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Tax Tips – February 2017

Some quick points to consider.
  • Timing and amounts of various payments and benefits, such as the Canada Child Benefit, can be obtained by calling the CRA’s TIPS line at 1-800-267-6999.
  • In the summer of 2016, CRA commenced a project to examine taxpayers holding expensive properties in Vancouver where only low amounts of income were reported. The goal of the project was to identify unreported worldwide income, property “flipping”, under-reporting of capital gains on sales, and underreporting GST on sales of new homes

 


CANADIAN INDUSTRY STATISTICS: How Do I Compare?

The Government of Canada provides analysis and detailed information on economic indicators using the most recent data from Statistics Canada on the website, www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cis-sic.nsf/eng/home. This website can help small to medium sized businesses understand the dynamics of their industries. Users can focus on a single industry over time or compare one industry against another.

Data is segregated based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. Within each specific NAICS code is detailed financial performance data. Such data includes, for example, average gross margins, detailed breakdowns of expenses (e.g. repairs and maintenance, labour, professional and business fees) as a percentage of revenues, and certain financial ratios (e.g. current ratio, return on total assets).

Action Item: Consider using this site to compare your costs as a percentage of revenues to other Canadian companies in your industry.

 


BENEFITS PAID TO SHAREHOLDER EMPLOYEES: Taxable?

The CRA is aware that owner-managers have an incentive to receive benefits deductible by their corporation which are non-taxable to the owner. In essence, this can be perceived as a method to extract profits out of a corporation without paying tax on it. As such, CRA is particularly vigilant to ensure that these benefits comply with the Income Tax Act and do not confer unfair advantages on owners.

To start off, it must be established whether the benefits or allowances have been conferred on the individual in their capacity as an employee or in their capacity as a shareholder. Unless the particular facts establish otherwise, CRA presumes that an employee-shareholder receives a benefit or an allowance in their capacity as a shareholder (assuming the individual can significantly influence business policy). This presumption may not apply if:

  • the benefit or allowance is available to all employees of the corporation; or
  • all of the employees are shareholders or individuals related to a shareholder, and the benefit or allowance is comparable (in nature and amount) to benefits and allowances generally offered to non-shareholder employees of similar-sized businesses, who perform similar services and have similar responsibilities.

If the benefit or allowance is received in their capacity as an employee, the federal income tax treatment is the same as for an unrelated employee. This means that the benefit is generally deductible to the corporation and, under certain special circumstances, not taxable to the employee.

Where an employee-shareholder receives a benefit or an allowance in their capacity as a shareholder, the value of the benefit or allowance is included in the shareholder’s income and may not be deductible to the company.

Action Item: When commencing the provision of non- taxable benefits, consider whether they will also be offered to non-shareholder employees. If not, they may be taxable to the shareholder employee.

 


MUTUAL FUNDS: Corporate Class and Switch Funds

Mutual fund corporations have often been structured to permit changing funds within the group on a tax-free basis. These are commonly referred to as “switch funds” or “corporate-class funds”, and have become

popular due to the ability to defer accumulated capital gains. Essentially, investors can switch funds without realizing dispositions and the related taxable capital gains.

However, new legislation has been proposed to end these deferrals commencingwith exchanges on or after January 1, 2017.

Some exceptions exist, including switching between different series in the same class of shares representing the same underlying fund (for example, due to different commission or fee terms) and transactions where the underlying investment is unchanged, but shares are reorganized for other bona fide reasons (for example, changing voting rights or amalgamating funds).


TRANSFERRING PROPERTY TO A FAMILY MEMBER: Taxable Transaction?

When transferring the legal title of a property to a family member, a disposition for tax purposes may not necessarily occur. The taxable event would occur when a “beneficial ownership” change happens. Usually, a beneficial change and legal change are one in the same, but not always.

In a June 14, 2016 Technical Interpretation, CRA examined the situation where a married couple transferred the title to a property and mortgage into a parent’s name because they no longer qualified to refinance the original mortgage. Once their financial position improved, they transferred the title back. The original taxpayers continued to make all mortgage payments and other house costs. They also continued to live in the dwelling throughout the legal transitions.

The CRA opined that despite the legal ownership changes, no beneficial ownership change occurred. Therefore, there was no taxable disposition.

Action Item: Since the taxability of such a transaction is a matter of interpretation, caution should be taken when relying on such a position. Discuss your fact pattern with a professional and be sure to document appropriate support.

 

DISCLAIMER: The preceding information is for educational purposes only. As it is impossible to include all situations, circumstances and exceptions in a newsletter such as this, a further review should be done by a qualified professional.

No individual or organization involved in either the preparation or distribution of this letter accepts any contractual, tortious, or any other form of liability for its contents.

For any questions… give us a call.

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