Agrium Halves Potash Royalties

Agrium reports that it paid half as much to the people of Saskatchewan in the second quarter as it had in the same quarter of last year. The company’s quarterly “potash profit and capital tax” payment dropped to $8 million from $15 million a year ago.

Agrium’s only potash mine is in Saskatchewan. The value of its potash sales has barely changed: $246 million in the second quarter compared to $259 million a year ago. As a percentage of sales, “potash profit and capital tax” fell to just 3% from 6%.

Agrium notes “a reduction in potash profit tax in 2012 due to deductions from the taxable base for investment related to our Vanscoy expansion project.” That refers to the Saskatchewan government allowing potash companies to immediately write off 120% of investment from profits before paying any potash production tax on them.

Given that Saskatchewan’s resource surcharge (“capital tax”) is 3% of sales and Agrium paid only that amount, the implication is that it paid (almost) no potash production tax. The company also pays Crown royalties, which might bring the province’s total return up to 5% or 6%.

The provincial government should collect a better return for the people of Saskatchewan, who own the resource. In particular, why are we allowing potash companies to write off more than 100% of the amount they actually invest?

Erin Weir is an economist with the United Steelworkers union and a CCPA research associate.

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