The CTFs report
, done in conjunction with the nonprofit tax advocacy group, Americans for Tax Reform, looks at the effect taxes have on labour mobility. While it doesn’t specifically call on Stephen Harper (who’s a big hockey fan) to help downtrodden Canadian franchises such as Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, it does point out that these cities face a much more difficult time recruiting star players than say, Calgary or Dallas.
Aaron Wudrick, CTFs Federal Director states, “If high tax rates make it more difficult to attract free-agents in the NHL, it’s not a stretch to believe it’s also hard to attract other highly skilled workers. Governments need to keep that in mind when they're considering the impact of tax rates on attracting top talent."
On the surface this is a fair assessment of the situation.
After all, 57% of unrestricted free agents who moved teams in 2013/2014 ended up signing with a city where the after-tax take home pay was higher. Benoit Pouliot, formerly with the New York Rangers, signed a five-year, $20 million contract
with the Edmonton Oilers in the offseason. The move saves Pouliot almost $600,000 in annual taxes. With the average home price for a single-family dwelling in Edmonton approximately $427,000
as of October, the savings are nothing to sneeze at.
However, the report fails to recognize that there are just 690 players on NHL rosters at any given time, far fewer than the numbers of doctors, engineers, and CEOs employed in North America.
And while it’s nice to think all NHL players have unlimited mobility, it’s really only the Sidney Crosby’s of the world that can write their own ticket. The rest, like Pouliot, are limited in the choices of where they can play.
Only when that choice is between a low-tax jurisdiction like Edmonton and a high-tax one such as Buffalo would the tax calculation be a factor. Otherwise, the player is still going to choose the place where he feels he has a better chance of making the playoffs.
Do you think P.A. Parenteau cares that he’s paying $350,000 in additional taxes since being traded from Colorado in the offseason?
Montreal’s sitting tops in the NHL with 29 points, 12 points higher than his former club. I doubt very much he’s dwelling on his lower take home pay. Even the Prime Minister would agree on this.