DAVID WILKENFELD, CPA, CA, canadian tax CONSULTANT

Posts Tagged ‘Trusts’

The Morneau Massacre of 2017

In Canadian Income Tax on August 8, 2017 at 9:00 am

loopholes

If you’ve just returned from vacation and wondering what’s new in the tax world, you’d better sit down and take a pill. On July 18, finance minister Bill Morneau rolled out the federal government’s proposals designed to “close loopholes and deal with tax planning strategies that involve the use of private corporations”. In short, Finance is proposing to tax an axe to many of the tax strategies that have been available to small business owners and professionals up until now.

The proposals are complex, comprehensive and wide-ranging, covering the following main areas of tax planning:

  • Income sprinkling
  • Multiplication of the capital gains exemption
  • Converting a private corporation’s regular income into capital gains
  • Holding investments inside a private corporation

Income Sprinkling

This strategy involves the splitting of income to take advantage of lower marginal tax rates available to family members. Many rules have been put in place over the years to curtail this practice. Most notably, the tax on split income (TOSI), or “kiddie tax” applies the highest marginal tax rates to certain dividends paid to minor children.

With the new proposals, the TOSI will no longer be limited to minor children. Complex new rules will apply the TOSI to dividends paid to adult individuals unless such dividends are reasonable in light of that individual’s labour contributions and/or capital contributions to the corporation.

The TOSI will also be expanded to apply to capital gains on property, the income from which was subject to the TOSI. Further, it will also apply (for individuals under age 25) to “compound income” that was previously subject to attribution rules or the TOSI.

These proposals are scheduled to apply to for the 2018 and later years.

Multiplication of the capital gains exemption

A capital gains exemption (CGE) of up to $800,000 (indexed) is currently available to any individual on the sale of qualifying shares of a private company. Issuing shares to family members, either directly or through a trust, is a common way to multiply this tax benefit.

The finance minister has proposed a three-pronged approach that will eliminate the multiplication of the CGE:

Age limit: The CGE will no longer be available to individuals where the gain occurs in any year before the individual reaches the age of 18 years.

Reasonableness test: In essence, this rule will deny the CGE on any gain on the sale of shares if the gain from those shares is subject to the TOSI measures described above.

Trusts: With exceptions for spouse or alter ego trusts the GCE will no longer be available on any gain on a share that is held by a family trust.

These proposals will apply to dispositions after 2017. However, there will be transitional rules that will allow an elected deemed disposition at any time in 2018. The fair market value of the shares would have to be determined, and the qualification criteria for the CGE will be treated as being satisfied if they are met at any time in the preceding 12 months.

Converting a private corporation’s regular income into capital gains

Normally, a distribution of a corporation’s retained earnings is considered a dividend and taxed as such. The top rate on dividends is approximately 44%. Strategies have been used with varying degrees of success to arrange for dividends to be transmogrified into capital gains, which are taxed at 25%. This involves the utilization of the high cost base on shares that have been acquired through a non-arm’s length transaction that had previously triggered a capital gain. Current rules are in place to curtail such “surplus stripping” in limited circumstances. Section 84.1 effectively forces a return to dividend treatment where the capital gains exemption was claimed on the previous capital gain.

The government proposes to extend these rules to any situation where a non-arm’s length transaction involved even a fully taxable capital gain. This proposal is meant to address what has become known as the “pipeline” transaction.

The pipeline has been used extensively in recent years as a post-mortem planning tool to avoid double-taxation where the capital is deemed to occur on the death of a corporate shareholder. Unless the current proposals are altered, the pipeline strategy will no longer be available to an estate.

These proposals will take effect for all dispositions that occur after July 18, 2017. There will be no room for transitional planning.

Holding investments inside a private corporation

One of the long-standing advantages of incorporation is the tax deferral that comes with lower rates on business income. Once the retained income has accumulated over time, the company will have a larger amount available for investment. This has been a great contributor to the retirement of many small business owners. However, it is an advantage that salaried persons or those who don’t incorporate cannot access. Accordingly, the government proposes to eliminate it.

Of all the proposals announced, this is the only one that is not fully developed with draft legislation. The Minister has included some suggested strategies to deal with the issue, each one complex in its own right, and generally altering the system of integration currently in place by eliminating the effect of the corporate tax deferral for future passive investment.

The Minister acknowledges that there currently exists a significant amount of capital invested within private corporations, and it is not his intent to affect these holdings. Any new rules will have effect on a going-forward basis.

These proposals are subject to a consultation period which will end on October 2, 2017. Interested parties should write to the Minister of Finance with any concerns before that date. I suspect that it will be an interesting and eventful autumn for the tax community.

The Corporate Beneficiary

In Canadian Income Tax, Estates and trusts on October 25, 2010 at 3:46 pm

The family trust is alive these days and thriving more than ever. More and more taxpayers are beginning to appreciate the tax saving possibilities of income-splitting. The trustee has the absolute power to allocate income or capital of the trust to any beneficiary of his choice with no restrictions.

In a simple structure, a trust is created, with children as beneficiaries. The trust owns shares of an operating company (“Opco”) which pays annual dividends to the trust. The dividends are then distributed to the beneficiaries and taxed at their graduating marginal rates.

One spin on the family trust is to add a corporation to the list of trust beneficiaries. This option provides even more flexibility and advantages to the common family trust.

In an income splitting situation, it may not be desirable to pay dividends to the trust over a certain amount – that is the amount that would yield the lowest rates of tax when distributed to beneficiaries. For example, a Quebec taxpayer with no other income may earn up to $12,500 in dividends before paying any tax. The trustee may not wish to distribute more than this amount to the beneficiaries annually. If Opco has high income, its directors may find such a limitation restraining.

Adding a holding company (“Holdco”) to the list of beneficiaries wipes out this limitation. Opco could pay a large dividend to the trust. The trustee would allocate a portion of the dividend to the individual beneficiaries, and the excess would be assigned to Holdco.

A dividend paid by one corporation to a connected company is non-taxable. However, since Holdco does not own any shares directly in Opco, care would have to be exercised to ensure that the two companies were technically connected for tax purposes. Generally, this could be accomplished if the trust controlled Opco, or Opco and Holdco were controlled by persons who do not deal at arm’s length with each other.

Where Opco generates high levels of cash, the ability to pay dividends in this manner provides certain advantages. First, it allows protection from creditors in that cash may easily be moved out through dividends and away from potential claims.

Where individual beneficiaries have not claimed their capital gains exemption, this structure provides an easy means of having the company qualify as a small business corporation by paying excess “non business” cash out as a dividend.

Sometimes, the implementation of a family trust involves an estate freeze. In such a case, corporate attribution rules may apply to assign deemed dividends to the value of preferred shares issued to a parent as part of the freeze. One exception to this rule is to ensure Opco remains a small business corporation throughout the year. The ability to pay unlimited dividends to the trust on an ongoing basis would allow Opco to retain its small business corporation status so the exception applies.

Finally, if the trust is wound up, it may be possible to distribute the Opco shares to Holdco free of tax, thereby eliminating the need to give up eventual ownership of the shares to children.

Before implementing any such complex structure, care should be taken to ensure that all legal requirements are met, and that the tax advantages are worth the added costs.