Rates of Return on Flow-Through Shares: Investors and Governments Beware
Canada’s tax code allows the use of flow-through shares for mining and oil and gas companies on the assumption that they are a good way to spur new productive exploration and are also beneficial to investors. In reality, it appears that flow-through shares are lousy for both. Flow-through shares are designed for corporations that cannot make good use of expense deductions from their taxes and so, through the use of these special type of shares, can pass along their expenses for shareholders to deduct from their own income taxes. This tax break is not insignificant: The amount of revenue foregone by the federal government due to flow-through shares and the related Mineral Exploration Tax Credit averaged $440 million every year between 2007 and 2012. But the steepest price has arguably been borne by investors, with returns on flow-through shares performing extraordinarily poorly. For small companies that issued these shares, the annualized absolute return was a nearly 100 per cent loss. For larger companies, the returns were not as bad — negative 14 per cent — but still a loss. And if adjusted for corresponding benchmarks, the returns were even worse. From the $2.5 billion raised from Canadians using flow-through shares, investors have lost $1.2 billion. Certainly these results would indicate that flow-through shares are hardly helping Canadian explorers strike lucrative new discoveries (it is impossible to say whether the limited success some larger companies had in locating productive assets, using flow-through shares, would not have occurred anyway). Meanwhile, these share issues, bearing the imprimatur of a special government right and the incentive of an investor tax benefit, have likely led to market distortions, luring capital that might have otherwise gone to more productive and rewarding investments. Compounding matters is the very real possibility that those projects that were funded by flow-through shares, but would have been better not begun at all, added competition for inputs and labour, increasing their prices — and lowering returns — for other mining and oil and gas projects with better prospects. In sum, the legacy of flow-through shares is effectively a list of everything that would indicate the policy’s failure. They have hurt investors. They have hurt economic efficiency. They have distorted market competition. And all at a cost to the federal government of nearly half-a-billion dollars a year. Furthermore, the incentives created by flow-through shares can only run counter to any desires among federal and provincial governments to diversify their economies and reduce dependency on mineral and fossil fuel resources. And even where it remains a goal to increase investment in such resources — or any other government-favoured sector, for that matter — it is clear that flow-through shares or tax incentives similar to this policy mechanism are an extremely poor way to achieve it.
The following is the copyright statement of SPPP.
Copyright © <Author name> <year>. This is an open-access paper distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC 4.0, which allows non-commercial sharing and redistribution so long as the original author and publisher are credited.
Publication Copyright and Licensing
The following guidelines and information, provided in six sections, are intended for authors (the “Author”) who are invited to write a paper (the “Work”) for The School of Public Policy Publications (the “Publisher”). The rights and responsibilities conveyed in the SPP Author Agreement will only apply once your paper is accepted for publication. At that point in the publication process, you will be asked to download the form and return a signed copy via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please review the below information to ensure agreement with SPPP policies.
Section 1: Author’s Grant of Rights
In consideration of the Publisher’s agreeing to publish the Work in The School of Public Policy Publications, the Author hereby grants to the Publisher the following:
1.1 The irrevocable, royalty-free right to publish, reproduce, publicly display, publicly perform and distribute the Work in perpetuity throughout the world in all means of expression by any method or media now known or hereafter developed, including electronic format;
1.2 The irrevocable, royalty-free right to use the Author’s name and likeness in association with the Work in published form and in advertising and promotional materials related to the Work; and
1.3 The irrevocable, royalty-free right to license others to do any or all of the above.
Section 2: Prior Publication & Publication by Others
2.1 The Author agrees not to publish the Work, or authorize any third party to publish the Work, either in print or electronically, prior to publication of the Work by the Publisher.
2.2 The Author agrees not to publish the Work in any publication outlet which is substantially similar to The School of Public Policy Publications for a period of six (6) months after publication of the Work in The School of Public Policy Publications. Substantially similar is defined as a non-subscription, open-access publication outlet with a similar mandate/vision and intended audience.
2.3 Should the Author publish or distribute the Work elsewhere at any time or in any alternate format, the Author agrees to contact The School of Public Policy Publications to inform them of the subsequent publication.
2.4 Should the Author publish or distribute the Work elsewhere at any time or in any alternate format, the Author agrees to make reasonable efforts to ensure that any such additional publication cites the publication in The School of Public Policy Publications by author, title, and publisher, through a tagline, author bibliography, or similar means. A sample acknowledgement would be:
“Reprinted with permission from the author. Originally published in the The School of Public Policy Publications, http://www.policyschool.ca/publications/.”
Section 3: Editing and Formatting
The Author authorizes the Publisher to edit the Work and to make such modifications as are technically necessary or desirable to exercise the rights in Section 1 in differing media and formats. The Publisher will make no material modification to the content of the Work without the Author’s consent.
Section 4: Author’s Ownership of Copyright and Reservation of Rights
4.1 Nothing in this agreement constitutes a transfer of the copyright by the Author, and the copyright in the Work is subject to the rights granted by this agreement.
4.2 The Author retains the following rights, including but not limited to, the right:
4.2.1 To reproduce and distribute the Work, and to authorize others to reproduce and distribute the Work, in any format;
4.2.2 To post a version of the Work in an institutional repository or the Author’s personal or departmental web page so long as The School of Public Policy Publications is cited as the source of first publication of the Work (see sample acknowledgement above).
4.2.3 To include the Work, in whole or in part, in another work, subject to Section 2 above and provided that The School of Public Policy Publications is cited as the source of first publication of the Work (see sample acknowledgement above).
4.3 The Editors and Editorial Board of The School of Public Policy Publications requires authors to publish the Work under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC 4.0). This license allows others to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the Work for noncommercial purposes, and ensures the Author is credited for the original creation. This onward licensing is subject to section 2.4 of this agreement, which further ensures that the original publisher is credited.
Section 5: Author’s Warranties and Undertakings
The Author warrants that:
5.1 The Author is the sole author of the Work, or if a joint author, the Author has identified within the Work the other authors, and holds the copyright, either solely or jointly, and has the power to convey the rights granted in this agreement.
5.2 The Work has not previously been published, in whole or in part, except as follows:
5.3 Any textual, graphic or multimedia material included in the Work that is the property or work of another is either explicitly identified by source and cited in the Work or is otherwise identified as follows:
5.4 To the best of the Author’s knowledge, the Work does not contain matter that is obscene, libelous, or defamatory; it does not violate another’s civil right, right of privacy, right of publicity, or other legal right; and it is otherwise not unlawful.
5.5 To the best of the Author’s knowledge, the Work does not infringe the copyright or other intellectual property or literary rights of another.
5.6 The Author will indemnify and hold Publisher harmless against loss, damages, expenses, awards, and judgments arising from breach of any such warranties.
Section 6: The Reuse of Third-Party Works
The Publisher requires that the Author determine, prior to publication, whether it is necessary to obtain permissions from any third party who holds rights with respect to any photographs, illustrations, drawings, text, or any other material (“third-party work”) to be published with or in connection with your Work. Copyright permission will not be necessary if the use is determined to be fair dealing, if the work is in the public domain, or if the rights-holder has granted a Creative Commons or other licence. If either the Author or Publisher determines for any reason that permission is required to include any thirdparty work, the Author will obtain written permission from the rightsholder.