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. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Confessions of a Tax Season Accountant - Determining the Adjusted Cost Base of Your U.S.Securities

Last week I received an avalanche of tax returns, as my clients finally received their T3 and T5013 tax slips (although many are now being amended). Driving to work to prepare all these returns was problematic, as the weather in Toronto was terrible. While snow in April is not what you hope for, the upside for an accountant is; my friends cannot call me on each hole of the golf course to torment me while I am working away doing tax returns. But I digress.

While preparing returns last week, I only found one noteworthy issue to discuss; that being the tracking of the adjusted cost base of U.S. stocks and securities. This issue rears its ugly head when filing terminal tax returns (the final return in the year of death) and for anyone who sells U.S. stocks and receives a capital gain/loss report solely in U.S. dollars.

What is the Adjusted Cost Basis of Your U.S. Securities? Your Guess is as Good as Mine

Unfortunately, over the past 15 months or so, I had a couple clients pass away. As discussed in this blog post, when you die, there is a deemed disposition of the capital property you own on death (unless you have a surviving spouse to whom you transfer your property under your will, although you can elect out of  this provision on a security by security basis). My issue has been obtaining the historical purchase dates of the U.S. stocks to determine the deemed disposition gain for these client's U.S. stock holdings.
For example. Say a client purchased IBM at $40 in their U.S. portfolio years ago when the exchange rate was say $1.05. The converted Canadian cost base is $42 ($40x1.05). Let’s assume the stock price upon the date of their death was $150. If the exchange rate on death is $1.30, the deemed proceeds are $195, and the capital gain should be $153 ($195-42).

However, in two cases where I had a client pass away, all I was provided with from the investment manager/institution was a U.S. cost base of $40 and a U.S. fair market value of $150. If I just convert both the $40 cost and $150 value at death at say $1.30, this would result in a capital gain of $143 instead of the correct $153. Where the U.S. stocks have been purchased with the current advisor, typically they can at least provide me with the purchase dates and sometimes they can run a new report with the converted $Cdn ACB. Where stocks were initially purchased by the client on their own or with another advisor, it is almost impossible to get the original purchase date unless the executor can find the original purchase documents.

The standard reasoning provided by reporting entities for not having this information is that the stocks were transferred to them and they don’t have the historical cost. I can live with that explanation, but query why when U.S. stocks are purchased by the manager or institution, they do not in many cases automatically track and convert to a $Cdn ACB? Another of life’s little tax mysteries.

Often I must play detective and try to somehow determine when these stocks were purchased which is either extremely time consuming or not possible given the lack of records.

Many of you may have this same issue if you have a U.S. stock portfolio with an investment advisor or financial institution and your yearly realized report is provided only in U.S. dollars. How do you know what your adjusted $Cdn cost base is? I suggest that in order to alleviate this problem, you ask your advisor to provide you on an annual basis with the $Cdn adjusted cost base of your U.S. stocks whether they have to push a button or have their assistant do it on a spreadsheet. You pay for this. If you are a DIY investor, you should ensure you note the foreign exchange date down for every U.S. or foreign stock purchase.

Long story short, this a significant reporting issue while you are alive and after you pass away.

Note: I am sorry, but I do not answer questions in late April due to my workload, so the comments option has been turned off. Thus, you cannot comment on this post and past comments on other blog posts will not appear until I turn the comment function back on.

This is my last post (although I may post a guest blog) for a couple weeks, so see you in May.


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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Confessions of a Tax Season Accountant - Late T-slips and Reporting the Sale of Your Principal Residence

In today's tax season confession, I will provide an update on the required reporting when you sell your principal residence. I also include my annual rant, about the fact many of my clients must wait until late March or early April to receive their final T-slips.

Condensed Tax Season


Just to be consistent with the prior 7 years, I will again complain about the condensed nature of tax season. I receive about 65% of my clients returns after March 31st, causing a crazy April. The delay is typically caused by clients waiting for their T3 and T5013 tax slips (you would not believe the amount of emails and faxes I received last week with just arrived T3's and T5013's). I ponder why, with current technology, that all filing deadlines for T4’s, T5’s, T3’s and T5013’s cannot be moved up by 15-30 days, so everyone has adequate time to file their tax returns. I guess this is one of life’s little mysteries.

Principal Residence Exemption Rules


As discussed in this October 2016 blog post on the new Principal Residence (“PR”) reporting requirements, you must now report the sale of your PR (typically your house but can also be your cottage) on your tax return.

For 2016, you just had to report the sale on schedule 3, unless the gain was not fully exempt, in which case you had to file Form T2091 (IND) Designation of a Property as a Principal Residence by an Individual (Other Than a Personal Trust). However, for 2017 and any future years, you must now file schedule 3 and Form T2091 in all cases.

If you designate your home/cottage as your PR for all the years you owned it on schedule 3 (box 1), other than the free plus 1 year, (you may recall the formula to determine the exempt portion on the sale of your PR is the capital gain on the sale of your PR, times the ratio of the number of years you have lived in your home [i.e. designated the home as your principal residence] plus 1, divided by the number of years you have owned the property) the form is fairly simple to complete. You just need to fill out the first page of the T2091 form. You will need to include the following information:

  • the year of acquisition of the property you sold
  • the proceeds of disposition 
  • the address of the property being designated as a principal residence 
  • the years you owned the property and are designating as your principal residence.

Penalty


There are stiff penalties for not filing the PR designation on time. New paragraph 220(3.21)(a.1) will allow for late-filed forms subject to certain time restrictions. The penalty will be the lesser of the following amounts:

  • $8,000; and
  • $100 for each complete month from the original due date of the relevant income tax return to the date that your request for a late-filed designation is made in a form satisfactory to the CRA.

The CRA says on their website that a penalty may apply where the PR election is late-filed. I would work on the assumption the penalty is applicable and you will need the CRA to be merciful to have the penalty removed.

It is also important to note that if you do not file the T2091 form, your return can be re-assessed at any time. This means the usual statue barred period of 3 years is not applicable and your return remains open until the end of time or three years from when your return is assessed, when you finally file the form.

If you sold your principal residence in 2017, simply put, complete schedule 3 and file Form T2091, or there may be punitive repercussions.

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Duplication of Investments

In August of 2011, I wrote a blog post about common investment errors I had observed in my capacity as an accountant who works in the wealth maximization and wealth advisory area. One of these errors was the duplication of investments. I find that many people have this issue to some extent; it is just a question of quantum. Today I want to briefly expand on this topic.

The duplication or triplication of investments, which can sometimes be intertwined with diworsification, occurs when investors own the same or similar stocks, mutual funds or Exchange Traded Funds (“ETFs”) in multiple places.

A simple example is Bell Canada. You may own Bell in your own “play portfolio,” in a mutual fund you own, in your investment advisors private managed fund or indirectly in an ETF fund. The same duplication often also occurs with many of the Canadian banks and larger cap Canadian stocks, such as TransCanada, Thomson Reuters, Enbridge, etc. Unless you are diligent, or your advisor monitors this duplication or triplication, you may have increased your risk/return trade-off by over-weighting in one or several stocks. Some may argue this is really just a redundancy issue, that likely results in higher costs and is not really that significant a risk to your portfolio. Although, I would suggest that if the redundancy is in a more volatile group such as the resource sector, the portfolio risk could be significant.

The investing reality in Canada is that there are only so many stocks in the Canadian stock universe that investment managers can select. This limitation plays a large part in this issue. Duplication can also result within a family unit. If your spouse or partner invests separately, they may be creating redundancies and additional costs, whereas if you invested as a family unit much of this duplication could be eliminated.

Asset Allocation


I think most of us are aware of the concept of asset allocation, which is essentially allocating/diversifying an investment portfolio across major asset classes (stocks, fixed income, foreign stocks, small caps, REITs, etc.). Typically, an effective asset allocation will also consider diversification across countries, which is important given Canada’s limited stock access as discussed above. Your asset allocation should be undertaken in context of your Investment Policy Statement which accounts for your risk tolerance, objectives and trading restraints (such as no stocks that sell arms or tobacco).

When you allocate and diversify your investments, you can typically, to some extent, minimize market risk and volatility. Where you have duplication, you are at cross-purposes with your asset allocation strategy, since you have doubled or tripled up on an asset class. Your goal is diversification with minimal investment duplication.

Tax Efficiency


When I meet or talk with investment managers (the better ones do this on their own volition) on my client’s behalf, I always ensure they have reviewed the tax efficiency of my client’s portfolio. This would include considering the type of income earned, typically interest, dividends, capital gains and would also likely account for their return of capital investments like REITs. This discussion is then tied back to whether an account is a registered account such as an RRSP, a tax-free account like a TFSA or a taxable non-registered account. I wrote about this in these blog posts on tax efficient investing, Part 1 and Part 2.

Where there is duplication, this tax-efficiency can be lost, especially where there are multiple advisors and there is no overall communication. This can be especially costly when tax-loss selling is undertaken in the fall and your advisors are at cross-purposes or thinking they are doing good by selling stocks underwater. You may end up with an excess of capital losses or not enough capital losses, and they all sell the same stock to trigger a loss, even if it is a good long-term investment.

Some Considerations to Avoid Duplication


If you use several investment managers, consider having one oversee the group to ensure each manager is investing in what they know best and there is minimal duplication and proper asset allocation. If you have significant wealth, you may want to or hire an independent person to quarterback the process such as your accountant or a fee for service financial planner.

You may also want to consider consolidating your investment assets. This can be done by reducing the number of investment managers you use (if you have several) or if you manage your own money, review the details of the funds and stocks you own and see if there is duplication of investments or a way to reduce your overall costs.

At the end of the day, your goal is to simplify the tracking of your investments, ensure you have managed your risk and have diversified your portfolio to minimize duplication.

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Let Me Tell You - Quotes and Proverbs to Ponder

As noted in October, I am writing 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 discuss three of my favourite quotes and proverbs. I think these words of wisdom provide some insight into my psyche, but I will leave that for you to decide.

I have tried my best to attribute these sayings to the proper person; but regardless of whether I have the correct acknowledgement or not, the key is the message, not the messenger.

Make a Decision and Go with It!


I have discussed this quote once before, but I am bringing it back, since it is one of my favourites.

The quote as best I can tell is from a poem by S.H. Payer’s “Live Each Day to the Fullest”. It goes as follows:

"When you are faced with decision, make that decision as wisely as possible,  then forget it.
The moment of absolute certainty never arrives".

Think about that last line: “The moment of absolute certainty never arrives”. Whether a decision is personal or financial, it has been my experience that people can freeze in their tracks with indecision and are often unable to act on their issues, until they feel they have found that moment of certainty.

However, we all know that the moment of certainty very rarely identifies itself or if it does, it is likely not in a timely manner. This is why I love this quote; time constraints often force us to deal with an issue before there is certainty. People who make the best decisions, under the circumstances and move forward without regret or second-guessing themselves, are best equipped to solve and deal with life and its often confounding decisions.

We Are Not Immortal – Live Your Life to the Fullest While You Can (but save a few bucks for retirement)


In October of 2015, I wrote a blog post titled “Believe it or Not - We Are Not Immortal” in which I discussed how denying our mortality had a significant impact emotionally and financially upon our families. The take-away from this blog post was that you should provide your spouse and loved ones a financial roadmap so that they are prepared as best they can be, should you pass away.

In the comments to that post, one of my reader’s, Vernon L provided a quote that read:

“Man, he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the results being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

What a great quote! While it in part touches on our mortality, it has a wider breadth, in that it comments on how we live, or more accurately, how we often live improperly.

After reading the quote, I immediately googled it to determine who made such a perceptive comment on human behaviour. Initially, the quote appeared to be attributable to the Dali Lama. However, as I researched further, it appears the consensus is that it has been inaccurately credited to the Dali Lama and it should be attributed to John James Brown (pen name James Lachard) a writer and former CEO of World Vision Canada. So, while I am not 100% sure whom to attribute this quote to, let us just leave it at it is very sage advice.

This quote refers to money and the financial and health consequences of chasing the almighty dollar. But of course, enjoying your life and living in the present is not 100% correlated to money. We have family, religious and altruistic components of our lives that enrich and make our day to day living fulfilling (as discussed in this blog post I wrote).

I have written numerous times about having a bucket list and ensuring you cross items off your list during your working life. The longer we wait to undertake these bucket list items, the greater the chance we are not physically able to do them, or worse, not around to do them.

While this quote goes much deeper, we all need to live in the present and enjoy our lives and family, plan for retirement (where hopefully health and money permitting, you clean up your bucket list and make a new one), and always understand that you are very lucky for each day on this earth.

It is Never My Fault


Somebody sent me this quote/life lesson that was circulated on Facebook last year. I have no idea whom to attribute it to, but it very succinct and accurate in my opinion. It goes as follows:

Three Ways to Fail At Everything in Life:
  •  Blame all your problems on others 
  • Complain about everything 
  • Not be grateful

Craig Soroda who provides leadership training noted in this blog post that the above three points are known as blame, complain and defend (“BCD”). He provides a quote by well-known football Coach Urban Meyer that says “BCD has never solved a problem, achieved a goal, or improved a relationship. Stop wasting your time and energy on something that will never help you.”

Personally, I go back to the old school thoughts of my father. Dad always taught me that I must take responsibility for whatever I did, not to complain, and to never give up. I think being grateful just came from the way I was raised by my parents.

In brief, these quotes can be summed up as follows:

1. Life is fleeting, live it and enjoy it as best you can, but save a few bucks for retirement.

2. Don’t dither on decisions, make an educated decision and move on.

3. You are responsible for your own life, don’t blame others, it is counter-productive, and people don’t like whiners.

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, March 19, 2018

CRA Information Requests – 2018 Update

In December 2016, I wrote a blog post titled CRA Information Requests - 2016 Update in which I discussed that corporate clients had been receiving information requests from the CRA to support their equipment (capital cost additions) and/or had received information requests to support professional fees that had been claimed.

On the personal side, I noted that taxpayers were receiving information requests to provide support for Interest deduction expense claims, foreign tax credit claims and matching income requests.

Today, I provide a quick update on what I am seeing.

Beware if You are Receiving or Paying Management Fees


Lately, I have seen the CRA issue information requests to support management fees paid. The requests appear to relate more specifically to intercompany management fees, but these requests can directly or indirectly lead to information about management fees paid to owner-managers.

As detailed in this guest post by Howard Kazdan last year on Management Fees, it is important to have proper support for the payment of these fees. This support is often lacking for both intercompany payments and payments to shareholders who consider themselves independent contractors.

It should be noted that management fees paid to owner-managers as independent contractors can be problematic in the first place, as detailed in this 2015 blog post.

The CRA information requests essentially ask for all the information Howard suggested you document or maintain in his blog post, including some of the following:

1. The name and Business or SIN# of the corporation or individual receiving the management or administration fees

2. If the fee was paid to a related party

3. Copy of the contract for services

4. Description of the services provided and log if available

5. Invoices for the services provided

I would suggest many corporations and shareholders have been lax in ensuring there is proper documentation and that the remuneration for the services is fair-market value. If you do not have your act in order, in respect of documenting the payment of management or administration services, I suggest you make this a high urgency task.

Individual Taxpayers


From an individual taxpayer perspective, we are still receiving information requests to provide support for interest deduction expense claims, foreign tax credit claims and income matching requests (technically a separate program). In addition, I have seen several requests to support alimony payments.

I have also seen information requests for individuals that are owner-managers of corporations and have claimed employment expense based on a T2200 form signed by their related company. If you want to read an excellent summary about deducting expenses as an employee, this tax bulletin by BDO Canada LLP titled “Deducting Expenses as an Employee”, is very exhaustive.

For those not aware, a T2200 form must be completed by employers for their employees to deduct employment expenses from their income. Many people receive these forms from their employers each tax season, so they can claim their auto expenses related to their job, however, other people use the form to claim a home office expense or various other employment expenses related to their job.

The CRA requests have been specifically for those individuals who are shareholders of the corporation issuing the T2200; we have not seen a general review of employment expenses for employees (although I do see these occasionally).

In reviewing corporate shareholders employment expenses (most notably auto and home office expenses) the CRA had been disallowing these expenses in many cases, based on a lower court case decision.

However, it is my understanding the CRA is considering reversing these re-assessments and will set forth new criteria for owner-managers in respect to claiming employment expenses going forward. If you have been re-assessed or are in the middle of objecting, speak to your accountant about this issue, there may be positive news forthcoming.

If you have claimed any of the expenses that are leading to the information requests I detail above, you may want to review your records to ensure you have your documentation readily available in case you receive an information request.

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, March 5, 2018

2018 Federal Budget

The Daily Telegraph, a national British newspaper, once commented on a Federal Budget by saying that; a “budget is like going to the dentist, there has to be pain now or the future health of the economy is at risk”. While I may want to debate that assertion another time, I took their comment literally. Last Monday I started off the week with a root canal on my bottom left tooth and was supposed to have an extraction on Friday for another tooth on the top left of my mouth. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I am not sure which, the Friday appointment was re-scheduled until the middle of tax season. Thus, I was not in a good frame of mind to write my usual detailed review of the federal budget, presented last Tuesday, February 27th.

Setting aside my tooth pain, the budget contained surprisingly few new proposals (which you can read about in this excellent BDO LLP budget summary) other than the introduction of new rules relating to the taxation of passive investment income (generally made-up of interest, dividends, capital gains and rental income) in private corporations. Today I will briefly discuss these new rules.

Passive Investment Income Taxation


The initial proposals set forth by the Liberal government in July and October of 2017, in relation to the passive income rules were very complicated and would have been an administrative headache for small business owners and accountants. There was also some concern that the proposals could result in a tax rate approximating 73%.

In issuing the new rules in last week's budget, the government clearly listened to the various comments made by small business owners and their advisors. The new rules are simple and clear and target those taxpayers the government seemed to be offended by in the first place, professionals and other service providers who were accessing the small business deduction.

While the aforementioned taxpayers who have accumulated significant passive assets for retirement based on the old rules will not be happy, there are many other small business owners and professionals, who let out a collective sigh of relief. Corporations (including professional corporations, typically partners in large professional firms) already subject to the general tax rate of 26.5% or so (depending upon your province) and investment companies that hold only passive investment assets, will continue under the current regime without any new restrictions.

Under the new rules, which are applicable for taxation years beginning after 2018 (so for companies with non-December year-ends, the rules may not apply until 2020) the Small Business Deduction (“SBD”) is phased out once passive income exceeds $50,000 at the rate of $5 for every $1 of passive income, or $50,000 for every $10,000 of passive income.

It is important to note that the test is for a corporation and its associated corporations. Therefore, if your operating company has no passive income, but your Holdco has $75,000 of passive income, you must combine the two and your operating company will have a reduced SBD.

The chart below illustrates how this will work.

Passive Income
Earned
Small Business
Deduction Available
$50,000
$500,000
$70,000
$400,000
$90,000
$300,000
$110,000
$200,000
$130,000
$100,000
$150,000
$nil

Somewhat lost in the discussion is that the SBD is just a tax deferral, not an absolute tax savings. For example, if you flow through a $100,000 taxed at the small biz rate and a $100,000 taxed at the general rate to a shareholder, there is likely only a net after-tax difference of a $1,000-$2,000 dollars, depending upon the province. So to be clear, you are not paying more tax, just paying it earlier.

Private corporations subject to the new rules will lose a tax deferral from $1 to around $65,000 or so (depending upon your province and assuming the provinces follow suit. If not, the amount will be lower) if the full $500k SBD is clawed back. In simple terms, at the maximum reduction, you will have to pay $65k (could be less depending upon the province) in tax earlier than under the current tax rules and you lose the ability to grow your retirement assets by the return on that yearly $65k.

Double Your RDTOH Pleasure


Part and parcel of the above changes to the SBD, the government has also proposed to create a second refundable dividend tax on hand ("RDTOH") account for eligible dividends, called, not unexpectedly, the “Eligible RDTOH”.

Under the current rules, where a private company earns investment income, the corporation is taxed at a high rate, typically 50%, of which 30% or so is refundable and 20% is a hard tax. Where the company also earns low rate small business income, the dividend refund can be caused in part from this lower rate tax and the shareholder can benefit from both a corporate dividend refund and a low rate eligible dividend designation.

To prevent this from happening in the future, the new rules essentially create two RDTOH accounts, non-eligible and eligible and upon the payment of a non-eligible dividend, the company must first access its non-eligible RDTOH before it can access its eligible RDTOH. I am sure this is clear as mud.

To further muddy the waters, there will ordering and transition rules, which are described in detail in the BDO tax memo I link to above.

As result of these new rules, which are also applicable for taxation years beginning after 2018, you will want to discuss with your accountant whether it makes sense to pay a large dividend prior to the application of the rules to clear out your current RDTOH.

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Prescribed Rate Loans – One Last Kick at the 1% Rate

I have discussed the use of prescribed rate loans several times over the years. In this post, I will review a couple of the best ways to use these loans. However, time is now of the essence, if you wish to implement one of these loans. The current prescribed rate of 1% will be rising to 2% effective April 1st as per this Advisor.ca article and many people only see the rate slowly rising from here over the next few years.

The two most common ways to use a prescribed rate loan are:

1. A loan to a spouse as detailed in this blog post.

2. A loan to minor children using a family trust as detailed in this blog post.

To recap (read the actual posts for all the details), the Income Tax Act contains income attribution rules that typically reallocate income to the higher income earner when he or she tries to income split with his or her spouse or children. However, there is an exception to the above attribution rules where an individual makes a loan to a spouse or minor child and interest is charged on the loan at a rate at least equal to the CRA’s prescribed interest rate at the time the loan was made. The benefit is as follows:

Where the loan carries interest at a rate no less than the prescribed interest rate, the attribution rules will not apply. For the loan to avoid the income attribution rules, the interest owing must be paid each year within 30 days after the end of the year (i.e. January 30th).

For example, say you make a $100,000 loan to a spouse with minimal income. Your spouse will be required to pay you $1,000 in interest by January 30th of each year. However, if they use the loan proceeds to invest in marketable securities and they make a 6% return, or $6,000, your family will have tax savings of up to $2,700 ($6,000-1,000 x 53.5% the highest tax rate in Ontario).

Income splitting with minors can be problematic because minors generally cannot enter into an enforceable contract. Thus, it is suggested that where you make a prescribed loan to a minor, a family trust be utilized to navigate the enforceability issues.

Tax Changes to Private Corporations


As I have discussed on this blog multiple times, the government has implemented changes to the taxation of private corporations. In December they released the legislation in relation to the revised tax on split income rules . We are still waiting (likely in the budget this week) for the rules on earning passive investment income in a corporation.

To date, it does not appear that these rules will impact prescribed rate loans, subject to this weeks budget. However, before you consider implementing a prescribed rate loan, you need to discuss this issue with your accountant to ensure they are onside with the idea and that you clearly understand the requirements and changes in legislation.

Finally, it would be prudent, based on what we know, that the proceeds of these loans only be invested in public marketable securities and not in private corporations or related corporations.

If you are interested in maximizing a prescribed rate loan, you only have a few weeks to get this loan in place to beat the increase to 2%.

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, February 12, 2018

No Will? You’re in Famous Company!

Readers of my blog are aware of my inclination to harp on the fact that you should have a will, and where you have a will in place, that it should be updated for significant life events. As discussed last week, in my post Power of Attorney for Personal Care – Mental Capacity and Medical Assistance When Dying. I also think it is important to have up-to-date powers of attorney for financial and personal care. But today, we are talking wills and the lack of such for some famous people and the lessons you may learn from their estate planning miscues.

In my blog post “Canadians Don’t Have the Will”, I highlighted a 2016 survey conducted by Legalwills.ca, that found 62% of Canadians do not have wills.

The 62% number is astronomical and in my not so humble opinion, just irresponsible. I thought of this survey, when I was recently told by a colleague that they were working on an estate where the first spouse passed away without a will, and then the surviving spouse died a couple years later without ever having a will drafted. I can maybe understand that some couples don’t have wills based on the premise “everything will just automatically flow to the surviving spouse”, although this thinking may be flawed depending upon your province of residence as noted in this link for the laws of Ontario when you die intestate (without a will). But for a surviving spouse to not have a will drafted is just beyond my comprehension.

Since the advice of accountants, lawyers, finance columnists and bloggers is obviously being ignored, I thought instead of lecturing that you should have a will, I would reflect on the folly of not having a will by looking at famous people who have died intestate and the messes they left behind.

Please note: I have no ability to confirm that these people did not have wills and I am relying on articles and other internet sources for this list, so I cannot guarantee its accuracy. Some of the stories in respect of these people’s deaths and estates are fascinating. You may wish to read in detail the links and source documents I provide below.

Famous People Who Supposedly Died Without a Will


The Musicians

There seems to be a correlation between being artistic and financially irresponsible as noted by the extremely famous musicians I note below. This does not surprise me, as I have suggested in prior posts on naming executors, that at the risk of generalizing you will want someone more anal than artistic to carry out this task.

Prince


In this article by People Magazine it was reported “A Minnesota judge has made it official – despite Prince’s estate being worth an approximated $250 million, the singer did not have a will in place to declare the distribution of his assets. A hearing was held Wednesday morning, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, and the judge has approved Bremer Bank, the institution Prince trusted with his finances over the years, to move forward with handling his estate – both personal and financial business”.

Prince's former manager, Owen Husney, in this USA today article said “he was too smart to have overlooked something that crucial and he had teams of lawyers, business managers and accountants over the years who would have advised him it was crucial”. Assuming that no will ever surfaces, it is mind numbing that with so many advisors, Prince did not have a will in place and it could have fallen through the cracks (unless he just refused to have one drafted).

"It's astonishing, absolutely astonishing that he did not have a will," says Jerry Reisman, an estate lawyer on Long Island who's been following the case. He predicted trouble ahead. You're going to have 'siblings' coming out of the woodwork alleging they are siblings. Everyone is going to be fighting over this estate.”

Will Lesson #1: Run Out and Write Your Will 

Hendrix, Marley and a Cast of Thousands


In this LegalZoom,com article the writer notes that both Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley died without wills and that their estates were subject to legal battles for years. Musicians such as Prince, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley have complicated estates due to the publishing rights they hold on their music, the typically massive demand for their music once they pass away and the value in unreleased material that is often released posthumously.

Other musicians that have purportedly died without wills include Kurt Cobain, Barry White, Tupac Shakur, James Brown, Sonny Bono and Amy Winehouse.

Athletes

Many athletes are known for blowing fortunes, but you would again think that their advisors would have ensured they had wills in place, but that apparently is not the case, or the athletes ignore their advice.

Steve McNair


Mr. McNair who played in Super Bowl XXXIV as the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans and was the NFL’s Co-MVP in 2003, did not have a will. He also had, in addition to his wife and children, a girlfriend - who murdered him in a murder-suicide. The sad details of this case can be read in this Probate Lawyer blog. 

If this story is not tragic enough, this Family Archival Solutions Inc. article discusses how McNair’s mother subsequently lost her home because Mr. McNair had not put his mother’s name on the house or made provision in a will for her to inherit the property as he had intended for her.

Will Lesson #2: Unintended Consequences Transpire when a Will is Not Drafted

Lamar Odom


This is a story about almost dying without a will. In 2015, former NBA star and ex-husband of Khloé Kardashian was hospitalized after being discovered unconscious
at the Love Ranch, a brothel in Crystal, Nevada. Mr. Odom’s heart supposedly stopped several times and was touch and go to live. Luckily for him, he survived the ordeal. As Mr. Odom supposedly did not have a will, it was reported that if he died, his estate would have all gone 1/3 to Khloé and 2/3 to his children. It is my understanding that Odom and Khloe had a good relationship despite their divorce and she was there at his side while he recovered and she did not want his money. So this is not a story about an ex-spouse trying to get something that was not hers, but clearly reflects that an ex-spouse may be entitled to your estate or part of it, if you are not careful.

Will Lesson #3: When You Do Not Have a Will, Your Ex-Spouse May Inherit Part of Your Estate

Other Famous People Who Died Without a Will (or Updating Their Will)


Martin Luther King


Mr. King who was assassinated on April 4, 1968 was one of the best known civil rights activists in the World. His “I Have A Dream” speech made in 1963 during the march on Washington is known as one of the finest speeches ever given. Unfortunately, when assassinated Mr. King was only 37 years old and did not have a will per this Forbes article.

This LA Times article discusses how the children are threatening his legacy as the estate battles on 47 years after his death in respect of his tomb, sermons and memorabilia.

Will Lesson #4: When You Die Intestate You Create Possible Conflict amongst Your Family

Pablo Picasso


As detailed in this 2016 article by Vanity Fair on the estate of Pablo Picasso,  Picasso did not have a will and left over “45,000 works, all complicated by countless authentications, rights and licencing deals”. The legal fees on this estate have were supposedly over $30 million.


Will Lesson #5: When You Die Intestate, Your Estate Can Be Withered Away in Legal Fees

Heath Ledger


As I noted in the introduction, I not only stress the importance of a will, but that it must be updated to reflect significant life events. Heath Ledger died of an accidental drug overdose in 2008 during the editing of the Dark Knight Batman movie in which he played the Joker and posthumously won the Academy Award for best supporting actor.

Mr. Ledger had a will drafted a few years earlier in which his parents and sisters were beneficiaries. He however, had neglected to update his will upon his marriage to actress Michelle Williams and on the birth of their daughter Matilda. However, unlike many messy and nasty estate fights highlighted in this blog post, Heath’s family as detailed in this People article altruistically handed over the entire estate to Matilda. It is nice to see some kindness amongst the greed and fighting of the other estates.

Will Lesson #6: Update Your Will for Life Events, or You May Negate the Benefits of Having a Will

Howard Hughes


As per Wikipedia, Howard Hughes “was an American business magnate, investor, record-setting pilot, film director, and philanthropist, known during his lifetime as one of the most financially successful individuals in the world. He first made a name for himself as a film producer, and then became an influential figure in the aviation industry. Later in life, he became known for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle—oddities that were caused in part by a worsening obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), chronic pain from several plane crashes, and increasing deafness”.

As discussed in this New York Times article it took over 20 years to sort out the estate of the reclusive Howard Hughes. Mr. Hughes did not leave a will and his estate was subject to various forgeries.

Will Lesson #7: If You Have Not Decided to Draft or Update Your Will After Reading These Stories, I Give Up!

While most of these famous people had substantial estates, the lesson is still the same for the average person. Have a will drafted (and powers of attorney) so that you ensure your estate goes to whom you wish and it is not frittered away on legal battles that not only cost significant sums, but destroy the lives and relationships of your loved ones.

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Power of Attorney for Personal Care – Mental Capacity and Medical Assistance When Dying

While I still act as a corporate accountant, I am spending more and more of my time providing wealth advisory services to my current and new clients, which allows me to utilize my tax, estate planning and general accounting background. When I combine these technical aspects together with the experience I have gained in respect of understanding the nature of people in relation to their families and their wealth, I am able to provide a comprehensive plan for their current, retirement and estate planning.

In providing these services, I always ensure my clients have up to date wills and powers of attorney (“POA”) for their finances and personal care (health). In many cases, the POAs are either very old or not even in existence. When discussing POAs for personal care, I advise my client that there have been many changes in the law in respect to heroic measures and medical assistance in dying and depending upon their personal and religious views, they need to review these issues with a very qualified estate lawyer.

I thought today, I would do a bit of a Q&A on some of these issues and specifically the mental capacity required to make these decisions. I thus turned to my resident estate and wills expert, Katy Basi, for some direction.

Please note Katy's answers are specific to Ontario, if you live in another province, you will need to confirm that province’s legislative provisions.

If you are a reader of this blog, Katy needs no introduction. If you are a new reader of the Blunt Bean Counter, check out some of Katy’s guest blogs from estate planning for extended families to New Will Provisions for the 21st Century – Your Digital Life to Cottage Trusts among many other posts.

I thank Katy for her assistance with this blog post.

Power of Attorney for Personal Care and Medical Assistance When Dying


Below is a summary of the responses to my questions from Katy. I was personally very surprised at some of her answers to my questions, but given this complex, controversial and still evolving area of law, I guess in retrospect, I should not be surprised.

Questions and Answers:


Mark: Katy, a concern for all of us as we age is mental capacity. How does mental capacity affect POA‘s for health?

Katy: “First we need to appreciate that a POA for personal care is only relevant and effective when the person in question does not have the mental capacity to make their own health care decisions. I am asked fairly commonly by my clients to include provisions regarding medical assistance in dying in their powers of attorney for personal care. This request usually comes on the heels of a discussion about whether or not to include a “no heroic measures” clause in their document. I have to tell my clients that the legislation does not allow a mentally incapacitated person to have medical assistance in dying. This is the case even if the person requested this assistance, when they were capacitated, in writing via their power of attorney for personal care.”

Mark: So, are you saying that even where you have requested medical assistance in dying in your POA for personal care, if you do not have mental capacity when the medical assistance is desired, that request is essentially voided?

Katy: “There is a clear distinction in the medical assistance in dying legislation between a person who has the capacity to make their own personal care and health care decisions, and a person who does not have this capacity. The former can request medical assistance in dying if all of the other conditions of the legislation are met, and the latter cannot. As a person’s power of attorney for personal care is only effective upon the person losing their capacity to make personal care and health care decisions, by definition the document is only relevant upon incapacity. At that time medical assistance in dying is off the table as an option".

Katy clarifying note to Mark: "This exclusion only relates to medical assistance in dying – your most recent verbal or written instructions, made while capacitated, otherwise govern your personal care and health care".

Mark: This provision seems unfair?

Katy: “So under one view the legislation is discriminatory – people with capacity can obtain this assistance, and those without capacity cannot. So, I guess that if I have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, which is another requirement under the legislation, I hope that I at least have capacity, as otherwise I cannot receive medical assistance in dying. If I am mentally incapacitated, with a grievous and irremediable medical condition, my power of attorney for personal care can request that all heroic measures stop at this point, and that lots of morphine and other pain relief be administered. But that’s it – medical assistance in dying cannot be given, and I will have to die on my own, when my body finally gives up”.

Mark: So, is there anything that can be done in case of mental incapacity?

Katy: “For some clients we include a clause in their power of attorney for personal care that indicates their desire for medical assistance in dying if they are in a situation where the other conditions of the legislation are met, in the event that the current requirement to have capacity is amended by future legislative changes. A bit of a Hail Mary, but why not?”

I thank Katy for her insights on this complex topic.

Katy Basi is a barrister and solicitor with her own practice, focusing on wills, trusts, estates, and income tax law (including incorporation's and corporate restructurings). Katy practiced income tax law for many years with a large Toronto law firm, and therefore considers the income tax and probate tax implications of her clients' decisions. Please feel free to contact her directly at (905) 237-9299, or by email at katy@basilaw.com. More articles by Katy can be found at her website, basilaw.com.

The above blog post is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Readers are advised to seek specific legal advice regarding any specific legal issues and for their specific province.

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, January 29, 2018

If You Are Not Learning – You Are Forgetting

As noted in October, 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 discuss the importance of always striving to increase your knowledge by continuously learning.

My father-in-law, who is a very knowledgeable and smart man, has a saying “If you are not learning, you are forgetting”. He has repeated this mantra to his family and grandchildren for as long as I have known him. What a brilliant adage.

Knowledge is vital to our growth and understanding as people. It is also scary, since I seem to need post-it notes to remember anything these days, so I am hoping my knowledge inflow is exceeding my forgotten knowledge outflow 😊 But seriously, this is a great adage and I want to examine it in a little more detail today.

How To Keep Learning


My father-in-law and mother-in-law have sat in on classes at The University of Toronto for years, read vociferously and are patrons of the arts. While I am not exactly a “knowledge expert” it would seem to me the best ways to keep learning are as follows:

  • Attending courses & seminars at a college, university, library, or anywhere someone is speaking on a topic that interests you.
  • Reading books, newspapers, blogs (especially this one), etc.
  • Watching Videos and Listening to Podcasts – For many people, videos and podcasts are now their go to sources for knowledge.
  •  Listening and Observing – We meet many people who are far more intelligent and/or knowledgeable than us (or at least than me). Personally, I have found this source of knowledge to be my favourite, since in many cases, knowledgeable people are able to explain their thoughts in “plain English”, which is not always the case when reading a book or attending a lecture.

Knowledge Increases Our Awareness Of Our Ignorance


In 1962, while speaking at Rice University on the space program, President John F. Kennedy said, “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.” While the context of this comment was in relation to space travel it is a brilliant observation for life in general. The more we learn, the more we realize what we don’t know. Those who are self-aware enough to understand this never become arrogant or at least only slightly and are always open to learning and collaborating with others.

Why Keep Learning


There are multiple benefits from continuing to learn and increase your knowledge. I would suggest these three are amongst the most important:

1. Increases your chances for success in your chosen job or profession

2. Allows you to better interact with others

3. Provides for the transfer of knowledge to future generations

Job Or Profession


This is self-evident, but the greater knowledge you have about your chosen job or profession, the greater your chance for success and promotion. In addition, your job satisfaction increases, and people want to collaborate with you. General knowledge is also very important for your career as it allows you to connect and be respected by your co-workers on both a personal and professional level.

Interacting With Others


Greater knowledge also helps to make it easier for you to converse with others and have confidence in your comments and opinions. While knowledge and self-awareness do not necessarily go hand in hand, if you are self-aware or at least have spent some time learning about personal behaviour and that of others, you will understand your shortcomings and behavioural tendencies. You will also be able to communicate better with others if you have knowledge of their behaviours.

Generational Transfer of Knowledge


My father-in-law not only spouts the “if you are not learning, you are forgetting” mantra, but acts on it. Over the years he has shared his abundant knowledge either in a group or in a one on one session with his grandchildren. It always amazed me to hear how much the kids got out of the conversation and what they had learned.

While I may not have told you anything new in todays blog post, my objective was to remind you of how important it is to keeping learning, because, if not (chorus of grandkids response)—you are forgetting!

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Estate Administration - The Importance of Advertising for Creditors

After writing the last two weeks about the Tax On Split Income Rules and the Ontario Minimum Wage Increase, I thought I would try a less controversial topic this week; that being the importance of advertising for creditors.

Over the years, I have written numerous times on the various issues associated with being named an executor, including this laundry list of requirements. Included on this list is the necessity to advertise for any creditors of the estate.

My guest blogger today is Patrick Hartford, who is the founder and managing director of NoticeConnect, which is a platform for publishing and accessing legal notices online to simplify the process of advertising for creditors. Patrick will discuss the importance of advertising for creditors and the risk to an executor if they do not do so.

Please note that while I agree it is important to advertise for creditors, the policy of this blog is to not endorse any specific company, so you will need to do your own research as to whether you engage NoticeConnect or not.

With the legal disclaimer out of the way, I thank Patrick for his blog post on this important, but often neglected estate issue.

Estate Administration - The Importance of Advertising for Creditors 

By Patrick Hartford


The majority of estate trustees in Ontario - both executors and administrators - are not advertising for creditors. This is a problem because trustees who do not publish a notice to creditors risk personal liability.

When someone dies, any outstanding debts of the deceased must be paid before the assets of the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. Whatever is leftover after the creditors have been paid can then be inherited by the deceased’s spouse, children, pets, etc.

It is the job of the estate trustee to identify and pay these outstanding debts.

Some debts are easy to identify, particularly if they involve a secured creditor like a mortgage lender. But there are often other debts that the trustee has no way of identifying. They could be old utilities or credit card bills, municipal taxes, or any other type of debt. The likelihood that outstanding debts exist increases if the deceased lived and worked in multiple cities or did business online.

It’s unrealistic to expect a trustee to play detective and track down every possible debt the deceased may have had. Instead, the law says that a trustee should ‘advertise for creditors’. In Ontario, this is governed by section 53 of the Trustee Act. Other provinces have similar legislation.

The trustee publishes a public advertisement, called a ‘notice to creditors’, stating that a deceased’s estate is being administered and any outstanding creditors have a set amount of time (typically 30 days) to come forward with their claims. When this time period expires, the estate will be distributed with regard only to claims that have been filed.

The law says that an estate trustee who advertises for creditors will be protected from liability if a previously unknown creditor comes out of the woodwork after the assets of the estate have been distributed. Conversely, if an estate trustee does not advertise for creditors, an outstanding creditor can sue the trustee personally for the full amount of the debt. There is no statutory limit or cap to this liability.

So why aren’t trustees publishing notices to creditors?

Sometimes because they are confident that the deceased had no outstanding debts that they are unaware of. This can be risky. Estates lawyers will tell you stories about clients who didn’t advertise for creditors, only to be caught by surprise later.

Another reason is the fact that advertising for creditors used to be prohibitively expensive. Notices to creditors used to be published in print newspapers, and publishing ads in multiple cities would easily cost thousands of dollars. While the estate covers this cost, few trustees wanted to spend this much money for print ads that few people would ever read. Fortunately, with the advent of services for publishing notices to creditors online and its acceptance in Superior Court (see this page for various articles and discussions on this case), the cost of advertising for creditors has been dramatically reduced and has restored its efficacy.

If you’re an estate trustee, it’s important to protect yourself from liability. Advertising for creditors will prevent you from having to pay the deceased’s old debts out of your own pocket.

Patrick Hartford, is the founder and managing director of www.NoticeConnect.com a platform for publishing and accessing legal notices online. Over 200 law firms, banks, and legal service organizations in Ontario have trusted NoticeConnect for publishing estate notices to creditors their clients.

The above blog post is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Readers are advised to seek specific legal advice regarding any specific legal or estate issue.

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ontario’s Minimum Wage Increases

Today, I am writing about the changes to the Ontario minimum wage. For full disclosure, I wrote this blog post during the holiday break, with the intent to try and have a fair-minded discussion about this issue. However, as you likely know, all heck broke loose last week in respect of this issue, when certain retailers took steps to reduce the impact of the minimum wage increases and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne responded strongly informing them if they wish to pick a fight, pick it with her and not their employees.

I have updated the post to account for some of these recent events and comments, but the intent remains the same, an attempt to have an even-handed review of the issues surrounding this significant labour change. In my opinion, that review ends in two conclusions:

1. The various studies related to minimum wage increases are not conclusive.
2. Small business owners, in general, will take steps to maintain their bottom line and in many cases, those steps will likely be diametrically opposed to the government policy intent. 

So, what is all this uproar about? As of January 1st, the Ontario Liberal government increased the minimum hourly wage to $14, with a further increase to $15 on January 1, 2019. That is a 32% increase since the beginning of 2017. This follows the lead of Alberta which plans to increase its minimum wage to $15 by October 2018.

This issue is very complex. I have conflicting views: through the prism of an individual and fair-minded person, I feel higher minimum wages, especially in high cost provinces like Ontario and Alberta are necessary to keep workers in these provinces, and to allow those individuals to maintain a minimum standard of living. As an advisor to small businesses, and a former employer of 35 or so people, I also understand one of the main objectives of a business is to make money and increase the bottom line. The margins on products or services are very often correlated to the cost of wages and salaries and thus, any increase to these expenses, can have significant profit consequences.

What the Studies Show


In December of 2017, the Bank of Canada released this report, titled "The Impacts of Minimum Wage Increases on the Canadian Economy".

 Some of the key findings of the paper are as follows:
  • 8% of employees in Canada work at the minimum wage and estimates in the literature suggest that changes in the statutory rate have historically affected the wages of up to 15 per cent of employees with lowest wages. 
  • There could be a very modest inflationary effect ranging from 0.0-.02 percentage points over the next couple years.
  • The increases in the minimum wage lead to higher real wages, which push up firms’ marginal costs, and thus inflation increases accordingly as a fraction of firms adjust their prices in the short term.
  • Weaker labour demand leads to reduced employment and lower hours worked, although the net impact on labour income is positive.
  • Employment losses may amount to about 60,000 workers (it is my understanding this does not mean 60,000 in job losses, but means 60,000 fewer jobs may be created and in the detailed part of the report, it states the number could be as low as 30,000 or as high as 136,000 depending upon the measure used).
  • Consumption would be reduced slightly as the higher inflation would elicit a slight interest rate increase, which would more than offset the higher labour income.
  • Potential output should remain unchanged in the short run. Longer-term effects are possible through automation, productivity changes or changes in labour force participation. The sign of these longer-term effects is, however, ambiguous.
In this Talent Economy article titled “How Does the Minimum Wage Impact the Economy?" a U.S. publication, the author references several academic papers. The first study by The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, finds “that a $15 minimum wage in California would increase earnings for 38 percent of the state, and businesses would see a reduction in turnover and increases in productivity. Raising prices by 0.6 percent through 2023 would offset increased payroll costs” which reflects a positive outcome of a higher minimum wage.

Yet, in the same article, the author quotes a report published in August 2016 from The Heritage Foundation that finds that a nationwide minimum wage of $15 per hour would lead to 9 million jobs lost, and states with lower costs of living would see the most negative impact. “Efforts to create jobs and reduce poverty should not center on forcing employers to pay higher starting wages,” the story concludes.

So, the studies are not conclusive one way or the other.

The Government's Position


In this Toronto Star opinion piece written yesterday by Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, she opines the minimum wage increase is about fairness and opportunity for the citizens of the province. She does not feel the economics gains in Ontario have been shared equally by employers with their employees.

Premier Wynne states the following in the editorial "Big businesses and major corporations continue to celebrate record profits, while many people in this province juggle multiple jobs and still can’t afford the basics. CEOs enjoy massive salary increases while their workers can’t pay their bills.
That’s not right, and it's not who we are as a society".

Business Owners Position


Business owners are far from a homogeneous group and have varied situations and opinions on the topic. However, in general their position seems to be that minimum wages are an admirable social position, but it is not a practical policy, especially for certain industries such as restaurants and retail outlets (For example, it has been reported by the Great White North Franchisee Association, that the cost of implementing minimum wage hikes to each Tim Horton’s franchisee is $6,968 per employee and for the typical store, that results in increased costs of $243,889). Many small business owners feel the increase in minimum wage should be much smaller, phased in over more years and done in conjunction with tax policy that assists lower earning citizens.

How Retailers and Business Owners Can Manage Rising Minimum Wages


As discussed by BDO Canada LLP in this report titled “Nine Ways Retailers Can Manage The Rising Minimum Wage” there are both tactical and strategic options retailers can consider to reduce the impact on their businesses, where the impact of the minimum wage increase is significant.

Tactical Options


The BDO reports provides tactical options including: reducing employee headcount, optimizing shifts that employees work, reducing store hours to match customer shopping behaviour, reducing costs in other areas of the business and finally raising prices, which in effect, passes the wage increase onto the consumer.

In Ontario last week, there were widely reported cases where well known franchise owners scaled back work breaks, benefits and banned employees from accepting tips in an attempt to try and offset the minimum wage increase. These reports led to a huge outroar and publicity. These cases should cause business owners pause for thought; in that, tactical changes must also consider how your customers will react if the changes become public.

Strategic Options


The BDO report notes strategic options range from expanding technology beyond the self-checkout, optimizing government incentives, outsourcing non-core functions, and by giving the consumer more for their money.

In this article by Brenda Bouw in The Globe and Mail titled “Ontario small-business owners raising prices to cover minimum wage hikes”, the author considers the connection between tactical (price increase) and strategic (better client service) when she quotes retail consultant Doug Stephens of the Retail Prophet. Mr. Stephens says if prices are increased; “businesses could also view it as an opportunity to boost their customer service, by giving them more for extra money”. He goes on to say businesses should view this as “a watershed moment to design better and more enjoyable customer experiences that are actually worth more to their consumers”.

Issues Are Not Always Black and White


I have and have had, many small business clients who bend over backwards to never fire employees and to assist them as much as possible and some have even made 100% retention of their employees a condition of them selling their company. Often business owners are portrayed as heartless and just chasing the almighty dollar, yet, I have found many small business owners are the exact opposite and they care deeply about their employees. But, people are in business to make money, so while they may be conflicted in their actions and concerned for their employees, in most cases, their bottom line will influence their decisions.

Increasing the minimum wage has significant consequences to both a provinces employees and employers. Hopefully the economy is strong enough the next few years to absorb these increases, but in the end, only time will tell how these wage increases will impact Ontario and Alberta and whether the governments policy and intention will be served.

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. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.