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Myth-busting key to physicians' tax fairness battle with government

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) continues to battle against the mistaken belief within the federal government that proposed changes affecting group medical structures will simply close a tax loophole for doctors, rather than significantly undermine patient care, training and research opportunities in medicine.

The CMA and Dr. Richard Davies, professor in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and managing partner of a group medical structure, recently appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to highlight the significant risks to health delivery posed by proposed changes in Bill C-29, the federal budget implementation bill.

"Since the release of this proposal in the 2016 budget, it has become increasingly clear to the CMA that Finance Canada is vastly underestimating the risks to group medical structures," Mr. John Feeley, Vice-president of Member Relevance at the CMA, told committee members. "I'm here today to clarify that the risks are real and if this proposal applies to group medical structures, there will be a negative impact to medical research, physician training and the delivery of specialty care."

Group medical structures are prevalent within academic health science centres and among certain specialties, notably oncology, anaesthesiology, radiology, and cardiology. CMA estimates show that about 10,000 to 15,000 physicians are incorporated in these structures across the Canada.

Physicians have been encouraged by the provinces and territories to form these team-based models to help fund the education and training of medical students and residents in teaching hospitals, and for conducting medical research. Since the federal budget was tabled last spring, the CMA has worked to educate the government about these structure which, unlike in other professions, have not been formed for taxation or commercial purposes.

"Group medical structures were formed to deliver on provincial and territorial health priorities, primarily in the academic health setting, such as teaching and medical research, as well as for optimizing the delivery of patient care," said Mr. Feeley. "Maintaining the current framework for the small business deduction is critical to the continued viability of these structures."

Since the release of the budget last spring, the CMA has been copied on nearly 2,000 submissions, letters and emails from members to Finance Canada and the finance minister expressing concern over the proposed changes.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.