With these changes, the government has achieved almost perfect integration, at least in my home province of Ontario. By integration, I mean a person will be indifferent as to whether they receive a dividend or salary from a private corporation, since the ultimate income tax cost (total of both corporate and personal taxes) is exactly the same.
Although the government has effectively removed any absolute income tax savings, a significant income tax deferral is still available where corporations earn active business income. For example, if a corporation earns active income in Ontario, the corporate tax rate is only 15.5% as opposed to a personal tax rate of 46.41% (on taxable income over $136,270). This means to the extent that a small business owner does not need all their corporate earnings to live on and can leave funds in their corporation, they are deferring 30.91% in taxes (34.03% if they are a super-tax rate taxpayer paying 49.53%).
Jamie Golombek, the Managing Director, Tax & Estate Planning of CIBC, recently released a report titled “The Compensation Conundrum: Will it be salary or dividends?” This is Jamie’s third report in an excellent series on owner-manager remuneration, the first two being “Rethinking RRSPs for Business Owners: Why Taking a Salary May Not Make Sense” and “Bye-bye Bonus! Why small business owners may prefer dividends over a bonus”.
The chart below, taken from Jamie’s most recent report, reflects the impact of the dividend tax changes on small business owners, who distribute their income as non-eligible dividends instead of salary; where their corporations are eligible for the $500,000 small business deduction limit (“SBD”). The absolute tax rates which Jamie denotes as tax rate (dis)-advantage reflect significant decreases from 2013 to 2014, while the tax deferral advantage is either unaffected or has grown larger in almost all provinces. For example: In Ontario, in 2013, there was an absolute tax savings of 3.21% if a small business owner received non-eligible dividends instead of salary. However, in 2014, that benefit is now only .12%. The tax deferral remains the same at 34.03%.
Chart reproduced with permission from Jamie Golombek, the Managing Director, Tax & Estate Planning of CIBC from his recently released report “The Compensation Conundrum: Will it be salary or dividends?” December 2013.
If your remuneration strategy was to pay yourself a salary to the RRSP limit and then pay yourself a dividend on any amounts over the RRSP limit, the increased tax rate on non-eligible dividends means that in many provinces, there will be little to no benefit to remunerate yourself in this manner in 2014 (EHT should be considered in this analysis).
If you leave after-tax corporate funds to grow in your company, you will now pay more income tax on the eventual withdrawal of those funds, to the extent the funds are withdrawn as non-eligible dividends.
With the change to the taxation of non-eligible dividends, small business owners need to consult their accountants early in 2014 to determine if they need to consider changing the manner in which they are remunerated.