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 2019, up to $866,9121 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:

  • The 2013 federal budget increased the LCGE to $800,000 for 2014 with indexing commencing in 2015.  The indexed amount for 2019 is $866,912.

  • 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.

The Need for Corporate Life Insurance

Life insurance is used for two general purposes in a private corporation – managing risk and creating opportunities.  The risk management function is satisfied as life insurance provides the corporation with a tax-free payment in the event of the death of an owner or someone vital to the success of the business.  As life insurance also allows for the tax-sheltered build up of cash value additional planning opportunities are additionally created.

The primary needs for corporate owned life insurance to satisfy the risk management purpose are as follows:

Key Person Life Insurance

Any prudent business would insure its company facilities and equipment that is used in creating revenue.  It follows then that the business should also insure the lives of the people that run the company and make the decisions which contribute to its profit.  Any owner, manager or employee whose death would impair the future growth and success of the company is a key person and should be insured as such.

The proper amount of key person life insurance should be determined through discussion with the company’s management, life insurance advisor and accounting professionals. This discussion would analyze and estimate the amount of the loss that could occur to the company should a key person die.

Funding the Shareholders or Partnership Agreement

When more than one person join together to own a company or partnership, it is common business practice that there be a Shareholder’s or Partnership Agreement.  These documents set forth the terms and conditions under which the parties co-exist in the business venture.  It also spells out the financial interest that each hold in the concern and how much would be owed to the heirs of a shareholder or partner should that individual die.  The use of life insurance owned by the corporation for this purpose guarantees that sufficient funds will be available to trigger the agreement.  If there was no life insurance in place and no agreement covering how those funds were to be used, the future existence of the company could be in jeopardy.

 To Repay Debt

Like an individual insuring debt to avoid burdening his or her family with outstanding liabilities in the event of death, a business owner should also consider providing life insurance to cover the corporation’s obligations.  This would ensure that the net value of the company is optimized when it passes either to the heirs and beneficiaries of the owner or to a successor owner which might be a family member.

One of the advantages of corporate owned life insurance to retire debt is the existence of the Capital Dividend Account.  Should the insured business owner die, the life insurance proceeds are received tax-free by the company.  The death benefit less the adjusted cost basis of the policy is credited to a notional account – the Capital Dividend Account (CDA).  Even if all the life insurance proceeds are paid by the company to the creditors to retire the outstanding debt obligations, the credit remaining in the CDA can still be paid tax-free to the surviving or successor shareholders.  This allows any surplus or future earnings to be received by the heirs as tax-free capital dividends up to the amount of the balance of the CDA subsequent to the death of the insured.

To Facilitate Business or Investment Financing

Often when a company borrows to invest or for business operations, the bank will require that the principal(s) of the corporation be insured.  In this case, if the life insurance is purchased as a condition of the bank loan being granted, part of the life insurance premiums become tax deductible to the corporation.  The reasons for providing life insurance to cover the bank loans are consistent with the reasons stated in repaying debt, but with the bank’s written requirement for life insurance, there is now a tax deduction available as well.

There also may be a situation where an investor would look favourably on the business owner being insured before he or she invests in the company.  While there would be no collateral insurance deduction in this case, it may create a comfort level for an investor.

To Assist Family Business Succession

With a family business there is often a desire to transition the ownership of the company to the next generation.  One of the common objectives of this transition is to ensure that the company is left financially sound when it is received by the next generation.  This can be accomplished by having life insurance on the first generation owner to guarantee that the company is left financially viable and debt-free should the succession occur as a result of the death of the business founder.

The above items are all situations where life insurance is used by a business for risk management purposes.  When life insurance is held in a corporation it also can result in attractive planning opportunities.  These opportunities include the following:

Estate Planning for the Business Owner

Owners of private corporations in Canada that are qualifying small businesses have the first $500,000 of annual corporate income taxed at a very favourable rate.  For example, in B.C. and Alberta it is 12%.  The low small business tax rate combined with the Capital Dividend explained above presents the business owner with an opportunity to place life insurance designated for estate planning purposes (e.g. paying taxes arising at death from capital gains), in the corporation.

Sheltering of Corporate Investment Income

While the income tax rate on active business income is quite low, the tax levied against corporate investment income is extremely high.  In some provinces, this tax is over 50%.  Using tax exempt life insurance policies to shelter this investment income can provide substantial opportunities to defer taxes which would otherwise be payable.  All the insurance opportunities for risk management itemized above can also be satisfied by using cash value tax-exempt life insurance.  As a result, there are significant planning opportunities available with corporate owned life insurance.

Protecting the Small Business Income Tax Rate

In addition to the above, once a corporation earns more than $50,000 of passive investment income it starts to erode its small business tax limit of $500,000.  Once the passive investment income reaches $150,000 it loses all of the small business limit for that tax year.  This can be avoided by investing in tax-exempt life insurance policies.  Combined with the previous comments not only does the investment grow tax sheltered, it will not impact the small business income limit.

These are the primary reasons why business life insurance is so important.  Not only does it help manage risk, it can also provide significant planning opportunities for the business owner.  I am available at any time, should you wish to discuss how these ideas could benefit you and your company.

Private Health Spending Plans for the Owner/Operator Business

Individuals who have incorporated their business such as consultants, contractors and professionals often find that providing affordable health and dental care coverage for themselves and their families can be an expensive proposition.

Take Bob for example. Bob had just left his architectural firm to set up on his own. In looking at the options available for him to replace his previous firm’s Extended Health and Dental coverage for he and his family, he discovered that the monthly premium would be between $400 and $500 per month. This was for a plan that didn’t provide coverage for all practitioners and procedures, had an annual limit on the benefits, and a co-insurance factor of 20% (only 80% of eligible costs were covered). There wasn’t even any orthodontia coverage although he could purchase that in limited amounts at an additional cost! He also had to move quickly to replace his lost coverage as he had a pre-existing condition that most likely would not be covered if he waited too long to implement the new plan.

It seemed to Bob that there was a possibility of not receiving full value for his extended health and dental premiums. It was possible that he would spend far less than the $6,000 of premiums he would pay over the course of the year. The monthly premiums were also not tax-deductible. Fortunately, Bob found out about the Health Spending Account (HSA).

What is a Health Spending Account?

An HSA is becoming a popular alternative to traditional health insurance. An HSA is defined by the Canada Revenue Agency as a Private Health Spending Plan. Under the terms of a PHSP, eligible small business owners can;

• pay for their family’s medical expenses

• deduct the cost from the business income

• not have the benefit taxable to the business owner/employee

This article focuses on HSA as it applies to a one-person owner of a small business corporation. As you might expect, there are guidelines that must be met and restrictions that will apply.

• These plans cannot be for shareholders only. The shareholder must be a valid employee and receive a portion of his or her remuneration in the form of salary.

• The CRA prefers that the corporation employ the services of a third party to manage the plan and adjudicate the claims.

It is in the business owner’s best interests to use the services of a Third-Party Administrator (TPA) who specializes in PHSP’s to ensure that all the requirements are met, and all claims and payments are valid.

What does an HSA cost?

The cost of the Third-Party Administrator is very reasonable. There is usually an initial set up charge of a few hundred dollars and on-going fees run 5% to 15% of the claimed amount (plus taxes), with the typical fee being approximately 10%.

Some firms also charge an annual fee, so it is best to shop around or ask your financial advisor for advice. Being able to submit claims online and receive reimbursement by EFT almost immediately is a benefit that many of the third-party administrator’s offer.

How does it work?

Bob’s first experience with his HSA illustrates how the plan works. The HSA that Bob had implemented is referred to as a Cost-Plus plan which is the most popular arrangement with one-person corporations.

Let’s Break it Down

• Bob’s daughter started orthodontic treatments and his first charge was $1,000.

• Bob paid this amount by credit card (yes, he got points for that).

• Bob then forwarded the receipt for his payment directly to the TPA who would reimburse Bob his full $1,000.

• The TPA then bills Bob’s company for the amount of the treatment plus their 10% charge.

• Bob’s company pays the invoice and gets to deduct the $1,100 from corporate taxable income.

• The payment Bob’s company made is not taxable to Bob.

A good result! Bob has his expense reimbursed tax-free while his company gets to deduct the amount of the payment plus the administrative cost.

What are the advantages of an HSA?

• All medical procedures, necessary equipment and certified practitioners as listed by the CRA are covered in full.

• There are no medical questions for starting a plan and no pre-existing conditions clause to satisfy.

• All dependents may be covered.

• Deductible portions or shortfalls in other plans can be claimed.

• Benefits are not taxable while the costs to the corporation are tax-deductible.

As with any government regulated plan, make sure you employ the services of those who are experienced in advising on PHSP’s. They will not only guide you as to the best way to set up your plan, they will keep you out of trouble once you do.

As always, please feel free to share this with anyone you think may find it of interest.

Get Your Corporate Dollars Doing Double Duty

Owners of very successful private corporations are well aware of the importance of cash flow. Many are protective of how they allocate corporate capital so that business ventures are adequately funded and investment opportunities are not missed.  

The Immediate Financing Arrangement offers an opportunity to provide life insurance coverage and accumulate wealth on a tax-advantaged basis without impairing corporate cash flow.

What is an Immediate Financing Arrangement (IFA)?

An IFA is a financial and estate planning strategy that:

·      Combines permanent, cash value life insurance with a conservative leverage program allowing the dollars allocated to the life insurance premiums to do double duty by still being available for business and investment purposes;

·      In the right circumstances and when structured properly so that all possible tax deductions are used, an improvement in cash flow could result.

Who should consider this strategy?

IFA`s are not for everyone. For those situations that best match the necessary criteria, however, significant results can be achieved. The best candidates for an IFA usually are:

·      Successful, affluent individuals who are active investors or owners of thriving privately held corporations who require permanent life insurance protection;

·      Of good health, non-smokers, and preferably under age 60;

·      Enjoying a steady cash flow exceeding lifestyle requirements;

·      Paying income tax at the highest rate and will continue to do so throughout their life.

How does it work?

·      An individual or company purchases a cash value permanent life insurance policy and contributes allowable maximum premiums;

·      The policy is assigned to a bank as collateral for a line of credit;

·      The business or individual uses the loan advances to replace cash used for insurance purchase and re-invests in business operations or to make investments to produce income. This is done annually;

·      The borrower pays interest only and can borrow back the interest at year end;

·      At the insured’s death the proceeds of the life insurance policy retire the outstanding line of credit with the balance going to the insured’s beneficiary;

·      If corporately owned, up to the entire amount of the life insurance death benefit is available for Capital Dividend Account purposes.

Proper planning and execution is essential for the Immediate Financing Arrangement. However, if you fit the appropriate profile, you could benefit substantially from this strategy.

If you wish to investigate this strategy and whether it can be of benefit to you, please contact me and I would be happy to discuss this with you. As always, feel free to use the sharing icons below to forward this to someone who might find this of interest.

Alberta Budget 2018

The 2018 budget for Alberta focuses on the diversification of its post-recession economy, with the aim of creating more stability and less vulnerability to future fluctuations in oil prices. Here are some of the highlights:

Corporate

Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit

Alberta intends to bring in a new Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit with a maximum funding of $20 million per year, which aims to offer eligible companies with a benefit of 25% of eligible labour costs. This benefit relates to costs incurred after April 1, 2018 and is aiming to better support the interactive digital media sector in the province.

Alberta Investor Tax Credit

The 2018 budget extends the existing Alberta Investor Tax Credit until 2012-22. The existing program offers a 30% tax credit to both individuals and corporations who commit to making equity investments in eligible Alberta businesses, such as those involved in research, development, digital animation and various others.

Diversity & Inclusion Credit

Relating to the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit and Alberta Investor Tax Credit, the budget notes a 5% diversity and inclusion credit enhancement which could be claimed if the company offers employment to an individual from an under-represented group.

Capital Investment Tax Credit

The budget announces that the Capital Investment Tax Credit, a 10% non-refundable tax credit of up to $5 million for a corporation’s eligible capital expenditures on manufacturing, processing and tourism infrastructure, will also be extended until 2021-22.

Personal

Alberta Child Benefit

The 2018 budget details increases to these benefits for families with 1, 2, 3 and 4 plus children, as well as increasing the phase-out threshold for family net income from $41,786 to $42,287.

Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit

Increases have also been announced in the budget to offer more benefits for working families who have income from employment of more than $2,760 per year. The phase-out threshold has been extended from a family net income of $41,786 to $42,287, as well as increases to the benefit amounts for each family size.

Cannabis Tax

The budget covers the agreement made by Alberta to adhere to a structured tax framework with the Canadian government for a period of two years after the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes. Specifically, either $1 per gram or 10% of the producer price (whichever is greater) will be collected and the province will receive 75% of this tax room, both to be collected by the federal government. In addition, an additional tax of a maximum of 10% of the retail price may also be collected by the province.

Education Property Tax

A freeze has been set on education property tax collection, but the current rates have increased as follows:

·      From $2.48 to $2.56 per $1,000 or equalized assessment for residential/farmland property.

From $3.64 to £3.76 for non-residential property

Ontario Budget 2018

The 2018 Ontario budget features a number of new measures and billions of dollars of enhanced spending across the spectrum, as announced by the province’s Finance Minister, Charles Sousa. Read on for some of the key proposals.

Personal

Eliminate Surtax

A new sliding scale for personal income tax will be introduced, with seven personal income tax rates which will be applied directly to taxable income, in an attempt to eliminate Ontario’s surtax. The province estimates that approximately 680,000 will pay less tax as a result.

Free Tuition

Access to further education will be income linked, with those families with an income of less than $90,000 per year receiving free tuition and families with an income of between $90,000 and $175,00 per year receiving financial aid for tuition costs.

Free Pre-School Child Care

Effective in the Fall of 2020, children aged two-and-a-half until they are eligible for kindergarten can receive free licensed child care. 

New Ontario Drug and Dental Program

For those without workplace benefits or not covered by OHIP+, this program offers up to 4.1 million Ontarians a benefit that pays up to 80% of expense up to a cap of $400 for a single person, up to $600 for a couple and $50 per child in a family with two children, regardless of their income.

Free Prescription Drugs

The budget announces the introduction of free prescription drugs for those aged 65 or older, resulting in an average of $240 per year in savings per senior.

Charitable Donation Tax Credit

The non-refundable Ontario Charitable Donation Tax Credit will be tweaked to increase the top rate, remaining at 5.05% for the first $200 but increasing to 17.5% for anything above $200.

Seniors’ Healthy Home Program

$750 is offered to eligible households with seniors of 75 years of age or older to help them to care for and maintain their residence.

Corporate

R&D Tax Credit

The budget introduces a non-refundable tax credit of 3.5% on eligible costs relating to R&D, or an enhanced rate of 5.5% for eligible expenditures of $1 million plus. Note that this enhanced rate would not be payable to corporations where eligible R&D expenditures in the current tax year are less than 90% of eligible R&D expenditures in the tax year before.

Innovation Tax Credit

The existing Ontario Innovation Tax Credit will see changes to its credit rate in the following way:

·      If a company has a ratio of R&D expenditures to gross revenues of 10% or less, they will continue to receive the 8% credit.

·      If their ratio is between 10% and 20%, they will receive an enhanced credit rate of between 8-12%, calculated on a straight line basis.

·      If their ratio is 20% or more, they will receive an enhanced credit rate of 12%.

Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit

Eligibility to receive this tax credit will be broadened to include film and television websites.

2018 Federal Budget Highlights for Business

The government’s 2018 federal budget focuses on a number of tax tightening measures for business owners. It introduces a new regime for holding passive investments inside a Canadian Controlled Private Corporation (CCPC). (Previously proposed in July 2017.)

 Here are the highlights:

Small Business Tax Rate Reduction Confirmed

Lower small business tax rate from 10% (from 10.5%), effective January 1, 2018 and to 9% effective January 1, 2019.

Limiting Access to the Small Business Tax Rate

A key objective of the budget is to decrease the small business limit for CCPCs with a set threshold of income generated from passive investments. This will apply to CCPCs with between $50,000 and $150,000 of investment income. It reduces the small business deduction by $5 for each $1 of investment income which falls over the threshold of $50,000. This new ­regulation will go hand in hand with the current business limit reduction for taxable capital.

Limiting access to refundable taxes

 Another important feature of the budget is to reduce the tax advantages that CCPCs can gain to access refundable taxes on the distribution of dividends. Currently, a corporation can receive a refundable dividend tax on hand (known as a RDTOH) when they pay a particular dividend, whereas the new proposals aim to permit such a refund only where a private corporation pays non-eligible dividends, though exceptions apply regarding RDTOH deriving from eligible portfolio dividends.

The new RDTOH account referred to “eligible RDTOH” will be tracked under Part IV of the Income Tax Act while the current RDTOH account will be redefined as “non-eligible RDTOH” and will be tracked under Part I of the Income Tax Act. This means when a corporation pays non-eligible dividends, it’s required to obtain a refund from its non-eligible RDTOH account before it obtains a refund from its eligible RDTOH account.

Health and welfare trusts

The budget states that it will end the Health and Welfare Trust tax regime and transition it to Employee Life and Health Trusts. The current tax position of Health and Welfare Trusts are linked to the administrative rules as stated by the CRA, but the income Tax Act includes specific rules relating to the Employee Life and Heath Trusts which are similar. The budget will simplify this arrangement to have one set of rules across both arrangements.

BC Budget Highlights 2018

BC Finance Minister Carole James delivered the province’s 2018 budget update on February 20, 2018. The budget anticipates a surplus of $219 million for the current year, $281 million for 2019 and $284 million in 2020.

Corporate and personal tax rates remain unchanged.

The biggest changes are:

  • Elimination of Medical Services Plan (MSP Premiums) effective January 1, 2020
  • Addition of the Employer Health Tax (EHT)
  • Provincial Property Taxes
  • Childcare

The Employer Health Tax and Medical Services Plan premiums:

Effective January 1, 2020, the Medical Services Premium (MSP) will be eliminated. In last year’s budget update, MSP was reduced by 50% effective January 1, 2018. Starting in 2019, the budget introduces the Employer Health Tax (EHT). The EHT is to help fund the elimination of the MSP premiums.

The Employer Health Tax will be calculated as a percentage of payroll:

Provincial Property Transfer Taxes

Effective February 21, 2018, the following will occur:

  • The provincial property transfer taxes (PTT) will increase to 5% (from 3%) on residential property values above $3 million.
  • The PPT applies to foreign purchasers of residential properties in BC will increase to 20% (from 15%) and the tax will extend to include the Fraser Valley, Capital, Nanaimo and Central Okanagan Regional Districts.
  • There is a new speculation tax on residential property in BC. This tax is targeted at foreign and domestic homeowners who don’t pay income tax in BC. Starting in 2018, it’s a rate of $5/$1,000 of assessed value, in 2019, this will increase to $20/$1,000.

Childcare

There will be a new affordable child care benefit that will reduce child care costs by up to $1,250 per month per child by 2020. The new benefit will apply in September 2018. Families with pre-tax incomes of $45,000 or less will receive the full benefit, (up to the cost of care) while those who make up to $111,000 will receive a reduced amount, scaling based on income. The government will be releasing an online benefit calculator to help parents budget.

The budget will provide up to $350/month directly to licensed child care providers to reduce fees. They will be the following:

  • Up to $350/month for group infant/toddler care
  • Up to $200/month for family infant/toddler care
  • Up to $100/month for group care for children aged 3-5
  • Up to $60/month for family care for children aged 3-5

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