Ali Spinner, BA, MMPA, CPA, CA, TEP
Occupation: Tax partner, Crowe Soberman LLP
I’ve been in the tax planning industry for: 15 years
My Twitter tagline is: “Tax Ninja by Day, Mom by Night.” I see myself as someone cutting her way through complex tax legislation, slicing it into understandable pieces for my clients. It’s tongue-in-cheek [and] a reminder not to take myself too seriously. But having an active social media presence has absolutely brought in work.
Favourite podcast: Freakonomics
My typical clients
My typical clients tend to fall into three buckets. The first group is owners/managers of entrepreneurial businesses. I assist them on business operations through a tax-focused lens.
The second is very high-net-worth families with assets that range from $30 million to $300 million. I advise them on tax compliance, estate planning and charitable giving needs. But, crucially, I’m taking a more holistic role as a family advisor for things like succession plans, the transfer of wealth between generations, and teaching younger generations about becoming effective stewards of wealth.
The third bucket is foreign businesses setting up shop in Canada.
Particularly with my high-net-worth clients, I work as part of a team that includes the family’s accountant, lawyer, investment advisor and insurance professional. It has to be a collaborative, transparent process: if communication breaks down, that’s when things have the potential to go awry.
A tip for advisors: avoid duplicating work. For significant transactions that require the input of multiple advisors—for example, an estate-planning exercise—clarify in advance the roles and responsibilities of each team member.
When significant legal or regulatory changes come up, discuss them—and their potential impact on the client—with each other. Each advisor should take the lead according to his or her area of expertise: when tax laws change, for example, the accountant would communicate that information to her colleagues.
The Canadian landscape
From a tax perspective, it’s a very interesting time in Canada. Integrated tax rates are increasing and I don’t see any evidence of that slowing down. With my high-net-worth clients who are paying a 54% personal rate, I notice that resentment sets in once rates crack the 50% threshold. Even if the government reverses the trend, I think the damage has already been done in the taxpayer’s mind. And now, with corporate tax cuts in the United States, I think we’ll see a trickle-down effect where fewer U.S.-based companies will move into Canada.
Susan Goldberg is a financial journalist based in Thunder Bay, Ont.