Open Letter to The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P. Re: Steve Higgins CRA Case

The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P.

Minister of National Revenue

7th Floor

555 MacKenzie Avenue

Ottawa ON  K1A 0L5

To The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P.,

ArtsLink NB is writing to share our concerns regarding the Canadian Revenue Agency’s handling of Steve Higgins’s tax return from 2013. Mr. Higgins is a professional artist who generates portions of his income from the sale of works of art he has created and the intellectual property they represent. His remuneration for this  work may be received in the form of sales of his work, or from grants received in recognition of his work as a professional artist. Either way, the income is tied to his carrying out the business of artistic production. Grant monies are akin to the remuneration a consultant or worker trading in the knowledge economy would receive for the delivery of their product – the intangible of knowledge and expertise.

It is clear that Canada’s federal government recognizes the value of intellectual property as an economic driver, having recently announced plans to provide $85 million in support of developing Canada’s engagement in an ideas-based economy. Art production is an aspect of intellectual property: just as tech start-up companies benefit from grants or seed funding based on the promise of their ideas, so artists are by times remunerated for work that is in the gestation stage – a novelist whose book is yet unwritten, a choreographer whose work has not yet been presented. It would be unthinkable to reduce a tech company team to the label of “hobbyists” and then tax them on their seed funding without allowing them to claim their business expenses against it.

As creators and generators of ideas that shape the spaces we live in and allow us to encounter a reflection of who we are, artists must receive the same support received by others trading in both intellectual property and physical products. The arts contributed almost $54 billion to the Canadian economy in 2016, as well as  652,406 jobs. ArtsLink NB firmly advocates that artists of all disciplines are workers like those in any other sector. Professions in the arts merit the same respect extended to all of those helping to develop the Canadian economy and society through our labour, whether it be in the form of knowledge or products.

We request that the CRA recognize Steve Higgins as an artist carrying out professional activities for the tax year in question, and repeal the assessment that undermines his contributions to Canada’s economy in that year.


Gillian Dykeman

Executive Director

ArtsLink NB

407- 89 Canterbury St.

Saint John, NB

E2L 2C7