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, 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.