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, November 20, 2017

Tax Loss Selling - 2017 Version

In keeping with my annual tradition, I am today posting a blog on tax loss selling. I am doing it again because the topic is very timely and every year around this time, people get busy with holiday shopping and forget to sell the “dogs” in their portfolio and as a consequence, they pay unnecessary income tax on their capital gains in April.

Additionally, while most investment advisors are pretty good at contacting their clients to discuss possible tax loss selling, I am still amazed each year at how many advisors do not discuss the issue with their clients. So, if you have an advisor, ensure you are in contact to discuss your realized capital gain/loss situation and other planning options (if you must initiate the contact, consider that a huge black mark against your advisor).

For full disclosure, there is very little that is new in this post from last year's version. Similar to last year, when there were rumours that the 2017 Federal budget may change the inclusion rate on capital gains from 1/2 to 3/4, I know some people are considering taking gains as they have seen where the Liberal government is going with taxation policies and they feel it is just a matter of time until the capital gains inclusion rate is changed. I have no knowledge of whether such a change is on the table, however, it would not surprise me at this point, although, to be honest, nothing taxation wise from this government would surprise me. It is also interesting to note the change as to how the settlement date for stock trades is determined, see the second last paragraph of this post for the details.

Many people persist in waiting until the third week of December to trigger their capital losses to use against their current or prior years capital gains. To avoid this predicament, you may wish to set aside some time this weekend or next, to review your 2017 capital gain/loss situation in a calm methodical manner. You can then execute your trades on a timely basis knowing you have considered all the variables associated with your tax gain/loss selling. As the markets have been surprisingly strong (at least to me) this year, hopefully you don't have very many stocks with unrealized capital losses you can sell to use the losses against capital gains you have realized in 2017 or that you can carryback to one of the last 3 years.

I would like to provide one caution in respect of tax loss selling. You should be very careful if you plan to repurchase the stocks you sell (see superficial loss discussion below). The reason for this is that you are subject to market vagaries for 30 days. I have seen people sell stocks for tax-loss purposes, with the intention of re-purchasing those stocks and one or two of the stocks take off during the 30 day wait period and the cost to repurchase is far in excess of their tax savings. Thus, you should first and foremost consider selling your "dog stocks" that you and/or your advisor no longer wish to own. If you then need to crystallize additional losses on stocks you still wish to own, be wary if you are planning to sell and buy back the same stock.

This blog post will take you through each step of the tax-loss selling process.

Reporting Capital Gains and Capital Losses – The Basics


All capital gain and capital loss transactions for 2017 will have to be reported on Schedule 3 of your 2017 personal income tax return. You then subtract the total capital gains from the total capital losses and multiply the net capital gain/loss by ½. That amount becomes your taxable capital gain or net capital loss for the year. If you have a taxable capital gain, the amount is carried forward to the tax return jacket on Line 127. For example, if you have a capital gain of $120 and a capital loss of $30 in the year, ½ of the net amount of $90 would be taxable and $45 would be carried forward to Line 127. The taxable capital gains are then subject to income tax at your marginal income tax rate.

Capital Losses


If you have a net capital loss in the current year, the loss cannot be deducted against other sources of income (unless you are filing for a deceased person. In that case, get professional advice as the rules are different. I will post on this issue in 2018). However, the net capital loss may be carried back to offset any taxable capital gains incurred in any of the 3 preceding years, or, if you did not have any gains in the 3 prior years, the net capital loss becomes an amount that can be carried forward indefinitely to utilize against any future taxable capital gains.

Planning Preparation


I suggest you should start your preliminary planning immediately. These are the steps I recommend you undertake:

1. Retrieve your 2016 Notice of Assessment. In the verbiage discussing changes and other information, if you have a capital loss carryforward, the balance will reported. This information is also easily accessed online if you have registered with the CRA My Account Program.

2. If you do not have capital losses to carryforward, retrieve your 2014, 2015 and 2016 income tax returns to determine if you have taxable capital gains upon which you can carryback a current year capital loss. On an Excel spreadsheet or multi-column paper, note any taxable capital gains you reported in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

3. For each of 2014-2016, review your returns to determine if you applied a net capital loss from a prior year on line 253 of your tax return. If yes, reduce the taxable capital gain on your excel spreadsheet by the loss applied.

4. Finally, if you had net capital losses in 2015 or 2016, review whether you carried back those losses to 2014 or 2015 on form T1A of your tax return. If you carried back a loss to either 2014 or 2015, reduce the gain on your spreadsheet by the loss carried back.

5. If after adjusting your taxable gains by the net capital losses under steps #3 and #4 you still have a positive balance remaining for any of the years from 2014 to 2016, you can potentially generate an income tax refund by carrying back a net capital loss from 2017 to any or all of 2014, 2015 or 2016.

6. If you have an investment advisor, call your advisor and request a realized capital gain/loss summary from January 1st to date to determine if you are in a net gain or loss position. If you trade yourself, ensure you update your capital gain/loss schedule (or Excel spreadsheet, whatever you use) for the year.

Now that you have all the information you need, it is time to be strategic about how to use your losses.

Basic Use of Losses


For discussion purposes, let’s assume the following:

· 2017: realized capital loss of $30,000

· 2016: taxable capital gain of $15,000

· 2015: taxable capital gain of $5,000

· 2014: taxable capital gain of $7,000

Based on the above, you will be able to carry back your $15,000 net capital loss ($30,000 x ½) from 2017 against the $7,000 and $5,000 taxable capital gains in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and apply the remaining $3,000 against your 2016 taxable capital gain. As you will not have absorbed $12,000 ($15,000 of original gain less the $3,000 net capital loss carry back) of your 2016 taxable capital gains, you may want to consider whether you want to sell any “dogs” in your portfolio so that you can carry back the additional 2017 net capital loss to offset the remaining $12,000 taxable capital gain realized in 2016. Alternatively, if you have capital gains in 2017, you may want to sell stocks with unrealized losses to fully or partially offset those capital gains.

Identical Shares


Many people buy the same company's shares (say Bell Canada) in different accounts or have employer stock purchase plans. I often see people claim a gain or loss on the sale of their Bell Canada shares from one of their accounts, but ignore the shares they own of Bell Canada in another account. However, be aware, you have to calculate your adjusted cost base on all the identical shares you own in say Bell Canada and average the total cost of all your Bell Canada shares over the shares in all your accounts. If the cost of your shares in Bell are higher in one of your accounts, you cannot pick and choose to realize a loss on that account; you must report the gain or loss based on the average adjusted cost base of all your Bell shares, not the higher cost base shares.

Creating Gains when you have Unutilized Losses


Where you have a large capital loss carryforward from prior years and it is unlikely that the losses will be utilized either due to the quantum of the loss or because you are out of the stock market and don’t anticipate any future capital gains of any kind (such as the sale of real estate), it may make sense for you to purchase a flow-through limited partnership (be aware; although there are income tax benefits to purchasing a flow-through limited partnership, there are also investment risks and you must discuss any purchase with your investment advisor). 

Purchasing a flow-through limited partnership will provide you with a write off against regular income pretty much equal to the cost of the unit; and any future capital gain can be reduced or eliminated by your capital loss carryforward. For example, if you have a net capital loss carry forward of $75,000 and you purchase a flow-through investment in 2017 for $20,000, you would get approximately $20,000 in cumulative tax deductions in 2017 and 2018, the majority typically coming in the year of purchase. Depending upon your marginal income tax rate, the deductions could save you upwards of $10,700 in taxes. When you sell the unit, a capital gain will arise. This is because the $20,000 income tax deduction reduces your adjusted cost base from $20,000 to nil (there may be other adjustments to the cost base). Assuming you sell the unit in 2019 for $18,000 you will have a capital gain of $18,000 (subject to any other adjustments) and the entire $18,000 gain will be eliminated by your capital loss carry forward. Thus, in this example, you would have total after-tax proceeds of $28,700 ($18,000 +$10,700 in tax savings) on a $20,000 investment.

Donation of Flow-Through Shares


Prior to March 22, 2011, you could donate your publicly listed flow-through shares to charity and obtain a donation receipt for the fair market value ("FMV") of the shares. In addition, the capital gain you incurred [FMV less your ACB (ACB is typically nil or very low after claiming flow-through deductions)] would be exempted from income tax. However, for any flow-through agreement entered into after March 21, 2011, the tax benefit relating to the capital gain is eliminated or reduced. Simply put (the rules are more complicated, especially for limited partnership units converted to mutual funds and an advisor should be consulted), if you paid $25,000 for your flow-through shares, only the gain in excess of $25,000 will now be exempt and the first $25,000 will be taxable.

So if you are donating flow-through shares to charity this year, ensure you speak to your accountant as the rules can be complex and you may create an unwanted capital gain.

Superficial Losses


One must always be cognizant of the superficial loss rules. Essentially, if you or your spouse (either directly or through an RRSP) purchase an identical share 30 calendar days before or 30 days after a sale of shares, the capital loss is denied and added to the cost base of the new shares acquired.

Disappearing Dividend Income


Every year I ask at least one or two clients why their dividend income is lower on their personal tax return. Typically the answer is, "oops, it is lower because I sold a stock early in the year that I forgot to tell you about". Thus, if you manage you own investments; you may wish to review your dividend income being paid each month or quarter with that of last years to see if it is lower. If the dividend income is lower because you have sold a stock, confirm you have picked up that capital gain in your calculations.

Creating Capital Losses-Transferring Losses to a Spouse Who Has Gains


In certain cases you can use certain provisions of the Income Tax Act to transfer losses to your spouse. As these provisions are complicated and subject to missteps, you need to engage professional tax advice.

Settlement Date


It is my understanding that the settlement date for Canadian stock markets in 2017 will be December 27th, as the settlement date has changed from the old trade date +3 days, to the trade date plus 2 days (U.S. exchanges may be different). Please confirm this date with your broker, but assuming this date is correct, you must sell any stock you want to crystallize the gain or loss in 2017 by December 27, 2017.

Summary


As discussed above, there are a multitude of factors to consider when tax-loss selling. It would therefore be prudent to start planning now, so that you can consider all your options rather than frantically selling via your mobile device while waiting in line with your kids to see Santa the third week of December.

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, November 13, 2017

Public Retirement Systems - Part 2

This is the second blog post in a series on public retirement systems. The first post, compared CPP/OAS in Canada to Social Security in the United States.Today's post discusses the
Totalization Agreement between Canada and the U.S. which affects Canadians and Americans that have worked in both countries over their working lives.

For many Canadians, contributing to CPP throughout their working lives doesn’t require much thought. It just happens with the understanding that when retirement comes they will be able to collect the money that they put in. However, for those Canadians that spent a portion of their working lives in the United States or vice versa, the proverbial waters become a little muddy.  Questions often arise concerning whether the worker must pay social security taxes in two countries while they work as well as which country’s benefits (or both) they are entitled to when retirement comes around.  The answers to these questions and more can be found in the Totalization Agreement between Canada and the U.S.

What is a Totalization Agreement?


The Totalization Agreement came into effect on August 1, 1984 with the purpose to integrate social security protection for individuals who have worked in both countries over the course of their lives.  Without the agreement, some workers would not be eligible under the respective countries’ requirements to collect retirement, disability or survivor benefits despite having made contributions to the plan.  The agreement also helps prevent people from having to pay social security taxes to both countries on the same earnings, which is commonly referred to as “double taxation”.

Preventing Double Taxation for Employees on Temporary Assignments


Let’s take the example of an employee who works for a Canadian company whose Canadian employer requires them to temporarily to work on a project in the U.S.  The employee is now subject to the U.S. taxation system, and both the employee and employer are subject to U.S. FICA taxes (Social Security and Medicare). This is a fairly expensive detriment as you recall from Part 1, since the U.S. FICA contribution requirements are much higher than CPP.  In addition, the employee would still be required to make CPP contributions, and hence would be subject to double taxation.

The Totalization Agreement can provide relief from this double taxation dilemma.  As this is a temporary assignment, the employee can seek exemption from the FICA taxes provided that the assignment is five years or less.  The employee will then only be required to make CPP contributions while they work abroad in the U.S.  However, this exemption is not automatic.  A request for a Certificate of Coverage must be completed and sent to the CPP/EI rulings Division of the Canada Revenue Agency in order to claim the exemption.

It’s important to note that this exemption is not available when a Canadian moves to the U.S. to work for a U.S. employer, even if it is temporary.  In this case, the employee and the employer would contribute to FICA, but would not be required to contribute to CPP on those same earnings.  It is possible in this situation that the Canadian would have now contributed to both Canadian and U.S. social security programs during their working life.  This leads us to our next section on how one navigates entitlement to claim their benefits when they have contributed to social security programs in both Canada and the U.S.

Using the Totalization Agreement to Qualify for Benefits


In Part I, I discussed eligibility for U.S. Social Security where one had to have 40 credits, or 10 full years of work, in order to qualify for U.S. social security.  An employee who has spent time working for employers in Canada and the U.S. may find that although they made contributions to U.S. Social Security, they lack the requisite 40 credits to be eligible to claim benefits.  The Totalization Agreement assists in this regard by allowing the employee to “totalize” the partial eligibility rights accumulated in both countries so that the employee can use their years of CPP contributions in Canada to count toward the 10 year eligibility requirement for U.S. Social Security.  Qualifying for CPP would typically not require the use of the Totalization Agreement, as the eligibility threshold for CPP is much lower than the U.S. where only one contribution is needed to qualify for CPP benefits.

Conversely, for an American who moved to Canada but lacks the Canadian residency requirements to qualify for OAS, the Totalization Agreement requires Canada to consider U.S. Social Security credits earned when determining if OAS residence requirements are met.

Windfall Elimination Provision


In some cases, the employee may have contributed sufficiently to U.S. social security and CPP and therefore qualifies for both pensions without requiring the assistance of the Totalization Agreement.  In this case, U.S. Social Security benefits may be subject to reduction due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).  The calculation of Social Security benefits generally favours low income workers.  So this provision promotes fairness by providing a reduction to the benefits in the case of someone who earned a high income but was not subject to Social Security taxes on much of it, which may be the case of a Canadian who also worked in Canada and contributed to CPP during their lifetime.  If the employee earned more than 120 credits (representing thirty full years), then the WEP is not applied.

Taxation of Social Security Benefits


When a Canadian receives U.S. Social Security benefits or an American receives CPP and OAS, the tax treaty between Canada and the U.S. provides guidance on what country retains the right to tax the benefits.  While the initial reaction may be to assume the benefits are taxed in the country to which the benefit came from, the treaty actually provides that benefits received under social security legislation are taxable in the country to which the individual is resident.  This means that a Canadian resident earning U.S. Social Security only pays tax on that benefit in Canada and an American resident receiving CPP and/or OAS only pays tax on that benefit in the U.S.  For a Canadian resident, the treaty furthermore provides that only 85% of the U.S. Social Security benefit is taxable in Canada. For some, only 50% of the income is taxable in Canada if Social Security benefits have been continuously received by the pensioner since prior to 1996.  For an American resident, no more than 85% of the U.S. Social Security benefit is taxable under U.S. domestic law, and the treaty provides that CPP and OAS should be treated as if it were a benefit under the U.S. Social Security Act, therefore being subject to the same inclusion rate of taxation as the U.S. Social Security benefit.

I would like to thank Alyssa Tawadros, Senior Manager, U.S. Tax for BDO Canada LLP for her very extensive assistance in writing this post. If you wish to engage Alyssa for individual U.S. tax planning, she can be reached at atawadros@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, October 30, 2017

Tax Efficient Investing - Part 2

Two weeks ago I discussed tax efficient investing within a TFSA. Today I conclude this discussion with a review of tax-efficient investing options within non-registered accounts, TFSAs and RESPS.

Non-registered Account


To ensure we are on the same wavelength, when I say non-registered, I am talking about taxable investment accounts you hold, excluding RRSPs, RESPs and TFSAs.

I don’t want to be repetitive, so I will not again list the non-tax considerations one must account for before determining the most tax efficient use of this account (see these considerations in the TFSA discussion from the first post). However, one specific consideration applicable to non-registered accounts is your capital loss carryforward balance. If you have capital loss carryforwards, you will want to use these losses against future capital gains and have a definite bias towards holding equities that will produce capital gains.

For non-registered accounts, since they are taxable at your marginal rate, you will typically want to hold investments that are subject to the lowest tax rates.

1. Equities – since capital gains are subject to a 50% inclusion, you typically will prefer to hold your equities in your non-registered account, as they result in the lowest tax cost, say 26% or so at the highest marginal rate, as opposed to say interest instruments that would result in a 53% tax cost.

2. Canadian Dividends – since you receive a dividend tax credit for both eligible and non-eligible dividends, you will have a tax preference to use the dividend tax credits in your non-registered account or you lose the credit. Eligible dividends which come typically from public corporations are preferable to non-eligible dividends.

3. REIT – since you receive tax-free distributions of ROC and this ROC reduces your ACB resulting in larger capital gains, you may wish to hold a REITs or ROC type investment in a non-registered account. You will consider this if you are willing to deal with tracking the ACB (see the first post) and the REIT is not allocating significant other income that is subject to the high marginal rates. Note, if the ROC is not large or declining, you will likely not want to hold REITs in your non-registered account and may wish to hold them in your TFSA in any event to avoid the "tracking hassle".

RRSP


For registered accounts, since the income is earned tax-free before you start withdrawing from your RRSP/RRIF, you will typically want to hold investments that have the highest tax rates attached to them. In general you will not want to hold high growth equity, since even though large gains will be deferred and can compound tax-free within the RRSP, when you withdraw the funds, the 26% capital gain rate essentially becomes 53% if you withdraw money from your RRSP/RRIF at the high rate of tax. Thus you will have effectively lost the 50% tax savings associated with a capital gain (although you will have deferred the tax possibly many years).

1. U.S. Stocks that Pay Dividends – there is no foreign withholding tax on U.S. dividends paid to an RRSP, so an RRSP is very tax effective for such dividends. US dividends received by a non-registered account are taxed as regular income (as noted in the first post on this topic, US dividends in a TFSA are subject to the tax withholding with no tax credit benefit). Keep in mind, this tax treatment is specific to U.S. stocks and does not necessarily apply to other countries.

2. Fixed Income – because these investments are fully taxable, the tax savings are maximized in an RRSP. Conceptually, using fixed income prevents your RRSP from growing larger, since you do not have as large an equity component. However, in a balanced overall portfolio, you will likely have held that part of your equity component in lower taxing non-registered or TFSA accounts, so overall your total retirement pie should be somewhat equivalent.

Thus, when you start making RRSP withdrawals for your retirement, you will likely have a more effective taxable mix coming from smaller RRSP balance (that may be taxable at your highest marginal rate) with a mix of retirement funds that grew more tax effectively in your TFSA (that can be withdrawn tax free) and/or non-registered account, that may result in a lower overall tax cost at retirement.

RESP


These accounts have a singular purpose -- funding your children’s education. Thus, many experts suggest these accounts should have a more conservative bent. However, if you start the account for your child or children, at a very early age, you will be able to invest through one or two investment cycles and a well balance diversified portfolio may make sense, but speak to your investment advisor for their input.

As I stated at the outset of this series, tax and investment decisions should not be made in isolation, and tax efficiency must be considered in context of portfolio risk management and asset allocation. Once you have considered these issues, then the tax efficiencies above should be considered.

The above in not intended to provide investment advice. Please speak to your investment advisor.

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, October 23, 2017

Tax Planning Using Private Corporations - The Liberal’s go with Piecemeal Announcements


I have pushed back my second post on tax efficient investing to next week so I can comment on the Traveling Libburys tax damage control tour (instead of Dylan, Petty, Lynne, Harrison and Orbison, we got Justin Trudeau, Bill Morneau and Bardish Chagger).

The tour this week made stops in Stouffville Ontario, Hampton New Brunswick, Montreal Quebec and Erinsville, Ontario. At each location, the government provided a new tax morsel and comment on its tax proposals. However, without any details, many people are still not quite sure what the proposals really say or look like. A friend told me this is like a Trump tweet; do you take them at face value or is there more to them?

This is what we were told last week by the Prime Minister and Finance Minister in respect of the taxation of private corporations.

Income Splitting


The government announced the following in respect of the income splitting proposals:
  • It has committed to lower the small business tax rate to 10 per cent, effective January 1, 2018, and to 9 per cent, effective January 1, 2019. To be clear, this reduction is a drop from the current 10.5% rate and the provincial tax still needs to be added on. So for example in Ontario, the rate will drop to 14.5% from 15% for 2018.
  • The proposals to limit the ability of owners of private corporations to lower their personal income taxes by sprinkling their income to family members who do not contribute to the business will remain.
  • It will simplify the proposed measures with the aim of providing greater certainty for family members who contribute to a family business. Specifically, "the Government will work to reduce the compliance burden with respect to establishing the contributions of spouses and family members including labour, capital, risk and past contributions, better target the proposed rules, and address double taxation concerns". I would suggest this will be much easier said than done and I would expect this determination to be fraught with issues.
  • It will not be moving forward with proposed measures to limit access to the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption. I would not be surprised to see specific exclusions in the 2018 budget to this rule, such as excluding the exemption for those under 18.

Passive Income Proposals


This proposal was probably the most contentious issue to most small business owners who felt the initial proposal would impact their retirement planning and ability to fund the ups and downs of a business. The government gave a little here, but given the potential massive complexity of tracking passive income and the fact they say only 3% of the businesses will be caught by the rules, this is the one area I feel they should have left the status quo. Not one tax professional I spoke to understood how this is really going to work and could see any type of legislation that will not cause massive complexity and extra accounting costs to small businesses.

Here is what the government said:
  • The new rules will not apply to existing savings and income from those savings (thus some kind of tracking mechanism will have to be put in place. I see this as an accounting and tax nightmare, how do you track amounts contributed from this pot of funds back into the business and then taken back out, let alone track the income earned from the existing pot of funds. Are the original funds referenced going to be current investments only, at cost or fair market value, will they include cash in the business or is the initial savings the current retained earnings)?
  • The existing rules will apply on investment income earned from new savings up to a maximum of $50,000 of passive income in a year (equivalent to $1 million in savings, based on a nominal 5% rate of return). To the extent investment income from new investments exceeds $50,000 in a year, the new punitive tax rates will apply. The wording here is very simplistic and has been interpreted differently already by many commentators. The devil will be in the details.
  • Incentives are in place so that Canada’s venture capital and angel investors can continue to invest in the next generation of Canadian innovation.

Capital Gain Stripping


Finally, the government announced these proposals will not move ahead. This is a head-scratcher. As  I noted in my last blog post on this topic, many would argue some of the tactics used here while legal, were aggressive. The issue in relation to capital gains stripping was the proposals were causing business transition issues and double taxation on death by not being able to use a "pipeline" planning technique to prevent double tax.

This is what the government said:
  • They will not be moving forward with measures relating to the conversion of income into capital gains. "During the consultation period, the Government heard from business owners, including many farmers and fishers that the measures could result in several unintended consequences, such as in respect of taxation upon death and potential challenges with intergenerational transfers of businesses. The Government will work with family businesses, including farming and fishing businesses, to make it more efficient, or less difficult, to hand down their businesses to the next generation".

The National Post reported (sorry link has disappeared) that Mr. Morneau said “What I’m announcing this morning is we’re going to take a step back and reconsider that aspect of our tax reform proposal,” and "the government will instead embark on a year of consultations aimed at developing new proposals".

Thus, I think it fair to say, we may not have heard the end of these rules and the Liberal's will likely move to judiciously carve out the aggressive stripping while ensuring succession and estate planning are not side-swiped.

As noted at the outset, we are lacking clarity. We have no details, legislation, examples or FAQ, let alone confirmation or whether the effective date of these proposals has changed? We still have partial or full tax planning paralysis because of these ad hoc proposals and revisions.

In my humble opinion, the main miss here is the passive rules. The complexity of these rules will be overwhelming for such little tax gain to the government.

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, October 16, 2017

Tax Efficient Investing - Part 1

A couple of months ago, Rob Carrick of The Globe and Mail interviewed me for an article he was writing on Tax-Free Savings Accounts (“TFSAs”). Specifically, he was asking me whether Real Estate Investment Trusts (“REITs”) and other Return of Capital (“ROC”) type instruments should be purchased in a TFSA. I will leave you in suspense for a while on the answer to that question… but Rob’s question made me realize I had never written a blog post solely dedicated to the tax efficiency of the four main types of accounts that Canadians hold:

1. TFSA

2. Non-registered Account

3. Registered Retirement Savings Plan (“RRSP”)

4. Registered Education Savings Plan (“RESP”)

Today and next week I will discuss this topic.

Overall Conclusion

Once I had completed the initial draft for this post, I reflected upon what I had written and I came to two conclusions:

1. Tax and investment decisions should not be made in isolation

2. Tax efficiency must be considered in context of portfolio risk management and asset allocation

Please keep these in mind as I discuss the individual accounts.

TFSA


A perfect example of why I say tax efficiency must be considered in context of portfolio risk management and asset allocation is a TFSA.

There are several non-tax considerations one must account for before determining the most tax efficient use of this account. These include:

· Age – with a longer time horizon, you may want a higher exposure to Canadian equities to maximize your investment returns.

· Overall Portfolio Allocation – for all the accounts discussed, you must ensure tax efficiency in the context of your overall portfolio allocation.

For example, let’s say your portfolio allocation for REITs is 4%. If you decide a REIT is the most efficient investment for your TFSA and invest 3% of your overall portfolio in REITs within your TFSA, you must ensure you only have 1% weight to REITs in all your accounts.

· Risk – you may have read one of the articles about Canadians who have already grown their TFSAs to several hundred thousand dollars and how some are being audited by the CRA. Ignoring those who manipulated their TFSAs, many people with high value TFSAs achieved their growth through purchasing speculative or high growth equities within their TFSAs. But you must also consider that high growth equities can also produce large capital losses and those losses are lost within a TFSA.

· Need – where your TFSA is acting in part or whole as an emergency fund or you have a low risk tolerance, you will likely be considering only liquid and low risk options such as money market and maybe bonds.

As can be observed above, your selection of investment type for your TFSA may be subject to multiple non-tax considerations. However, for purposes of this post, let’s assume you just want to know what types of investments are generally the most tax efficient for a TFSA. I discuss these below:

1. High Yield Income – while these investments are far and few between; if you were able to invest in a high-yield mortgage fund or something similar, you would be saving around 53% in tax at the highest marginal rate.

2. Stocks – whether you are willing to take the risk and purchase high growth equity or want more stable Canadian equities that pay dividends, both these investment types would save you up to 26% in tax at the highest marginal tax rate; however, as noted above, any capital losses are wasted. One could argue a TFSA is not the best place for equities since you only save 26% versus 53%. However, equities may provide a return of a significant quantum that has many years to grow and compound the “large” tax-free gain.

3. REIT – technically, there is no correct answer here. You have to review what proportion of your investment return is ROC vs income, dividend or capital gain. If you have a high ROC, you are giving up a tax-free return that can be received elsewhere by holding your REIT in a TFSA (it should be noted that the ROC reduces the adjusted cost base (“ACB”) of the REIT and creates a larger capital gain down the road). So while a REIT is a tax efficient investment within a TFSA, an argument could also be made that a REIT may also be tax effective in a non-registered account. Yet, surprisingly, for many people, the overriding reason they put REITs in their TFSAs is not the tax savings, but the ability to relieve themselves from the tax administration hassle of tracking the ACB of a stock that has a ROC.

You will typically not want to hold a foreign stock (especially a US stock) that pays dividends in a TFSA, since foreign tax will be withheld and you will not be able to take advantage of the foreign tax credit for that tax withheld in your TFSA.

The above in not intended to provide investment advice. Please speak to your investment advisor.

Next week I will conclude this discussion, when I review tax efficiency within non-registered accounts and RRSPs and RESPs.

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, October 2, 2017

Let Me Tell You – The Four P’s

As I posted last week, I am planning to write occasional blog posts under the title “Let Me Tell You” that delve into topics that may a bit more philosophical or life lessons as opposed to the usual tax and financial fare. Today I share some life lessons I have learned from making speeches, presentations and conducting meetings.

I have been making speeches and presenting for at least twenty-five years. I wish I could present smoothly like Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy or Presidents Clinton and Obama who are so engaging and polished, but that is not my skill set. Feedback from my presentations and speeches reveals that I am passionate, down to earth, practical and sometimes funny and sarcastic. I have learned through my experience that presenting is a skill set; a learned behaviour that improves with practice.

So let me share with you my four keys to help you put your best foot forward for speeches, presentation or client meetings:

1. Be passionate. As noted above, I have been told many times I am passionate when I speak. In my opinion, passion makes you appear genuine and can fill in a considerable void if you are not as smooth and polished as the aforementioned type of speakers.

2. Be prepared. You should always know your topic or meeting agenda cold. Nothing turns off an audience or meeting more quickly than an inability to answer a question or convey that you know your subject material. That does not mean, that you have to be able to answer every question on the spot, but you must be able to speak intelligently to your question and topic area and explain why you would need to get back to someone on a question you cannot answer (either too complex to answer quickly, or too specific and you need to double check your answer). It is also very important that you always try to anticipate and consider what questions your audience will ask prior to presenting and what your audience or clients would want know if you were sitting in their spot--practice empathy.

3. Assume a positive outcome. By being prepared and having positive mental thoughts, your speeches, presentations and meetings have more energy and confidence. Instead of going into the presentation worrying about if you will remember to speak about this or that or how you will come off, or whether you will get the business, just assume you will and project the positive attitude and you will have positive outcomes.

4. Be present. Avoid letting your mind wander during a speech or presentation. If you start thinking about something you said that did not come off right you will lose focus. It’s always a good idea to have speaking notes to help you stay on track. Stay present in your speech or presentation and you will keep or track and the small stumble will soon be forgotten if it was ever even picked-up by the audience or client in the first place.

You now have my four P’s to help you in delivering engaging and effective presentations, speeches and meetings. Hey, if it sort of works for a boring accountant, imagine what it will do for you?

I will return in two weeks with a two-part series on tax efficient investing.

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 25, 2017

Let Me Tell You!

This summer I was considering ways to freshen up the blog and keep myself invigorated to write. My son and daughter suggested that in addition to the two or three tax/financial blogs I write each month I should consider writing a monthly editorial blog and title it “Let Me Tell You”. The title was suggested since as a blunt and somewhat opinionated person, I often give them mini topic lectures and always start with “Let Me Tell You”.

My kids thought “Let Me Tell You” would provide me a platform to speak my mind openly on a variety of topics. I loved the idea. However, upon reflection, as a partner in a National Accounting firm, I decided it is not best for my future career prospects to use my blog as a soapbox for my personal opinions, as some may not reflect my firm’s position on certain issues.

That being said, I am going to write a few blog posts under “Let Me Tell You” that delve into topics that may a bit more philosophical or life lessons as opposed to critical pieces (although I have an idea that may allow me to write a factual piece that in essence becomes an opinion piece). Your feedback will help me judge whether you find these pieces interesting or whether I should stick to the financial status quo.

Next Monday I’ll share with you in my first “Let Me Tell You” post, strategies I use to help me make engaging speeches, presentations and meetings.

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 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.