My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant and a partner with a National Accounting Firm in Toronto. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are written solely in my personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which I am affiliated. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humor/sarcasm. You've been warned.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Proposed Changes to the Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP)

Most people are aware of the Canada Revenue Agency’s Voluntary Disclosures Program, or VDP. This program gives taxpayers the opportunity to make changes to previously filed returns, and to file returns that haven’t been filed, and provides relief from penalties and potential some interest that would have been assessed.

On June 9, 2017, the CRA proposed changes to the Voluntary Disclosures Program. These proposed changes will impact a taxpayer’s eligibility for the program and impose new conditions on those who apply.

Large Corporations


For corporate taxpayers, if the company had gross revenue of more than $250 million in two of the last five tax years, the application would generally not be accepted under the proposed changes. Neither would applications related to transfer pricing adjustments.

Dual Streams


The proposal also included two new “streams” for disclosures called the General and Limited programs. However, taxpayer’s would not apply to one program or the other. Applications would be made to the program and, if accepted, the CRA would determine the program/stream under which it would be evaluated.

The main difference between the programs would be the relief provided. Penalty and interest relief would be available under the General Program, whereas no interest relief would be available under the Limited Program.

To determine the stream under which an application should be assessed, CRA would consider the following criteria:

  •  Were there active efforts to avoid detection (use of offshore vehicles, etc.)? 
  • Are large dollar amounts or multiple tax years involved? 
  • Is the disclosure being made after the CRA has made it known that they intend to focus on the area of non-compliance that is being disclosed? 
  • Is there a high degree of taxpayer culpability in the failure to comply?
If one or more of the above conditions are met, the application would likely be evaluated under the Limited Program.

There are two significant changes that would affect all applicants. The first that payment for the estimated tax owing will need to be included with the application under the proposed rules and two, a no-name disclosures will no longer be an option. That being said, the CRA has indicated that it would allow taxpayers to have pre-disclosure discussions on a no-name basis to provide them with insight into the process, the risks involved in remaining non-compliant, and the relief available.

Changes have also been proposed to the way interest relief will be calculated. Under the General Program, there are two time periods to consider: for the three most recent years required to be filed, full interest would be assessed; for years before the most recent three years required to be filed, 50% of the interest otherwise applicable would be assessed. As previously mentioned, no interest relief would be available under the Limited Program.

It is important to note that CRA reserves the right to audit or verify any information provided under the VDP application, whether it is accepted into the program or not.

Keep an eye out for an official announcement on the proposed changes, which is expected in the fall of 2017.

I would like to thank Samantha Harris, CPA, CA, Senior Accountant, Tax for BDO Canada LLP for her extensive assistance in writing this post. 

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Tax Planning Using Private Corporations - A Philosophical and Critical Review

I am back from my summer break. Today, I comment on the Liberal tax proposals put forth in July, in respect of the taxation of private corporations. I have a feeling I may be writing on this topic several times this year.

On July 24th, I wrote a blog post on the Liberal government’s proposals for tax planning using private corporations. As these proposals were released mid-summer, it took a while for small business owners and professionals to understand the potentially complex and punitive nature of these proposals. If you want to read an updated summary with recommendations on this issue,
this report by BDO Canada is very good.

I can tell your first hand that there is a lot of anger among business owners for what they consider a totally misguided government notion that business owners should be treated in exactly the same manner for tax purposes as their employees who take none of the business and financial risks and the implication private business owners are abusing the tax system. Opposition has been growing throughout the summer and there is a mounting backlash from professionals and small business owners against these proposals. Based on email responses I have been CC'ed on, local MPs are taking this issue seriously. Whether this pressure will cause Prime Mister Justin Trudeau and/or Minister of Finance Bill Morneau to change their stance on this issue remains to be seen.
Whether you philosophically believe these proposals are fair (and based on feedback both publicly and to my email inbox, most of my readers think they are not fair), these rules will create a very negative climate. Just as importantly, there is currently tax paralysis, as advisors are not sure what the rules are and will be and thus, they cannot properly assist their clients. One way or another, a clear path needs to be set as soon as possible.

I could provide a laundry list of reasons why I feel these proposals unfairly target small business owners and professionals, but that is not my objective for this post. What I want to discuss is the feedback I have received from those affected by the proposals, other accountants, and employees who may not feel as aggrieved.

The proposals target three specific areas:

1. Converting Income into Capital Gains

2. Income Splitting

3. Taxation of Passive Income

Converting Income into Capital Gains


When people speak frankly about this proposal, there is generally unanimous consent that the proposals for the conversion of income into capital gains are “fair”. I don’t think that if this proposal was released in a typical budget that it would cause much consternation. There is concern however; that the government has to distinguish between aggressive tax planning and tax planning that avoids double tax (such as pipeline planning upon death).

Income Splitting


When discussing this topic, most business owners and professionals feel these proposals are punitive and generally unfair save one provision (the capital gains exemption – which I discuss below). These proposals in general will prevent family income splitting (as the income will be taxed at the highest marginal tax rate) unless there is reasonable compensation and the compensation is based on labour and capital contributed.

Where I have discussed these proposals with people that are employees, in general they feel the proposals are unfair to restrict income splitting with spouses, but they tend to agree with the government that income splitting with children should be eliminated.

Business owners feel the income splitting rules are unfair is that they look at their business as a family business, not a business owned by a sole individual, even if that individual is the only one actually working the business full-time. For example, many spouses who do not work in the business either gave up a full or part-time career to enable the business owner to work the hours required. Spouses in many small businesses are sounding boards and consultants. When a spouse comes home they discuss over dinner or drinks decisions to be made regarding expansion, employee issues, equipment purchases, etc. The unpaid “consulting or sympathetic listening time” for spouses is immense. This does not even account for the family time lost due to the crazy hours worked by entrepreneurs. Children are often called in to assist with a new business in many ways for no pay and/or to have time to spend with the parent/owner.

Most business owners feel it is fair for spouses and children to own shares in a family corporation. Although when pushed, in general they feel that the $835,716 small business capital gains exemption should be restricted to spouses only and at most children over 18 years of age. Non-business owners feel that children should have no access to the capital gains exemption.

So in summary, I would suggest most business owners and non-business owners feel these proposals are extremely unfair in respect of spouses, but many non-business owners and some business owners feel the restrictions on income splitting with children are reasonable for those at least under the age of majority.

Taxation of Passive Income


As noted in my July 24th blog post, where a corporation earns less than $500,000 the company pays tax at 15% in Ontario and a similar amount in each province. This results in a tax deferral, not a tax saving of up to 38%. Where corporations earn income in excess of $500,000, or in the case of many professional corporations where access to the small business exemption is limited (they must share the $500k exemption with all their partners), the tax rate is 26.5% in Ontario and similar in most provinces, resulting in a tax deferral of 27% or so. The proposals effectively eliminate the tax deferral for all income not re-invested back into the active business.

I would say these rules have antagonized small business owners, professionals and tax advisors the most and there is unanimous consent these rules are not required and unnecessarily punitive. The reasons for this are as follows:

1. Unlike the income splitting and capital gains stripping rules, in general, these rules only result in a deferral of income tax, not an absolute saving.

2. This deferral has been used extensively by small business owners and professionals to create their own retirement fund. The fact that the government is considering removing the ability to save for retirement within a corporation has many people going apoplectic. The reason for this is essentially twofold. Firstly, business owners are furious the government is not providing any benefit for the risk they take for starting and owning a business and secondly, they look at government employees with gold plated pension plans and ask what right does the government have to prevent them from trying to create their own retirement fund?

3. Any new rules will be unbelievably complex and expensive for the business owners and advisors to administrate, especially given there is only a tax deferral and not an absolute tax savings. How do you track excess income earned between corporate use and passive use when they are often intermingled in some manner?

I have found that when you take emotion out of this issue, there is some agreement that the capital gains stripping and income splitting with children proposals were fair. However, the other proposals are considered prejudicial against high income earners, punitive, complex and totally ignore the risk that business owners must accept in starting a business. Finally, I think the Liberals are missing a very important consideration: that being mindset. When you tax people at 53% and restrict the benefits to start a business, you stunt business growth, create more underground transactions, and cause some of your best and brightest to leave the country. This does not even consider the massive spending power you are taking out of the economy by reducing the discretionary income of typically the highest spending Canadians.

Update


A couple important updates, one on this topic and one on the work-in-progress transition period announced in the 2017 Federal Budget.

In this editorial by the Finance Minister in The Globe and Mail, Mr. Morneau states the following " For those business owners and professionals who have saved and planned for their retirement under the existing rules, I want to be clear: We have no intention of going back in time. Our intent is that changes will apply only on a go-forward basis and neither existing savings, nor investment income from those savings, will be touched". This statement at least clarifies the passive income rules will at worst be go forward rules.

In this March, 2017 blog post on the federal budget, I discussed that professionals would no longer be allowed to deduct their work-in-progress ("WIP") from their taxable income and their current WIP deduction would be subject to a two year addback transition period (2018 & 2019) that would result in harsh income tax consequences for many. Late last week the government released draft legislation regarding the 2017 budget proposals and they have changed the transition period for WIP that has to be brought into taxable income to 5 years (20% a year starting in 2018 through 2022) from the initial two year proposal.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Best of The Blunt Bean Counter - The Duties of an Executor

This summer I am posting the "best of" The Blunt Bean Counter blog while I work on my golf game. Today, I am re-posting a blog post from April 2011, on the duties of an executor. As the 86 comments on the initial post reflect, many people are oblivious to these duties, until they are suddenly thrust upon them. This is the last "Best of" for this year, I return next week with my regular newly minted blog posts.

The Duties of an Executor


 As I noted in the first installment of this series, I have been an executor for three estates. I have also advised numerous executors in my capacity as the tax advisor/accountant for the estates of deceased taxpayers. The responsibility of being named an executor is overwhelming for many; notwithstanding the inexcusable fact many individuals appointed as executors had no idea they were going to be named an executor of an estate. In my opinion, not discussing this appointment beforehand is a huge mistake. I would suggest at a minimum, you should always ask a potential executor if they are willing to assume the job (before your will is drafted), but that is a topic for another day.

So, John Stiff dies and you are named as an executor. What duties and responsibilities will you have? Immediately you may be charged with organizing the funeral, but in many cases, the immediate family will handle those arrangements, assuming there is an immediate family in town. What’s next? Well, a lot of work and frustration dealing with financial institutions, the family members and the beneficiaries.

Below is a laundry list of many of the duties and responsibilities you will have as an executor:

  • Your first duty is to participate in a game of hide and seek to find the will and safety deposit box key(s).  If you are lucky, someone can tell you who Mr. Stiff's lawyer was and, if you can find him or her, you can get a copy of the will. Many people leave their will in their safety deposit box; so you may need to find the safety deposit key first, so you can open the safety deposit box to access the will.
  • You will then need to meet with the lawyer to co-coordinate responsibilities and understand your fiduciary duties from a legal perspective. The lawyer will also provide guidance in respect of obtaining a certificate of appointment of estate trustee with a will ("Letters Probate"), a very important step in Ontario and most other provinces. 
  • You will then want to arrange a meeting with Mr. Stiff's accountant (if he had one) to determine whether you will need his/her help in the administration of the estate or, at a minimum, for filing the required income tax returns. If the deceased does not have an accountant, you will probably want to engage one. 
  • Next up may be attending the lawyer’s office for the reading of the will; however, this is not always necessary and is probably more a "Hollywood creation" than a reality. 
  • You will then want to notify all beneficiaries of the will of their entitlement and collect their personal information (address, social insurance number etc).
  • You will then start the laborious process of trying to piece together the deceased’s assets and liabilities (see my blog Where are the Assets for a suggestion on how to make this task easy for your executor). 
  • The next task can sometimes prove to be extremely interesting. It is time to open the safety deposit box at the bank. I say extremely interesting because what if you find significant cash? If you do, you then have your first dilemma; is this cash unreported, and what is your duty in that case? 
  • It is strongly suggested that you attend the review of the contents of the safety deposit box with another executor. A bank representative will open the box for you and you need to make a list on the spot of the boxes contents, which must then be signed by all present.
  • While you are at the bank opening the safety deposit box, you will want to meet with a bank representative to open an estate bank account and find out what expenses the bank will let you pay from that account (assuming there are sufficient funds) until you obtain probate. Most banks will allow funds to be withdrawn from the deceased’s bank account to pay for the funeral expenses and the actual probate fees. However, they can be very restrictive initially and each bank has its own set of rules. 
  • As soon as possible you will want to change Mr. Stiff's mailing address to your address and cancel credit cards, utilities, newspapers, fitness clubs, etc. 
  • As soon as you have a handle on the assets and liabilities of the estate, you will want to file for letters of probate, as moving forward without probate is next to impossible in most cases. 
  • You will need to advise the various institutions of the passing of Mr. Stiff and find out what documents will be required to access the funds they have on hand. In one estate I had about 10 different institutions to deal with and I swear not one seemed to have the exact same informational requirement. 
  • If there is insurance, you will need to file claims and make claims for things such as the CPP benefit. 
  • You will need to advertise in certain legal publications or newspapers to ensure there are no unknown creditors; your lawyer will advise what is necessary.
  • It is important that you either have the accountant track all monies flowing in and out of the estate or you do it yourself in an accounting program or excel. You may need to engage someone to summarize this information in a format acceptable to the courts if a “passing of accounts” is required in your province to finalize the estate. 
  • You will also need to arrange for the re-investment of funds with the various investment advisor(s) until the funds can be paid out. For real estate you will need to ensure supervision and/or management of any properties and ensure insurance is renewed until the properties are sold. 
  • A sometimes troublesome issue is family members taking items, whether for sentimental value or for other reasons. They must be made to understand that all items must be allocated and nothing can be taken.  
  • You will need to arrange with the accountant to file the terminal return covering the period from January 1st to the date of death. Consider whether a special return for “rights and things” should be filed. You may also be required to file an “executor’s year” tax return for the period from the date of death to the one year anniversary of Mr. Stiff's death. Once all the assets have been collected and the tax returns filed, you will need to obtain a clearance certificate to absolve yourself of any responsibility for the estate and create a plan of distribution for the remaining assets (you may have paid out interim distributions during the year).
The above is just a brief list of some of the more important duties of an executor. For the sake of brevity I have ignored many others (see Jim Yih's blog for an executor's checklist).

The job of an executor is demanding and draining. Should you wish to take executor fees for your efforts, there is a standard schedule for fees in most provinces. For example in Ontario, the fee is 2.5% of the receipts of estate and 2.5% of the disbursements of the estate.

Finally, it is important to note that executor fees are taxable as the taxman gets you coming, going and even administering the going.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Best of The Blunt Bean Counter - Are you Selfish with your Money and Advice?

This summer I am posting the "best of" The Blunt Bean Counter blog while I work on my golf game. Today, I go way back to July 2012, for a post on whether you are selfish with your money and advice.

Are you Selfish with your Money and Advice?


I think it is commonly accepted that most people do not like to discuss money matters. In fact, I have posted on several taboo money topics ranging from discussing the family will to intergenerational issues surrounding money. I find the fact that people are not willing to discuss money quite ludicrous in some cases and potentially harmful in certain other situations.

But, should this disinclination to discuss money extend to investment or cost saving opportunities where you may be able to financially assist family, friends and acquaintances? Are there situations in which you do not have to reveal personal financial details, such that one can disengage from the money taboo?

So, where am I going with this? Let me ask you the following questions:
  1.  If you are a stock picker and have a new favourite stock, would you inform your family, friends and acquaintances about this stock?
  2. What if you found a great cottage to rent this summer at a great price, but you can only use it two weeks of the summer, would you inform your family or friends of its availability?
  3. What if someone came to you with a private investment which you thought was the next Facebook, would you offer this opportunity to your family, friends, acquaintances or clients?
  4. What if you found a great real estate property you felt could be fixed-up cheaply and flipped quickly, but you would be stretched to purchase it yourself. Would you offer a piece of this property to your family or friends?
  5. Finally, what if you have a client or contact who is a distributor for Armani suits for men and Christian Louboutin shoes for women and they offer you a standard 50% discount and allow you to bring a guest, would you bring a guest?
Personally, I would answer yes to all the above and not think much about doing such. To me, if I can make money and also help someone make money or save money, I am happy to share the wealth, so to speak. In fact, I have done all the above in some shape or form. This does not make me a good person, I have several other faults; but I am just not selfish where I can share the spoils of a good investment or opportunity. 

However, some people are not as forthcoming. The question is why?

I see a couple of potential reasons.

The first and most justifiable reason is that although many people are willing to take a personal financial risk on a stock pick or investment opportunity, they do not want to be held responsible if others lose their money. I think this is a very valid concern. The only counter argument I have for this concern is if you know your family and friends well, you probably know to which people you can say, "Here is the opportunity and here is the risk. You are a big boy or big girl, make your own decision, but I am partaking in this investment and if you follow suit, you do so with the same risk I have assumed".

I would suggest for the people in the subset above, most would probably inform family or friends about the cottage rental opportunity and Armani suits/ Christian Louboutin shoe sale, because in these cases, there is no risk of financial loss and blame, as you are just helping others save money.

This leads me to an alternative reason for not “sharing” investment opportunities or cost saving opportunities. Many months back I wrote a blog post called “How we look at money”. The post centered on a study by Dr. Brad Klontz a financial psychologist.
The study which deals with money through a concept of “money scripts” says money causes certain people to be “concerned with the association between self-worth and net-worth. These scripts can lock individuals into the competitive stance of acquiring more than those around them. Individuals who believe that money is status see a clear distinction between socio-economic classes.”


I would suggest it is this subset of people that do not involve or inform others of these investments and cost saving opportunities. Their actions are a result of their competitiveness in acquiring more than those around them, such that they feel more powerful with the exclusivity of being involved in these opportunities while excluding their family and friends.

These people feel that if their investments work out, they will have more money than their family,  friends and acquaintances and reinforce their financial superiority. In the case of the cottage they would not let others know about the deal they received, yet they would invite guests to the cottage to show it off. The same would go for the suits or shoes; they would rather show up in the Armani suit or Christian Louboutin shoes to reinforce their perceived power and status and would not want others to present the same image.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, I find the psychology of money intriguing. Think how you and the people you know would respond to the above five situations and whether these situations would provide a view into your/their financial psyches.

P.S.-- Just so none of my family and friends think they were the inspiration for this blog post, it is based on "Someone that I Used to Know" as music artist Goyte would say.

The blogs posted on The Blunt Bean Counter provide information of a general nature. These posts should not be considered specific advice; as each reader's personal financial situation is unique and fact specific. Please contact a professional advisor prior to implementing or acting upon any of the information contained in one of the blogs.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Best of The Blunt Bean Counter - Transferring the Family Cottage - Part 3

In the final post of my three-part blog series on transferring the family cottage, I discuss some of the alternative strategies available to mitigate or defer income taxes that may arise upon the transfer of the cottage to your children. Unfortunately, none provide a tax "magic bullet".

Part 3 – Ways to Reduce the Tax Hit


The following alternatives may be available to mitigate and defer the income taxes that may arise on the transfer of a family cottage.

Life Insurance

Life insurance may prevent a forced sale of a family cottage where there is a large income tax liability upon the death of a parent, and the estate does not have sufficient liquid assets to cover the income tax liability. The downside to insurance is the cost over the years, which can be substantial. In addition, since the value of the cottage may rise over the years, it may be problematic to have the proper amount of life insurance in place (although you can over-insure initially or if your health permits, increase the insurance at a later date). I would suggest very few people imagined the quantum of the capital gains they would have on their cottages when they initially purchased them, so guessing at the adequate amount of life insurance required is difficult at best.

Gift or Sale to Your Children

As discussed in Part 2, this option is challenging as it will create a deemed capital gain, and will result in an immediate income tax liability in the year of transfer if there is an inherent capital gain on the cottage. The upside to this strategy is that if the gift or sale is undertaken at a time when there is only a small unrealized capital gain and the cottage increases in value after the transfer, most of the income tax liability is passed on to the second generation. This strategy does not eliminate the income tax issue; rather it defers it, which in turn can create even a larger income tax liability for the next generation. Since many cottages have already increased substantially in value, a current sale or transfer to your children will create significant deemed capital gains, making this strategy problematic in many cases.

If you decide to sell the cottage to your children, the Income Tax Act provides for a five-year capital gains reserve, and thus consideration should be given to having the terms of repayment spread out over at least five years.

Transfer to a Trust

A transfer of a cottage to a trust generally results in a deemed capital gain at the time of transfer. An insidious feature of a family trust is that while the trust may be able to claim the Principal Residence Exemption ("PRE"), in doing so, it can effectively preclude the beneficiaries (typically the children) of the trust from claiming the PRE on their own city homes for the period the trust designates the cottage as a principal residence.

This paragraph is an update to the original 2011 post. A reader of the blog recently asked a question on life and remainder interests in a cottage. When gifting or using a trust, you can transfer ownership of your cottage to your children, while still keeping a "life interest" in the cottage, which allows you continued use of the cottage and the income from the property (if any) for the rest of your life. However, the transfer/gift to the trust still triggers a capital gain for tax purposes. You are essentially just ensuring you have access and use of your cottage and the future increase in the cottage value accrues to your children from the date of the transfer. This is a complicated topic and beyond my area of expertise. You should consult your lawyer in tandem with your accountant to ensure you understand the issues in your specific situation in using a life transfer and remainder interest.

If a parent is 65 years old or older, transferring the cottage to an Alter Ego Trust or a Joint Partner Trust is another alternative. These trusts are more effective than a standard trust, since there is no deemed disposition and no capital gain is created on the transfer. The downside is that upon the death of the parent, the cottage is deemed to be sold and any capital gain is taxed at the highest personal income tax rate, which could result in even more income tax owing.

The use of a trust can be an effective means of sheltering the cottage from probate taxes. Caution is advised if you are considering a non-Alter Ego or Joint Partner Trust, as on the 21-year anniversary date of the creation of the trust, the cottage must either be transferred to a beneficiary (should be tax-free), or the trust must pay income taxes on the property’s accrued gain.

Transfer to a Corporation

A cottage can be transferred to a corporation on a tax-free basis using the rollover provisions of the Income Tax Act. This would avoid the deemed capital gain issue upon transfer. However, subsequent to the transfer the parents would own shares in the corporation that would result in a deemed disposition (and most likely a capital gain) upon the death of the last surviving parent. An “estate freeze” can be undertaken concurrently, which would fix the parent’s income tax liability at death and allow future growth to accrue to the children; however, that is a topic for another time.

In addition, holding a cottage in a corporation will result in a taxable benefit for personal use and will eliminate any chance of claiming the PRE on the cottage for the parent and children in the future so this alternative is rarely used.

In summary, where there is a large unrealized capital gain on a family cottage, there will be no income tax panacea. However, one of the alternatives noted above may assist in mitigating the income tax issue and allow for the orderly transfer of the property.

I strongly encourage you to seek professional advice when dealing with this issue. There are numerous pitfalls and issues as noted above, and the advice above is general in nature and should not be relied upon for specific circumstances.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Best of The Blunt Bean Counter - Tranferring the Family Cottage - Part 2

In the second installment of my April, 2011 three-part series on transferring the family cottage, I discuss the income tax implications of transferring or gifting a cottage to your children. Many people are unaware these gifts or sales, often create an immediate income tax liability.  

Part 2 – Tax Issues


As discussed in Part 1 of this series, you can only designate one property as a principal residence per family after 1981. In order to explore the income tax implications associated with transferring ownership of a cottage, I will assume both a city residence and a cottage have been purchased subsequent to 1981, and I will assume that the PRE has been fully allocated to your city home and the cottage will be the taxable property.

Many parents want to transfer their cottage to their children while they are alive, however any gift or sale to their children will result in a deemed capital gain under the Income Tax Act equal to the fair market value (“FMV”) of the cottage, less the original cost of the cottage, plus any renovations to the cottage. Consequently, a transfer while the owner-parent(s) is/are alive will create an income tax liability where there is an unrealized capital gain (i.e. Your cottage is worth $500,000 and the cost is $200,000, you will have a $300,000 capital gain even though you did not actually sell the cottage).

Alternatively, where a cottage is not transferred during one parent’s lifetime and the cottage is left to the surviving spouse or common-law partner, there are no income tax issues until the death of the surviving spouse/partner. However, upon the death of the surviving spouse/partner, there will be a deemed capital gain, calculated exactly as noted above. This deemed capital gain must be reported on the terminal (final) tax return of the deceased spouse/partner.

Whether a gift or transfer of the cottage is made during your lifetime, or the property transfers to your children through your will, you will have the same income tax issue: a deemed disposition with a capital gain equal to the FMV of the cottage, less its cost.

It is my understanding that all provinces (with the exception of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and parts of rural Nova Scotia) have land transfer taxes that would be applicable on any type of cottage transfer. You should confirm whether land transfer tax is applicable in your province with your real estate lawyer.

So, are there any strategies to mitigate or alleviate the income tax issue noted above? In my opinion, other than buying life insurance to cover the income tax liability, most strategies are essentially ineffective tax-wise as they only defer or partially mitigate the income tax issue. In Part 3 of this series I will summarize the income tax planning options available to transfer the family cottage.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Best of The Blunt Bean Counter - Transferring the Family Cottage - Part 1

In April 2011, I wrote a  three-part series on transferring the family cottage for the Canadian Capitalist blog. Since many Canadian's are at their cottage and the topic is apropos, I will re-post the blogs over the next three weeks,

Part 1 deals with the historical nature of the income tax rules, while Part 2 will deal with the income tax implications of transferring or gifting a cottage, and finally in the third post, I discuss alternative income tax planning opportunities that may mitigate or defer income tax upon the transfer of a family cottage.

Part 1 – There Is No Panacea


Canadians love their cottages. They are willing to put up with three-hour drives, traffic jams, never-ending repairs and maintenance, and constant hosting duties for their piece of tranquility by the lake. However, I would suggest the family cottage is one of the most problematic assets for income tax planning purposes, let alone the inherent family politics that are sure to arise.

For purposes of this discussion, I will just assume away the family politics issue. I will assume the children will each grab a beer, sit down at a table, and work out a cottage-sharing schedule to everyone’s satisfaction; and while they are at it, agree on how they will share the future ownership of the cottage when their parents transfer the cottage or pass away. I would say this is a very realistic situation in Canada, not!!!

Let’s also dismiss any illusions some may harbour that they can plan around the taxation issues related to cottages (or even avoid them entirely). I can tell you outright that there is no magical solution to solving the income tax issues in regard to a family cottage, just ways to mitigate or defer the issues. Many cottages were purchased years ago and have large unrealized capital gains.

So let’s start by taking a step back in time. Up until 1981, each spouse could designate their own principal residence (“PR”) which, in most cases, made the income tax implications of disposing or gifting a family cottage a null and void issue. The “principal residence exemption” (“PRE”) in the Income Tax Act essentially eliminated any capital gain realized when a personal use property was sold or transferred. Families that had a home in the city and a cottage in the country typically did not have to pay tax on any capital gains realized on either property when sold or gifted.

However, for any year after 1981, a family unit (generally considered to be the taxpayer, his or her spouse or common-law partner, and unmarried minor children) can only designate one property between them for purposes of the PRE. Although the designation of a property as a PR is a yearly designation, it is only made when there is an actual disposition of a home (New rules have been put in place in respect to selling your PR, see this blog I wrote on the topic in Oct, 2017).

For example, if you owned and lived in both a cottage and a house between 2001 and 2011 and sold them both in 2011, you could choose to designate your cottage as your PR for 2001 to 2003 and your house from 2004 to 2011, or any other permutation plus one year (the Canada Revenue Agency [“CRA”] provides a bonus year because they are just a giving agency).

In order to decide which property to designate for each year after 1981, it is always necessary to determine whether there is a larger gain per year on your cottage or your home in the city. Once that determination is made, in most cases it makes sense to designate the property with the larger gain per year as your personal residence for purposes of the PRE. 

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Best of The Blunt Bean Counter - Capital Dividends - A Tax-Free Withdrawal from your Company

This summer I am posting the "best of" The Blunt Bean Counter blog while I work on my golf game (which is not going well by the way, as my handicap has gone up 3 strokes since the beginning of the year). Notwithstanding my handicap increase, I just came back from an awesome trip to Cabot Links. The picture below of the 16th hole at Cabot Cliffs is a bit deceiving since the tee is actually to the left and further up, but it is a blind shot to a two tier green so no day in the park. Plus, when the wind blows it is crazy. The first day with no wind I actually hit to within 15 feet of the pin, the next day with huge winds I aimed ten yards out to the ocean and the ball still blew left of the green, pretty crazy.


Anyways, back to the topic at hand. Next week I start a three-part series on cottages, but today, I am re-posting a March 2015 post that discussed how small corporate business owners can take advantage of the Capital Dividend Account ("CDA"). Given I had over 80 comments, it was of definite interest.

As per my post last week, Tax Planning Using Private Corporations - The New Liberal Proposals there may be future tax changes that impact the CDA. However, at this time, I cannot state with any certainty how those changes may impact the CDA account. 


Capital Dividends - A Tax-Free Withdrawal from your Company


If you are a private corporate business owner, you may be sitting on a treasure trove of tax-free money. Yes, I said tax-free money. The source of these “free” funds is the CDA, which I discuss in greater detail below. Although a CDA account is most often found in holding/investment companies, the largest accounts are often generated in active companies who have sold all or part of their business.


Private business owners often discuss with their professional advisors whether they should take salary and/or dividends, which are both taxable to the owner when paid. However, surprisingly, the possibility of paying a tax-free dividend is often overlooked, which is possible if the dividend is paid from the Capital Dividend Account (“CDA”) of a private corporation to a Canadian resident individual.

The Capital Dividend Account


The CDA tracks certain amounts that are not taxable to the Company and may be distributed to shareholders with no personal tax. For example:

(i) if the company earns a capital gain which is 50% taxable, the half that is not taxable is added to the CDA.

(ii) if the company was paid a capital dividend from another company it invested in, that amount is not taxable and is added to the CDA.

(iii) if the company sells a particular eligible capital property (“ECP”) in the year, the portion of the gain that is not taxable is added to the CDA. Please note that the addition to the CDA occurs at the end of the year in which the sale of the ECP took place. As a result, the CDA cannot be paid out tax-free until the first moment of the following taxation year (there have been significant changes to the ECP rules since I wrote this post, please speak to your accountant. For reference, I wrote this blog post on the changes).

(iv) if the company receives proceeds from a life insurance policy which are considered to be non-taxable, this is added to the CDA.

(v) if the company incurs a capital loss, 50% of such amount that will not be deductible in the current or future years against capital gains and will reduce the CDA.

Filing and Declaring a Capital Dividend


The following are the filing procedures and considerations as to the timing of declaring a capital dividend:

i) For the dividend to be tax-free, the company needs to make an election on Form T2054 - Election for a Capital Dividend Under Subsection 83(2), which is due to be filed with the Canada Revenue Agency on or before the earlier of the day that the dividend is paid or becomes payable.

A certified copy of the Director(s) resolution authorizing the capital dividend and a detailed calculation of the CDA at the earlier of the date the capital dividend is paid or becomes payable must accompany the Form T2054.

If the Form T2054 and attachments are filed late, a penalty will arise.

ii) If the Canada Revenue Agency reviews the election and determines that the capital dividend paid (or declared) was too high, then a penalty, equal to 3/5 of the excess of dividend over the CDA balance available, will arise.

It is possible to avoid such penalty if an election is made to treat the excess portion as a taxable dividend at the time it is paid, and such election is filed within 90 days after the date of the notice of assessment in respect of the tax on the excess, noted above.

To avoid these negative consequences, it is important to properly calculate the CDA.

iii) The CDA is a cumulative account from the date of incorporation (assuming it has always been a private corporation). If the company has not previously filed a Form T2054, it will be necessary to review the historical capital gains and losses and corporate activities from the date of incorporation to the date of the dividend in order to determine the correct CDA balance.

iiii) The CDA is paid at a moment in time. If you have a CDA balance but incur a loss the next day, your CDA balance is reduced. Thus, in general, it is prudent to pay a CDA dividend when the account reaches a material amount (this amount is different to each person) so that you do not take the risk of a capital loss reducing the balance in the account. If you pay a capital dividend and then incur a capital loss, the account can go negative.

Further analysis may be required for any non-resident shareholders, since a payment from the CDA to a non-resident of Canada is subject to non-resident withholding tax and the dividend may be taxable in their country of residence.

Journal Entries


Some companies reflect capital dividends by adjusting journal entry (“AJE”), rather than paying the actual dividend. Where the dividend is paid by AJE, the shareholder loan is credited. This creates a tax-free loan owing from the company to the shareholder. The CRA has stated that an AJE on its own does not constitute payment of the funds and that a demand promissory note accepted by the recipient as absolute payment together with an indication of such an intention in the resolutions is at a minimum required to have the dividend considered paid and received.

Balance Determination


Where a company has had more than one accountant and/or has amalgamated with other corporations in the past, the determination of the CDA can be problematic. The CRA now allows you to file Schedule 89 to help your verify the account. Note, they may only verify part of the years, so for older companies, this may still be problematic.

Speak with your accountant to see if your private company has a CDA balance. If so, paying out a capital dividend should be considered as part of your Company’s overall remuneration strategy.

 
This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tax Planning Using Private Corporations - The New Liberal Proposals

I am going to set aside my summer "Best of The Blunt Bean Counter" series for one week, to provide my comments on the new tax proposals for private corporations set forth by the Liberal government last week.

Tax Planning Using Private Corporations - The New Liberal Proposals


On July 18th, Finance Minister Bill Morneau released a consultation paper and related draft legislation proposing changes to how private corporations will be taxed moving forward in the name of tax fairness. I would suggest most private business owners and professionals using PC's in particular (the government seems to take umbrage with professionals) are going to be very upset by these proposals.


Fairness is subject to personal interpretation. I could argue it is not fair government workers get gold plated pension plans while the rest of us have no company plans or restricted defined contribution plans and need to save for retirement through RRSPs and TFSAs. I could also argue that is not fair entrepreneurs who risk their life savings will now under these proposals end up tax neutral with their employees who take no risk. Rant over, let's get to the proposals

Income Splitting


Many private business owners pay salaries to family members and have structures where family members own shares. The government is proposing that effective for 2018 and later, any salaries or dividends paid to a spouse or child regardless of age (currently there are kiddie tax rules for children under 18) will be subject to a reasonableness provision (what an arms-length person would be paid) and any remuneration in excess of the reasonable amount will now be taxed at the top marginal personal rates of the parent. How the government will determine reasonableness is a good question. In any event, income splitting will be severely curtailed

Some specific reasonableness proposals include:

1. Determination of labour contributions by children. The rules will be different for those 18-24 than for those are 25.

2. Review of capital contributed to the business. Again based on age bracket tests.

These rules will significantly change how many families remunerate the family unit.

In addition to restricting salaries and dividends, the proposals will also restrict the use and multiplication of the capital gains exemption ($835,716 for 2017). Children under 18 will no longer qualify for the LCGE ("Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption") and for other family members that were subject to the reasonableness provisions; the LCGE will be restricted or eliminated.

Capital gains allocated out of a family trust will now generally not be eligible for the LCGE.

These rules will be effective for 2018, however, transitional rules are being proposed.

Passive Investments in Corporations


Currently if a corporation earns less than $500,000 the company pays tax at 15.5% in Ontario and a similar amount in each province. This results in a tax deferral, not a tax saving of up to 38%. This deferral provides corporations money to grow and invest and create jobs. The government is concerned that where this money is not used to grow the company but invested passively in GIC's stocks, others companies, real estate, etc. it is unfair when compared to a salaried person. The government is proposing to now tax this 38% deferral.

The proposals of how to do this are beyond complicated and I really don't understand the concern here (the government is asking for feedback to determine to how best implement this, thus, there is no timeline on these provisions as of yet). This is a tax deferral on risk capital and not an absolute tax saving. As per my various posts on whether to use a RRSP or leave the money in your corporation, many small biz owners are leaving money in their corporations and using this money to fund their retirement; so this will have a huge impact on many people.

Converting income into capital gains


The proposals include various provisions to prevent income from being converted into capital gains. I have no issue with this general provision as much of the planning is a pure tax play. However, as of now, some tax commentators suggest the proposals appear to have potentially created possible double tax on death where standard "pipeline planning" is undertaken. Essentially where the estate would have had a capital gain, that gain may become a dividend which is taxed 15-20% higher than the capital gain. Many private business owners have purchased insurance to cover their estate tax and the insurance may now be insufficient.These measures will be effective as of July 18, 2017.

What Now?


The proposals are very complex and I have simplified them for discussion purposes above. We need to see the final legislation after the consultation period and work through the implications before definitive answers and planning can be undertaken.

That being said, will you have to close down or wind-up your private corporation or professional corporations or wind up your family trust?

My preliminary thoughts are if your corporation has large retained earnings there would be a significant tax cost to wind up your corporation and thus you would likely still maintain the company (I say this because it appears the proposals will not impact prior earnings and/ or prior refundable taxes earned and thus, these retained earnings would not be subject to the potentially punitive rules). If your company's retained earnings are not significant, the answer will be less obvious and there will be other issues to consider such as asset protection and the adjusted cost base of partnership interests for professional corporations etc.

While new corporations will not have the same income splitting and tax deferral benefits, they will still likely make sense for asset protection purposes and if you may be able to access even one LCGE exemption and /or you will be using profits to invest back in the business and not for passive purposes.

The incorporation of new professional corporations likely will no longer make sense for tax deferral purposes if all the PC income is taxed at the highest marginal rate, but they may still make sense for other reasons, but I would expect their use to be curtailed.

Family Trusts will likely continue to make sense for ownership and estate planning purposes but may no longer be useful for tax only purposes

It is too early to definitively answer any of the above questions, but those are my initial thoughts.

In conclusion, the impact of these proposals is potentially massive. This is in essence a regime change and not a tinkering of the current rules. Unfortunately, I don't think most small business owners have any idea what is about to hit them in the next few months.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Best of The Blunt Bean Counter - Taking it to the Grave or Leaving it all to your Kids?

This summer I am posting the "best of" The Blunt Bean Counter blog while I work on my golf game. Today, I am re-posting a July 2011 post (originally written as a guest post for The Canadian Capitalist) on estate planning and the four groups (at the risk of stereotyping) that people seem to fall into, when dealing with their estate.

Next week I will have a re-post of  a blog on accessing the capital dividend account for those of you that have private corporations and then a three-part series on a true summer topic - the tax issues surrounding the sale and/or transfer of your cottage.

Taking it to the Grave or Leaving it all to your Kids?


I am often engaged to provide estate planning. Many "older" Canadians have amassed great wealth (some just through the sale of their home and/or cottage). A 2006 Decima Research study estimated that over one trillion dollars in wealth could be transferred between 2006-2026. After twenty-five years of discussions regarding the distribution of wealth, where an estate will clearly have excess funds when the parents pass away (to be clear, this post is only discussing situations where you are very certain you have more funds than you need to live, not situations where you may have excess funds when you pass away, but are not secure enough to distribute while alive) it is my opinion that the parents should consider partial gifts during their lifetime.


It is my observation from the 25 years of meetings that people form four distinct groups when it comes to distributing their excess wealth:

1. Those that will take their wealth to their grave (or leave it to their pet Chihuahua)
2. Those that will distribute their wealth only upon their death
3. Those that may not be able to afford their grave (as they give and give to their children)
4. The most common, the middle ground of the extremes, those who are willing to distribute their wealth, but in many cases harbour concerns their wealth will be “blown” or lead to unmotivated children.

In this blog, understanding my opinions may be diametrically opposed to some readers, I will talk about these varied groups.

Taking it to the Grave and Leaving Nada to Your Family


For those who wish to take their wealth to the grave, there may be an altruistic or philosophical reason. However, there is more often than not, a deep rooted family issue, and the chill in the room makes it very clear that advisors should stay clear of delving into these family issues (when I initially wrote this post, I was criticized by a reader for saying the advisor should stay clear in these cases. I now think they were correct. I can think of a specific case since I wrote this post in 2011 where I challenged a client on this and they made a change to their will not because they really wanted to, but because the change could possibly help avoid litigation down the road, despite it being distasteful to them). 

Distributing your Wealth upon your Death


In the case of those who wish to distribute their wealth upon their death, the issue is typically philosophical. That is, one or both of the parents feel that their children need to make their own way in the world and that leaving them money during their lifetime will do their children a disservice or destroy their moral compass. This is a touchy area, but I often suggest that if the parents feel their children are well-adjusted, they should consider providing partial inheritances. A partial inheritance can facilitate a child’s dream, such as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro while the child is physically able, or assist with the down payment on a cottage. The selling point on partial distributions is that the parents can share vicariously in the joy of the experience they facilitate.

Giving your Kids too Much while Alive


In the third situation, the parents spend every spare nickel on their children’s private school, dance lessons, hockey teams, etc., while younger and then assist in buying houses, cars, etc., when their children are older. In these cases I suggest the parents pare back the funds they spend on their children and/or make the children contribute to their own activities. It is imperative the parents impart upon their children that they are not an ATM and that there are family budgetary limits to be adhered to, often easier said than done.

The Balanced Approach


The majority of families fall into the last category. They are willing to distribute their “excess” wealth while alive, but in many cases harbour concerns their wealth will be “blown” or lead to unmotivated children. Dr. Lee Hausner, an advisor to some of the wealthiest families in the United States, suggests in various articles of hers that I have read, that parents do not transfer money during career-building years so the children learn to be productive members of society. Children should be taught they have choices to make (ie: distribute money for one thing they want but not three things they want) and they should learn to be philanthropic amongst other things. I think this advice stands on its own whether you are one of the wealthiest families in the United States or just a family that has been lucky enough to accumulate more assets then you will ever require.

How one distributes their wealth is an extremely private issue and each individual has their own thoughts and reasons for their actions. However, in my opinion, where you have the financial wherewithal, you should consider making at least partial gifts during your lifetime.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Book Giveaway Winners!!

Thank you to everyone who completed the financial/wealth survey linked to my June 19th blog post. The response was great.

The winners are:

1. Richard S.

2. Kelly A.

3. Ken S.

4. Bruce R.

5. Cindy H.

Since I do not publish last names for privacy purposes, there may be more than say one Richard S. However, if you were a winner, you will have already received an email informing you that you won a book and asking you for address details. So if you are a Richard S. that did not win, sorry about that.

Tomorrow I start my "Best of the Blunt Bean Counter" series for the summer.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Gone Golfing for the Summer of 2017

This summer, I will again be posting a “Best of The Blunt Bean Counter” blog each week; so I can spend some time golfing and enjoying the good weather with my family. I am really looking forward to a golf trip to Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia later this summer, as it was ranked as the best new course in the world in 2015 and is now constantly ranked as one of the best courses period in the world. I am sure this trip will result in a blog post with pictures.
European Club Golf Course Ireland

As this is now the fourth year in a row that I have posted my "Best of" during the summer, as I stated  last year, maybe at this juncture, a more appropriate title should be; "The Sort of the Best of The Blunt Bean Counter".

Anyways, you can read them again if you wish and if not, I won't take it personally.

Next September, will mark the blogs 7th anniversary. As I noted in my blogger got the blues post last fall, it is getting difficult to keep this blog fresh and for me to keep writing each week or so. I thus will use the summer to consider a couple suggestions people have made to me to re-energize the blog and myself (including one from my son and daughter to do a sort of Blunt Bean "let me tell you" editorial type post), so we shall see where that goes. While I am navel gazing, enjoy your summer.

Monday, July 3, 2017

What High Net Worth People Really Want from Their Financial Advisors

In my experience, the best investment managers that my firm and clients work with stress three particular investment themes.

They are as follows:

1. Maintenance of lifestyle
2. Protection of Capital
3. Growth of Capital

I don’t think the above mentioned priorities were picked out of thin air. These are the true concerns of high net worth individuals and were discussed in a 2012 Forbes Magazine article titled  “What High Net Worth Investors Really Want" by Andrew Klausner. While this article is now almost five years old, I still find it as applicable today, as when it was written five years ago. I would also suggest that even if you are not a high net worth person, these priorities would still be important to you.

The Forbes article was based on the results of a Cerulli Associates/Phoenix Market International survey.  The survey found the top nine 9 things that high net worth individuals are looking for from their advisors (and the percentage of respondents that listed each item as being the most important) were as follows:

1. Maintain lifestyle in retirement – 31.4%

2. College education funding – 19.6%

3. Protect current level of wealth – 14.6%

4. Aggressively grow wealth – 14%

5. Leave an estate for heirs – 9.8%

6. Charitable giving – 4.2%

7. Minimize income and capital gains taxes – 2.4%

8. Improve household cash flow – 1.9%

9. Better manage market risk – 1.9%

It is somewhat surprising, maybe even shocking, that beating the market is nowhere to be found on this list. I find this interesting since when you hear people talk about their investment advisors results, they are often bragging about how they beat the market. Maybe these are just the type of people I noted in my blog post on investment bravado.

If you were surveyed, would your three top selections be maintenance of your lifestyle, protection of your capital and growing your wealth (college funding is typically a higher priority in the U.S. than Canada, so I moved it arbitrarily down the list. But with the increased costs to attend University in Canada, it is likely a high priority for Canadians, but I am not as sure as high as for Americans)? If not, you may want to revisit the priorities you have for your advisor and yourself.

Book Giveaway


Thank you to everyone who has completed the financial/wealth survey linked to my previous blog posting. The response has been tremendous. I will announce the five winners the week of July 17th.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Giveaway and Financial Survey

I have been writing about financial and wealth trends for over six years. Today, I provide a link to a survey about how these trends are affecting you personally. I would appreciate it if you would complete this survey. To provide incentive (at least I hope it is incentive since you are reading my blog) I will giveaway five copies of my book Let's Get Blunt About Your Financial Affairs to those who complete the survey. The survey will take you between 3-5 minutes to complete, so it is not time consuming and you will have the opportunity to receive a summary of the survey. I would suggest the survey is most applicable to those in their mid-forties and older.

A discussion of some of these trends and why they are important is provided below by Jonathan Townsend, the National Wealth Advisory Services leader for BDO Canada LLP.


Canadians Feel Financial Strain From Different Directions

By Jonathan Townsend

Recently, the trend of Canadians providing multi-generational financial support has come up as an emerging issue. At a time when many of us should be preparing to retire peacefully, numerous people have signed up for additional financial obligations such as housing, education, and health care—not for themselves—but for their children or parents. This added burden, along with longer life expectancies is putting considerable stress on many Canadians.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, 44% of millennials expect to receive financial assistance from their parents to purchase their first home. Many of them consider home ownership a priority; however due to increased housing prices many cannot fund the purchase independently. Instead, millennials are relying on their parents to make home ownership a reality.

Conversely, the parents of baby boomers are living much longer. Many of them may have not saved enough or are facing unexpected medical conditions which require special care or assistance. Again, many Canadians, especially baby boomers are stepping up to the plate. They are taking care of housing and health care costs for their parents, which have considerable costs. In a recent study by CIBC, it is estimated that these costs average $3,300 per year for a caregiver, and amounts to an estimated cost of over $6 billion to the Canadian economy.

The added financial commitments may not have been part of many Canadians financial planning. The time, energy and money being used to support parents and children is putting a huge strain on funding many of our own retirements. Significant numbers of Canadians are nowhere close to hitting their targeted retirement nest egg because their investment returns have not been what was expected in large part because of the cost of financially caring for their children and/or parents. While research shows it is physically and mentally beneficial to work longer, many people need to work longer, out of financial necessity, to support the family and fund lifestyles and retirement.

For those lucky enough to have cashed in on sky-high real estate prices in some Canadian cities or for those who have received an inheritance, they have decisions to make regarding the net proceeds of downsizing or their inheritance and how much goes to their children or parents.

It’s admirable that many Canadians are taking care of their families’ financial needs but it may come at a cost. BDO Canada is exploring these changes and added expectations that we are facing to see how it is impacting our retirement and financial planning. We invite you to participate in this national survey, which will form a report outlining the key insights we uncover. Respondents will be entered into a draw to win one of five, Let’s Get Blunt about Your Financial Affairs books, written by Mark Goodfield.

Complete the survey now by clicking this link. Please note the book giveaway link is at the end of the survey and takes you to a different location so that your survey comments remain confidential.

Jonathan Townsend is the National Wealth Advisory Leader at BDO Canada LLP. If you have any questions, please contact him at 519-432-5534 or jtownsend@bdo.ca.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Taboo Of Money - I Will Not Talk About It- Part 3

As discussed in my blog post last week, I suggest you consider a frank discussion with your beneficiaries about your will. Today I conclude that discussion with the final four reasons you may wish to consider holding a family meeting.

The Benefits of Having a Family Meeting


The following are the final four benefits of having a family meeting about your will.

5. Giving the Kids what They Really Want

We all have a tendency to assume we think we know what assets our children want. In many cases we are correct, however, in others we are way off base. A family meeting allows you to discuss individual assets to ensure the assets are given to the child who really appreciates and wants the asset. That is not to say that whatever a child wants they will get. In some circumstances more than one child may want the same asset and if you intend to equalize your will equally, the equal proportion may be distorted by allocating assets according to your children’s likes and dislikes.

The determination of the wants of family members will often revolve around larger assets such as cottages.  Some children may have an attachment to the family cottage while others may not; or maybe you are not sure whether any child would want to take over the property when you pass. A meeting provides the opportunity to raise the issue for your children to decide amongst themselves if they will want to sell the property, share the use, or have one child inherit the property. Sometimes the meeting may bring you to the realization that the issues surrounding the second property are so divisive that the prudent decision would be to sell the property.

Don't forget to sweat the small stuff! I have spoken to many corporate executors from the big banks over the years, and they often comment that family disagreements are as likely to occur over personal and sentimental items as they are over large assets such as cottages or even money.

Many wills do not properly address personal and sentimental assets. The reason for this is typically twofold:

1. The parents assume naively that the children can deal with these assets, especially where there is little real value to them.

2. Where personal assets such as art and jewellery have significant value, the parents do not wish to pay income tax on the disposition of these assets or, have no idea of the tax consequences of disposing of these assets. Consequently the assets are ignored in the will. This creates future problems as the executor is required to report the value of these assets for both probate and income tax purposes and may face penalties if he/she does not report the assets and pay the taxes.

It is thus important for you to discuss these items at the family meeting or at a separate informal meeting. Where there is no clear agreement over who should get a personal asset, you can have the beneficiaries’ rank the assets one to ten and the assets are then allocated to the beneficiary with the highest ranking. Alternatively, you can undertake a lottery and the assets will be distributed in your will according to the lottery results.

The key is that you should address these personal items, as if you leave them unaccounted for in your will, the possibility that they could become contentious is very large.

6. Succession Plans for the Family Business - Keeping it Going

Where there is a family business, the succession of that business is one of the most important issues facing the family. The value of their estate and hence the value of the assets in the will are directly correlated to the value or succession of their business.

In my opinion, the succession planning decision is so large in importance with the potential to be so divisive that it should not be part of any family meeting discussing your will. For family succession issues, is it often best to bring in outside specialists to work with the family.

However, if all the children will be given equal shares in the business, the topic can be brought up as part of the family meeting. If you have already made it known to your children that you had decided to leave the business to one child or only some of your children who work in the business and that you plan to equalize the other children with cash or other assets, the topic should be broached.

However, parents must understand that the value of the business can fluctuate wildly over the years, with the result being that the child(ren) who inherit(s) the shares may in essence have inherited a significantly larger asset than the other child(ren). Alternatively, the shares of the company may prove to be worth substantially less than the assets distributed to the other child(ren) if business conditions cause the value of the business to diminish. The parent will have no control after their death on the potential disparities in value. I have seen situations where asset distributions were equal at the time of death, but the inherited business grew astronomically and the children who did not inherit the company shares felt wronged by their parents. Consequently, this topic needs to be discussed and explained at the meeting. You need to make it absolutely clear to your children that the company value could go up or down and that they must understand these valuations are beyond your control and that is one of the uncertainties of your will and an issue that may continue on beyond your death.

­7. Helping your Kids plan their Future

It is also a kindness to your beneficiaries to let them know, generally, what they can expect as an inheritance. Even if it is not your intention to gift money or assets over to them while you are alive, at least they can get a sense of what their financial position will be so they can arrange for their own lifestyle and retirement planning. If you are aware that your child is expecting a large inheritance, and you are planning to leave most of it to charity, it is only fair to let him know so that he/she does not overextend himself financially on the assumption that he will someday be wealthy. On the other hand, if your child is living very frugally in order to save for a retirement, and you know that you will be leaving her enough that she will be well off in retirement regardless of her savings, it is fair to her to let her know so she can "live it up" a little! This is a very contentious issue that I wrote about previously in this blog post.

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8. Children's Roles in Administering the Estate

A side benefit of a family meeting is that you can broach the topic of your executors. Assuming you wish one or more of your children to be your executor(s), you can use the meeting to discuss the responsibilities and the burden of being named an executor of the will. You can explain the duties of the executor and determine if the child you wish to be an executor is willing to undertake the position. If he/she is not, you will then have to consider whether you hire a corporate executor or name family friends or business associates.

You could also take advantage of the opportunity to discuss whether you wish a family member to be your power of attorney of your assets if you become incapable of managing your affairs, and whether you wish to appoint a child to be responsible for your medical affairs or living will, should you also become incapable of making medical care decisions.

A meeting provides our children with some clarity towards their inheritance. Obviously the clarity is still somewhat murky, as there are several variables such as life expectancy, health, re-marriage, changes in wishes etc. However, it still provides some direction for your children’s own financial planning. If you intend to provide partial inheritances while alive, this is very important information for the children to be aware of, if these partial inheritances are significant.

This concludes this mini-series (excerpts from my abandoned book). I hope it provided some food for thought.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.