Tax Holiday for Academics

The Québec government is now offering academics in hot disciplines a 5-year personal income tax holiday if they will come to work in Québec. Originally announced in June 2000 by Finance Minister Bernard Landry, the new tax holiday plan went largely unnoticed until a few weeks ago, when the Ministry of Education made the full details public.

Convincing the brightest minds to work in a province with the highest overall personal tax burden in North America is a daunting task. But it is a necessary one, too. According to data from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada , universities across Canada will need approximately 3000 new faculty per year between now and the year 2007 just to cope with expected increasing enrollments and mandatory faculty retirements. Although the language barrier and tax burden deter many potential scientists from working in Québec, the Québec government has one ace up its sleeve: As the only provincial government that collects its own income tax, it is the only one that can offer tax incentives.

And that is just what it plans to do. Effective immediately, Ph.D.-level academics with expertise in technology, health, science, finance, engineering, new information, and communications technologies are now eligible to receive a 5-year tax amnesty on personal income. In return, applicants must commit to 5 years in Québec "working exclusively and continuously at a university in their chosen field."

How many professors will be drawn to Québec by the temporary tax amnesty remains to be seen. "Québec universities plan to hire a significant number of professors in the next 3 to 5 years," says Francesco Arena of the Québec Ministère de l'Éducation, "but I do not have sufficient information to tell you how many new faculty will take advantage of the new tax exemption measure."

Arpi Hamalian expects tax exemption to have a minimal effect. "This band-aid measure is another example of the Québec government's short-sighted vision concerning the future of the higher education system of Québec," says Hamalian, president of the Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d'université. "Piecemeal measures are not going to attract professors or keep others from leaving Québec universities."

(Full details of the Québec plan, including lists of eligible disciplines and institutions and instructions on how to apply, are available online.)

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