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Tax Benefits of Flow-through Shares in Mining and Exploration
Mining companies and investors alike can benefit financially from flow-through and super flow-through shares — but to understand why, one must first understand what these tax measures are.
Flow-through and super flow-through shares have been gaining popularity in Canada's mining sector, and for good reason.
There's much to be gained by taking advantage of the tax incentives provided by these share models, particularly in mining-friendly jurisdictions like Quebec. ASX-listed companies with projects in Canada have found these tax measures especially beneficial.
The bottom line is that mining companies and investors alike can benefit financially from flow-through and super flow-through shares — but to understand why, one must first understand what these tax measures are.
What is a flow-through share?
Flow-through shares are a type of common stock unique to Canada and typically associated with the Canadian resource sector. When a company issues a flow-through share, the tax credits it receives for expending capital on qualifying exploration and development projects will "flow through" to investors. Any funds spent investing in flow-through shares are treated as a tax deduction against the investor's income — in exchange, these shares are issued at a premium.
Any money investors make on selling their flow-through shares is considered a capital gain and taxed accordingly. For tax purposes, flow-through shares are treated as having a base cost of zero. Shares must also be held for a certain amount of time before they can be sold.
For mining companies, flow-through shares offer a compelling additional source of funding for exploration and development. At the same time, they also reduce a company's overall financing cost, enhancing viability. Moreover, because these shares are generally earmarked for a specific purpose, their sale does not dilute the ownership stake of a company's existing shareholders.
These factors together make flow-through shares particularly attractive for Australian critical minerals companies seeking to either gain a foothold in the Canadian market or mitigate the costs of a high-capital Canadian project, as they do not have access to any equivalent domestic fundraising methods.
How flow-through shares work
To issue a flow-through share, a company must be a corporation whose core business involves mining and exploration, processing, mineral recovery or metal fabrication. The project for which the shares are issued must be a mineral resource property, and it must be located in Canada. Beyond these requirements, the issuance process for flow-through shares is much the same as that for any common stock, with a few caveats.
First, the issuing company must work with a Canadian flow-through share dealer, entering into a subscription and renunciation agreement. In the case of Australian companies, additional provincial and/or federal forms are also required to renounce expenses. Canadian resident investors also do not hold the flow-through shares they purchase when it comes to ASX companies, though they are still able to benefit from the tax deduction.
Finally, flow-through shares are associated with two types of tax credits depending on the activity for which they are earmarked.
The Canadian Exploration Credit (CEE) provides an investor with a 100 percent deduction in the year of purchase. The Canadian Development Credit (CDE), meanwhile, allows the investor to write off their deduction over a period of three years. The premium for shares issued through the CEE typically ranges from 20 to 30 percent, while the premium for shares issued through the CDE is usually between 8 and 15 percent.
Flow-through shares vs. super flow-through shares
Super flow-through shares provide a provincial tax credit on top of the deduction offered by flow-through shares, typically 15 percent of certain "qualifying expenditures." For critical minerals, the value of this credit doubles to 30 percent. Depending on where the share was issued, this credit may either be deducted from an investor's taxes owed or applied to their income.
This tax credit is only available in certain provinces — specifically British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Quebec also offers its own type of super flow-through share which deducts from income rather than taxes owing. In Quebec's case, an investor is able to deduct 10 percent of the expenditures associated with the CEE and an additional 10 percent if the company is engaged in aboveground exploration.
Additionally, the Canadian federal government recently announced the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit, providing an additional 15 to 30 percent federal tax credit for grassroots exploration.
As a Tier 1 mining jurisdiction with rich mineral reserves and extensive, well-maintained infrastructure, Quebec was ranked as the eighth most attractive mining jurisdiction in the world by the Fraser Institute's 2022 Annual Survey of Mining Companies. The province has long been known for its mining-friendly policies and the ease with which one may obtain mining permits. Moreover, Quebec's hydroelectric infrastructure provides abundant access to low-cost, sustainable energy.
With all this in mind, it's hardly surprising that many Australian companies have seized the opportunity to establish operations in the province. Pivotal Metals (ASX:PVT) is one such organisation.
Helmed by an experienced board and management team, the company maintains several battery metals projects. The first, Horden Lake, consists of an advanced copper, nickel and platinum-group metals deposit currently in late-stage development. It also holds multiple high-potential early stage exploration projects in the Belleterre-Angliers greenstone belt.
Winsome Resources (ASX:WR1,OTCQB:WRSLF), which is currently developing four fully owned hard rock lithium deposits in Northern Quebec, is another Australian company with a presence in the Canadian province. In February 2023, it announced its intent to raise up to AU$60 million through a combination of flow-through shares, institutional placement and a share purchase plan for its existing shareholders.
Burley Minerals (ASX:BUR) is another Australian player in Quebec's mining and exploration sector, having recently acquired the necessary permits to commence pad clearing and drilling at its Chubb Lithium project. Strategically located near several existing projects, Chubb Lithium also exists in close proximity to the North American Lithium operation and its recently recommissioned hard rock spodumene concentrator plant.
Flow-through shares and super flow-through shares are incredibly beneficial not just from a tax and investment perspective, but also from an exploration and development perspective. Australian mining companies have a great deal to gain from establishing projects in regions with tax-friendly policies, such as Quebec, as does anyone who chooses to invest in those projects.
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