Canada kills its penny

The coins, which cost 1.6 cents apiece to make, will be gradually withdrawn from circulation this year.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 29, 2012 5:16PM

By Jacqueline Thorpe, Bloomberg


Bloomberg on MSN MoneyCanada will withdraw the penny from circulation this year, saving taxpayers about $11 million annually and forcing retailers to round prices to the nearest nickel, the government has announced.


Canadian flag (© Royalty-Free/Corbis)The Royal Canadian Mint, which has produced 35 billion pennies since it began production in 1908, will cease distribution this fall due to the coin's low purchasing power. Production and handling cost for the 1-cent coin are a $150 million drag on the economy, according to a 2006 study by Desjardins, a financial institution based in Levis, Quebec.


"Pennies take up too much space on our dressers at home," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in the text of his budget speech in Ottawa late last month. "They take up far too much time for small businesses trying to grow and create jobs."


Business groups welcomed the announcement, which follows similar moves by countries such as Australia, Brazil and Sweden. Economists said the phase-out would have little impact.


"If there's a rounding up, you'd see a rounding down somewhere else," said Craig Wright, the chief economist for the Royal Bank of Canada.


The savings to financial institutions alone may be about $20 million a year as banks reduce transportation, storage and handling costs, the study estimated.


It costs the government 1.6 cents to produce one penny, which has been made of copper-plated zinc and copper-plated steel since 1997.


Withdrawn from circulation


The penny, with two maple leafs on one side and Queen Elizabeth II on the other, can continue to be used in payments. As the coins are gradually withdrawn from circulation, price rounding on cash transactions will be required, the government said.


The calculation of the federal goods and services tax and provincial sales taxes will continue to be calculated to the penny and added to the price, with rounding taking place on the total payment.


Noncash payments on checks and credit cards will continue to be rounded to the nearest cent. (Post continues below.)

"If businesses round cash transactions to the nearest 5-cent increment, any gains or losses relating to cash transactions (a maximum of 2 cents per transaction) will balance out over time," the government said in its budget documents.


Retailers and other businesses can continue to price goods and services in 1-cent increments, and there will be no need to reprogram cash registers, according to the government.


Increase efficiency


Catherine Swift, the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the move will increase efficiency.


"It has been a long time coming," she said. "It's been a real pain more than anything else. We've actually polled our members on this, and they're supportive."


The mint used 3.3 million pounds of steel, more than 154,000 pounds of copper and 50,700 pounds of nickel last year to make pennies at its facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It put 1.3 billion coins in circulation in 2011, half of which were freshly minted and half made from recycled materials.


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