Following through on its announcement last fall, the federal government has recently tabled a Notice of Ways and Means Motion, which includes amendments to the Income Tax Act increasing the pension plan surplus threshold from 10% to 25%.

These amendments, which will apply to all registered pension plans, whether federally or provincially regulated, beginning with 2010 current service contributions, will allow employers to accumulate greater surpluses in their plans. The theory is that in doing so employers will be encouraged to contribute more to their plans, thereby increasing benefit security and reducing funding volatility.

While many in the pension industry have been lobbying for these changes to the tax rules for some time, the willingness of employers to take advantage of these amendments may be influenced by their perceived ability (or lack thereof) to access such surplus under current provincial pension standards legislation. The so-called “asymmetry issue” (where those responsible for funding deficits are not given equivalent access to surplus) is an issue that can only be fully resolved by legislative reform, which is still pending across Canada.