Business Owners

The month of July saw a set of proposed tax changes announced by the Federal Minister of Canada which are potentially the most impactful and significant amendments since the large-scale tax reform of 1972.

The month of July saw a set of proposed tax changes announced by the Federal Minister of Canada which are potentially the most impactful and significant amendments since the large-scale tax reform of 1972. We will go on to describe the detail and impact of the proposals, which fall into three main areas, below. In summary, however, the purpose of the changes introduced by the government is broadly to close the potential current perceived tax loopholes that exist for higher earners and owners of private corporations. In response to the proposals, the government is inviting views and opinions on the changes during a consultation period which will last until October 2 2017.

  1. Changes to Income Sprinkling

If a high earning individual moves a proportion of their income to a family member such as children or a spouse who hold a lower tax rate in an attempt to reduce the total amount of tax payable, this is known as income sprinkling. To mitigate this, the government is proposing to include adult children in the eligibility rules in addition to minors, as well as taking a “reasonability” approach to assessing their income and thus which rate the transferred income should be taxed at. This will mark a change to the current TOSI (tax on split income) rules which currently apply.

 2.  Minimizing the incentives of keeping passive investments in CCPCs

Currently, it can be advantageous for corporations to keep excess funds in a CCPC due to the fact that the corporate tax rate on the first $500,000 of taxable income is often much lower than the tax that would be payable by an individual. The government is moving to make this option less beneficial by the following two initiatives: firstly, by the removal of the option of crediting the capital dividend account (known as the CDA) equal to the amount of the non-taxable portion of any capital gains and secondly by removing the refundability of passive investment taxes.

 3.  Reducing the transfer of corporate surpluses to capital gains

Tax advantages can currently be achieved by the sharing out of corporate surpluses to shareholders through dividends or salaries, which are often taxed at a lower rate than if earned as personal income. This is due to the fact that just 50% of capital gains are taxable.

These are the first significant proposals since 1972, talk to us we can help. If these changes are of concern to you or your client, please send an email to Fin.consultation.fin@canada.ca or send an email to your local member of parliament.

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BC Finance Minister Carole James delivered the province's 2017 budget update on Sept. 11, 2017. The budget anticipates a surplus of $46 million for the current year, $228 million in 2018-2019 and $257 million in 2019-2020. As a result of the provincial election on April 11, 2017, the measures previously announced were not fully enacted.

BC Finance Minister Carole James delivered the province’s 2017 budget update on Sept. 11, 2017. The budget anticipates a surplus of $46 million for the current year, $228 million in 2018-2019 and $257 million in 2019-2020. As a result of the provincial election on April 11, 2017, the measures previously announced were not fully enacted.

Here’s the new budget proposals: 

Corporate Income Tax Measures

  • Effective January 1, 2018, there will be an increase to the general corporate income tax rate from 11% to 12%.

Personal Income Tax Measures

  • Effective for 2017, there is an introduction of a new top personal tax bracket set at $150,000 for 2018. Taxable income exceeding $150,000 will be taxed at 16.8%.

Medical Services Plan Premiums

  • Effective Jan 1, 2018: 50% MSP premium reduction for households with annual net incomes up to $120,000.

Firefighter & Search & Rescue Volunteer Tax Credit

  • Introduce a new- non refundable volunteer firefighter and search and rescue volunteer tax credit.

Electricity- Provincial Sales Tax Act

  • Phase out provincial sales tax on taxable electricity.

Property transfer tax

For first time home buyers to save property transfer tax on the purchase of their property the partial exemption has been increased to $500,000 from $475,000.

To learn how these changes will affect you, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

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Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered the government’s 2017 federal budget on March 22, 2017. The budget expects a deficit of $23 billion for fiscal 2016-2017 and forecasts a deficit of $28.5 billion for 2017-2018. Learn what the budget means for small business owners.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered the government’s 2017 federal budget on March 22, 2017. The budget expects a deficit of $23 billion for fiscal 2016-2017 and forecasts a deficit of $28.5 billion for 2017-2018. Find out what this means for businesses.

Small Business

  • No changes to income tax rates
  • No changes to capital gains inclusion rate

Tax Planning using private companies

While no specific measures are mentioned, the government will review the use of tax planning strategies involving private corporations “that inappropriately reduce personal taxes of high-income earners.” including:

  • Income Splitting: Reducing taxes by income splitting with family members who are subject to lower personal tax rates.
  • Regular income to Capital Gains: Converting income to capital gains (instead of income being taxed as dividends)
  • Passive income inside Corporation: Since corporate income tax rates are generally lower than personal tax rates, this strategy can facilitate the accumulation of earnings by owners of private corporations.

For Professionals

The government eliminated a tax deferral opportunity for certain professionals. Accountants, dentists, lawyers, medical doctors, veterinarians and chiropractors will no longer be able to elect to exclude the value of work in progress in computing their income. This will be phased-in over two taxation years, starting with taxation years that begin after this budget.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

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BC Finance Minister, Michael de Jong delivered the province's 2017 budget on Feb. 21, 2017. Learn what the budget means for small business owners and individuals.

BC Finance Minister Michael de Jong delivered the province’s 2017 budget on Feb. 21, 2017. The budget anticipates a surplus of $295 million for the current year, $244 million in 2018-2019 and $223 million in 2019-2020.

Corporate Income Tax Measures

Reduction in Corporate income Tax Rate from 2.5% to 2.0% effective April 1, 2017

Corporate Income Tax Rates- As of January 1, 2017
British Columbia Combined Federal & BC
 General 11% 28%
 M&P 11% 26%
 Small Business* 2.5%/2.0%** 13.0%/12.5%**
 *on first $500,000 of active business income **effective April 1, 2017

Personal

Increase in the personal tax rate from 40.61% to 40.95% for ineligible dividends effective January 1, 2017.

 Personal Combined Federal/Provincial Top Marginal Rates
2017
 Interest and regular income 47.70%
 Capital gains 23.85%
 Eligible dividends 31.30%
 Non-eligible dividends 40.95%

Medical Services Plan Premiums: Rate will remain at $75/month/adult. Effective Jan 1, 2018: 50% MSP premium reduction for households with annual net incomes up to $120,000.

Firefighter & Search & Rescue Volunteer Tax Credit: Non-refundable tax credit of up to $3,000 for 2017.

Back to School Tax Credit: Non-refundable tax credit of $250 per child (ages 5 to 17) for 2016 to 2018. Effective Jan 1, 2018, the education tax credit will be eliminated.

Electricity- Provincial Sales Tax Act: Effective Oct 1, 2017, the tax rate is reduced to 3.5% of the purchase price.

Property transfer tax: For first time home buyers to save property transfer tax on the purchase of their property the partial exemption has been increased to $500,000 from $475,000.

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Canada Pension Plan – Should You Take it Early?

Canada Pension Plan – Should You Take it Early?

The new rules governing CPP were introduced in 2012 and they take full effect in 2016. The earliest you can take your CPP Pension is age 60, the latest is 70. The standard question regarding CPP remains the same – should I take it early or wait?

While you can elect to start receiving CPP at age 60, the discount rate under the new rules has increased. Starting in 2016, your CPP income will be reduced by 0.6% each month you receive your benefit prior to age 65. In other words, electing to take your CPP at age 60 will provide an income of 36% less than if you waited until age 65.

CPP benefits may also be delayed until age 70 so conversely, as of 2016, delaying your CPP benefits after age 65 will result in an increased income of 0.7% for each month of deferral. At age 70, the retiree would have additional monthly income of 42% over that what he or she would have had at 65 and approximately 120% more than taking the benefit at age 60. The question now becomes, “how long do you think you will live?”

Assuming that an individual has $10,000 of CPP pension at age 65, and ignoring inflation (CPP income benefits are indexed according to the Consumer Price Index), the following table compares the total base income with that if benefits are taken early or late:

 

CPP Benefit Commencement

Total benefit received Age 60 Age 65 Age 70

One year $ 6,400 $10,000 $ 14,200

Five years $32,000 $ 50,000 $ 71,000

Ten Years $64,000 $100,000 $142,000

The question of life expectancy can be a factor in determining whether or not to take your CPP early. For example, according to the above table if you take your pension at age 60, by the time you reach age 65; you would already have received $32,000 in benefits. With $10,000 in pension income commencing at age 65 the crossover point would be age 73 (the point at which the total income commencing at age 60 equals the total income commencing at age 65). If you were to die prior to age 73, you would have been better off taking the earlier option.

If your choice is to delay taking the pension until age 70 instead of 65, the crossover would not be reached until age 85.

Some individuals may wish to elect to take the pension early and invest it hoping that the income from age 60 combined with the investment growth will exceed the total income that would be received by starting at 65.

Remember, if you elect to take your pension before 65 and you are still working, you must continue to contribute to CPP. After age 65, continuing contributions while working are voluntary. On the plus side, these extra contributions will increase your pension under the Post-Retirement Benefit (PRB).

Reasons to take your CPP before age 65

  • You need the money – number crunching aside, if your circumstances are such that you need the income then you probably should exercise your option to take it early;
  • You are in poor health – if your health is such that your life expectancy may be shortened, consider taking the pension at 60;
  • If you are confident of investing profitably – if you are reasonably certain that you can invest profitably enough to offset the higher income obtained from delaying your start date then taking it early may make sense. If you are still continuing to work, you could use the CPP pension as a contribution to your RSP or your TFSA.

Reasons to delay taking your CPP to age 70

  • You don’t need the money – If you have substantial taxable income in retirement you may want to defer the CPP until the last possible date especially if you don’t require the income to live or support your lifestyle;
  • If you are confident of living to a ripe old age – if you have been blessed with great genes and your health is good you may wish to consider delaying your CPP until age 70. Using the earlier example and ignoring indexing, if your base CPP was $10,000 at 65 then the pension, if delayed until age 70, would be $14,200. If you took the higher income at 70, you would reach the crossover point over the age 65 benefit at age 84 and after that would be farther ahead.

This information should help you make a more informed choice about when to commence your CPP benefits. Even if retirement is years away it is never too early to start planning for this final chapter in your life. Call me if would like to discuss your retirement planning.

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Investing in today’s environment is not for the faint of heart. However, fortunately for Canadians, Segregated Fund products offered by many life insurance companies provide a safety net for nervous investor

Investing in today’s environment is not for the faint of heart.  However, fortunately for Canadians, Segregated Fund products offered by many life insurance companies provide a safety net for nervous investors.

Fund products present some interesting opportunities for people looking to get more security in their investment portfolios without sacrificing their potential for growth.

100% Maturity and Death Benefit Guarantee

At a time when most companies are reducing their guarantees to 75%, a few companies still offer 100% guarantees for both maturity value and death benefit.   

At the maturity date, the value of the investment will be the greater of the market value or 100% of the sum of deposits less any withdrawals taken.  In other words, at maturity (minimum 15 years), your worst-case scenario is receiving full value for all of your deposits.

At death, the 100% guarantee will ensure that your beneficiary receives the greater of the market value of your Segregated Fund or the sum of all your deposits less any withdrawals taken.

Reset Feature for Maturity and Death Benefit Guarantee

Resets can have significant value in a volatile market.  With this feature you have the ability to:

Reset the maturity guarantee value (usually more than once per year).  Accordingly, you can lock in your investment gains at maturity.  With each reset you also have the option of designating a new maturity date.

Automatically reset the death benefit guarantee, locking in your investment gains at death.  (The frequency of the reset varies by company). How Significant are Reset Options?  You Decide.

John invested $500,000 in a segregated fund and selected a technology fund as the investment choice.  The technology boom saw that investment grow to $850,000 and John wisely exercised his reset option.  Shortly afterward, the dot.com bubble burst and the investment value fell from $850,000 to $300,000 with no significant recovery.  This same bubble burst devastated many investors. Meanwhile, John was able to recover not only his original investment but also the full $850,000 at his maturity date.

Designation of Beneficiaries Enables Protection

One fact about Segregated Funds that is often overlooked is that as a product of a life insurance company, you can name a beneficiary for the proceeds at your death.  This creates the potential that your segregated fund investment may be free from the claims of creditors or potential litigants. 

Investing Using a Balanced Portfolio Close to Retirement

Volatile investment markets create a significant amount of stress and emotional turmoil, particularly amongst older investors.  The closer you get to retirement, the higher the stakes. Therefore, many investors have forsaken the potential of higher returns for a significant portion of their portfolio.  While this does reduce risk, it probably will result in lower returns.

By using Segregated Funds and taking advantage of the 100% Maturity Guarantee and reset options, one could achieve balance in their portfolio without necessarily locking in low yields. 

Estate Conservation for Mature Investors

The 100% death benefit guarantee means that you can remain invested in an equity portfolio while not risking the estate value of your investment portfolio. Regardless of what happens in the market, your investment fund is totally guaranteed at your death.  This guarantee is applicable to contracts purchased before age 80.  For contracts purchased after age 80 the guarantee is usually 75%.

By naming a beneficiary, upon your death, all of your segregated fund investments will flow to your beneficiary without any probate fees, administrative costs or risk of any Wills Variation Act litigation.

Capital Protection

Market downturn is not the only risk to which capital can be exposed.  For many professionals and business owners there are situations that may involve litigation either by creditors or other parties who feel they have a claim against your personal and business assets.  By naming a preferred beneficiary, this risk is potentially eliminated.

Complicated Estate Protection

For domestic situations involving previous marriages and the desire to protect capital for present or previous family members the beneficiary designation could be made irrevocable.  The irrevocable beneficiary designation confers rights and protection on the beneficiary, which would not be as enjoyable through the “primary beneficiary” title.

Another advantage of Segregated Funds is that the use of named beneficiaries allow for a confidential transfer of wealth at death. In uncertain times having the comfort of a maturity and death benefit guarantee provides investors with a significant safety net.

Please give me a call me to see if Segregated Funds will compliment your current investment strategy or use the social sharing buttons below to share this article with a friend or family member you think might benefit from this information.

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Can Probate Be Avoided?

Can Probate be Avoided?

Executors often find that the probate process can be both time consuming and expensive. Planning strategies exist that may eliminate or reduce the requirement of having assets probated.

What is probate?

Probate is a legal procedure that validates a deceased’s will and confirms the executor’s authority to carry out the testator’s wishes. This provides assurance to third parties such as financial institutions and land registry offices that the executor has the power to deal with assets according to the will.

Are all wills subject to probate?

There is no requirement that every will must be probated. Proper planning can eliminate the need for probate and also, the type of asset involved will generally dictate whether or not probate is required.

What is the cost of probate?

  • This will depend on the province. At the low end, Alberta has a flat maximum fee of $400, while at the upper end Ontario has a levy of $15 per thousand on estates valued in excess of $50,000. British Columbia has fees of $14 per thousand (estates over $50,000) plus a filing fee;
  • Property which is owned in another province may attract fees based on that province’s fee schedule.

What are advantages to probate?

  • When Letters of Probate are obtained, financial institutions, transfer agents, land registry offices and other third parties can safely transfer the assets to the intended recipients;
  • The time frame for any court challenges to the will or estate is usually measured from when the probate was granted. This limits the period of when legal action might be taken.

What are the disadvantages to probate?

  • The process can be time consuming and complex;
  • Depending on the jurisdiction the cost of probate along with the legal fees can be expensive;
  • The process is open to public scrutiny so information about the estate distribution is made public.

7 Tips to avoid probate

There are a number of strategies to, if not avoid probate entirely, reduce the value of the assets that would otherwise be exposed to probate.

  • Make sure you have a will – Probate fees will be applied automatically if you die intestate (without a will);
  • Gifting prior to death – this can reduce the value of the estate, so it has to be done with care. It is important that all control over the gift must be relinquished. Be careful as there may be income tax considerations, (capital gains etc.), as well as possible property transfer taxes;
  • Use named beneficiaries whenever possible – moving assets to vehicles such as life insurance, annuities, and segregated funds is a great way to avoid probate. The bonus here is that it also allows the proceeds to be paid quickly and directly to the beneficiary. This also applies to registered investments such as RRSP’s, RRIF’s, TFSA’s and pensions;

To avoid the unintended future inclusion of these assets in your estate if the named beneficiary dies, you should consider naming a successor (contingent) beneficiary;

Named beneficiaries also provide a confidential transfer. The exception to this is in Saskatchewan where probate rules dictate that beneficiaries to insurance products be listed even though the proceeds are not subject to probate;

  • Use of Joint Tenancy – Holding assets in joint tenancy with a spouse, child or other family member will avoid probate as the asset passes automatically upon death to the other individual. Using joint tenancy to avoid probate fees should involve careful consideration as there will be a loss of control once it is jointly held and the asset will be exposed to the joint tenant’s creditors;
  • Use of Trusts – Transferring assets to a trust will remove the asset from the estate. The use of an alter-ego or joint spousal trust can be very effective for this purpose. Be careful of appreciable assets that may attract a taxable disposition upon transfer;
  • Transferring assets to a corporation – Except for outstanding mortgages on real estate which are deductible, generally probate fees are charged against the gross value of an estate asset. If an estate asset was purchased with borrowed money, it may be beneficial to transfer that asset to a limited company. This will reduce the value of the estate and the company share value will be the asset less the debt used to acquire it;
  • Multiple Wills – Not all assets are subject to probate. It is becoming popular to have two wills – one for those assets that are probatable and one for those that are not. For example, someone who owns private company shares may wish to use a second will to transfer those assets as private company shares are not subject to probate. If assets are held in another province with lower probate fees there may be an advantage to have a separate will dealing with those assets;

The strategy of multiple wills is not available in all provinces and the use of multiple wills may create problems with the new Graduated Rate Estate tax with respect to testamentary trusts.

Please note that legislation governing probate and the fees that are levied vary by province so not all the ideas presented here will apply to every province. This article does not apply to the province of Quebec. Careful planning is advisable with all estate planning considerations and it is important to seek professional advice when considering these strategies.

We are here to answer any questions you may have on this complicated issue. As always, please feel free to share this article by using the share buttons below.

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Shared Ownership Critical Illness

Shared Ownership refers to a concept where more than one party owns an interest in an insurance policy. The most common of these arrangements is where the corporation is the owner and beneficiary of the death benefit and the shareholder or employee owns the cash value of the policy.

Recently there has been growing interest in applying this strategy to a Critical Illness policy. Although the CI policy does not have cash value, there is usually an option to have a Return of premium (ROP) in the following situations:

  • Upon death – If the insured dies without having submitted a claim for critical illness the premiums paid are refunded;
  • Upon Termination – If the policy reaches its termination age without a claim being made, the premiums paid are refunded;
  • Upon Surrender – If the policy is surrendered without a claim, premiums paid are refunded.

Who should consider this arrangement?

Anyone who owns shares in a corporation and wishes to protect that corporation against loss if one of the shareholders or other key employee is diagnosed with a critical illness.

How does it work?

A Shared Ownership Agreement is drafted documenting:

  • That the corporation will own, pay for and be the beneficiary of the CI coverage on the key shareholder or employee;
  • That the shareholder will own and pay for the Return of Premium option upon the surrender of the policy.

Who benefits?

Under this arrangement the company is protected against loss but should no critical illness occur the shareholder/employee will receive a financial benefit as the premiums paid will be refunded.

Is this really an important planning strategy?

Case Study

Barry applies for $500,000 of lifetime critical illness coverage with a return of premium benefit upon surrender. His company lawyer drafts a Shared Ownership Agreement, which stipulates that the corporation owns and is beneficiary of the $500,000 CI benefit while Barry owns and pays for the ROP benefit.

Premium Structure

  • The total annual premium for the policy is $ 9,131.
  • The Corporation pays the cost of insurance $7,003
  • Barry personally pays the ROP benefit of $2,128

How does Barry Benefit?

Twenty years later, when Barry turns 60, he determines that the CI coverage is no longer required. His company cancels the policy and Barry exercises his return of premium option. Barry receives a cheque from the insurance company for $182,628 Tax Free.

This represents an after tax rate of return on Barry’s annual ROP premium ($2,128) of 12.5% compound interest.

Consider this*,

  • One in three Canadians will develop life threatening cancer;
  • Half of all heart attack victims are under the age of 65;
  • Each year 50,000 Canadians suffer a stroke with 75% of all victims being left with a disability.

The CI Shared Ownership Strategy can result in significant financial benefits for the individual shareholder while the Corporation enjoys the protection of its key employees against loss from a critical illness.

Call me if you would like to explore whether this strategy will benefit you and your company. Or feel free to use the sharing icons below to forward this to someone who might find this of interest.

For Barry’s case study, Industrial Alliance’s Transition Critical Illness product to age 100 with Flexible Return of Premium was illustrated. Of course, results will depend on age and amount plus product features will be vary by company.

*Source: RBC Insurance

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Lifetime capital gains exemption for 2016

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Does your Business Qualify for the Small Business Gains Exemption?

As a business owner, you may be aware that when you dispose of shares in your business you could receive an exemption on all or a portion of the capital gains that ordinarily would be taxable. This is due to the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption which says that, for 2016, up to $824,1761 of capital gains is exempt from taxation.

The Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) is available to individuals who are disposing of or deemed to have disposed of:

  1. Qualified Small Business Corporation (QSBC) shares;
  2. Qualified farm property; or
  3. Qualified fishing property2.

For the shareholder of a small business corporation this valuable benefit could reduce or eliminate the tax bill that otherwise would be payable upon the sale or succession of the company. The important thing to understand, however, is that the exemption is not automatic. There are some conditions that must be met. In order for the business to be considered a QSBC and therefore qualify for the Small Business Gains Exemption (SBGE) there are two main rules:

Rule # 1 – Ownership of Shares

During the 24 months immediately preceding the disposition the shares must not have been owned by anyone other than the individual tax payer or a related person;

Rule # 2 – Use of Corporate Assets

Also, during this 24 month period;

    1. 50% or more of the fair market value of the corporate assets must have been used in an active business conducted primarily in Canada;
    2. At the time of the disposition (sale or upon death of shareholder), all or substantially all (defined as 90% by the CRA) of the fair market value of the assets must have been used to produce active business income. Some examples of corporate assets which could put a corporation offside with respect to its being a QSBC are cash, bonds, non-business related real estate and other investments.

In situations where corporations do not qualify for the SBGE due to failing to meet the 90% rule, remedies are sometimes available which may provide a solution. This will usually involve a “purification” of the corporation to distribute or transfer the non-business related assets. Some examples as to how this could be accomplished are:

  • Paying a taxable dividend to shareholders;
  • Paying down any bank debt or accounts payable;
  • Pre-paying corporate income tax installments;
  • Purchasing new assets which will be used in the business to produce active business income.

There is another area in which careful attention is warranted. In order for a business to be a Qualified Small Business corporation it must first be a Canadian controlled private corporation (CCPC). Should there be a sale of shares to either a non-resident or a public corporation, there may be a denial of the capital gains exemption as the corporation may no longer be a CCPC. This could also be the case where a non-resident executor is named in the shareholder’s will and the shareholder dies.

The rules governing whether or not an individual who owns shares in a small business corporation receives a capital gains exemption are complex and often confusing. It is important to obtain professional advice when undertaking the appropriate planning.

If I can be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me. As always feel free to share this article by using the share buttons below.

Notes:

  1. The 2013 federal budget increased the LCGE to $800,000 for 2014 with indexing commencing in 2015.  The indexed amount for 2016 is $824,176.
  2. The 2015 federal budget increased the maximum LCGE for Qualified farm or fishing property to the greater of $1 million and the indexed LCGE realized on the disposition of qualified small business corporation shares.  When indexing increases the SBGE to $1 million then both SBC shares and farm and fishing property will enjoy the same LCGE.
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