECD-inspired international agreement that income taxed at a preferential rate must be derived from R&D performed in the implementing jurisdiction. The second is the tentative agreement on a global minimum tax rate. With these two developments, an IP Box can protect Canada’s tax base without engendering competition for highly mobile IP income.
John Lester

John Lester is an Executive Fellow at the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.