The Tax Issue
I recently built our “dream” home for 2.50M$. However, not having sufficient funds personally, my professional corporation financed the construction of the house for me, writes off the maintenance, utilities and taxes, and I rent the house from my company at a market value rent, having researched comparable rents in the neighbourhood. Apart from forgoing the principal residence exemption – are there any other detriments to this strategy?
Could be. I’m assuming, since you are paying rent, that you’re aware of the shareholder benefit rules. That is, by virtue of the fact that the company has financed your house and pays expenses on your behalf, you are exposed to tax on the value of the benefit you are receiving from the company.
What you may not be aware of is how the CRA might establish the value of the benefit. It could be the market value rent as you have researched, and if so, the rent you’re paying would be enough to offset the taxable amount completely.
In your case, however, it may not be so simple. There is a line of jurisprudence, starting with the case of Youngman v. The Queen, that suggests that the benefit or advantage conferred on you is not merely the right to use or occupy a house; it is the right to use or occupy a house that the company, at your request, had built specially for you in accordance with your specifications. How much would you have had to pay for the same advantage if you had not been a shareholder of the company?
So what is this “alternative” calculation? Generally, the value of the benefit could be calculated by reference to the income the corporation would have earned if its capital had been productively employed and not based on the fair market rental value (which might be considerably lower).
As an example, on a $2.5M capital outlay, the company could have been expected to earn interest in a relatively risk-free investment of, say anywhere from 2% to 5%. This would mean an annual rent of $50,000 to $125,000, plus expenses. If you are paying any less than this in rent, despite what the market rents are in the area, then you could be exposed to a greater taxable benefit than you thought.