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, May 28, 2018

Post Tax Season Assessment and Filing Issues

This year I have had multiple client queries in respect to their Notice of Assessments (“NOAs”) which reflect tax balances owing, despite the fact the taxes were paid in April. Today I discuss this matter and a couple other issues, that have arisen after April 30th.


Notice of Assessments


Typically, taxpayers file their personal tax returns, pay their tax owing (or wait for their refund), start golfing and gardening and probably don’t give much more attention to their taxes until they receive their NOA. Upon receipt, they may take a quick glance to ensure no tax is owing, maybe make note of their RRSP contribution limit and then throw the NOA into a file.

This year, many taxpayers have done a double-take when reviewing their NOA, since their assessments are reflecting tax still owing. I have had a several clients call me in a panic asking if their return was incorrectly filed since the CRA has assessed them more tax? I quickly put their minds at ease. I tell them that what has happened is the CRA is moving to “express” NOAs and has issued the notice so quickly that their system has not yet had time to match the tax payment (this applies more specifically to people who pay their balance owing at the same time or within days of  filing their return). I would bet that many of you who owed tax this year had the same issue with your NOAs.

While the NOA expediency is impressive, they are actually being issued too fast (imagine that, complaining the CRA is too fast :) and are leading to some confusion. Perhaps the CRA should consider waiting a little longer to issue NOAs, so that for those people who pay their tax owing right away, the payment can be reflected, such that the NOA will not reflect a balance outstanding, where there is in fact, no tax due.

The assessment wording has also caused some confusion for those taxpayers who have filed T1135 Foreign Income Reporting Forms. The NOA states that if you indicated you owned foreign property, you have to fill out Form T1135 and send it to them if not already done so. Several of my clients have called to ask if we forgot to send in their T1135, when in fact, the NOA is just reminding people that if they said yes, they had to file the T1135.

Alimony


I have also had a couple clients who pay alimony receive NOAs that have reduced their alimony claim. The NOA says the agreement the CRA has on hand shows they are not entitled to the alimony deduction claimed. It is a little unclear at this time whether this is just an issue where agreements have been amended to change alimony and the CRA has not been provided the new agreements, or the CRA is factoring in non-deductible child support to reduce the alimony claim. In any event, I think both the CRA and taxpayers would be best served if where an alimony claim is made that differs from the CRA records, the CRA does not issue a NOA, but sends an information request asking the taxpayer to explain the variance and support the claim. This would save a lot of time and frustration on both the taxpayer and CRA side and reduce a number of T1 Adjustment Requests and Notice of Objections.

Information Requests


Finally, just a reminder: if you receive an information request to provide the CRA back-up for any expense or claim you made on your return, you typically have 30 days to respond. Either do so within the 30 day time period, or request an extension far in advance. Do not ignore the information request or your return will be assessed without the deduction or expense.

Hopefully you had a refund in 2017 and have not had to deal with any of the above concerns.

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, May 21, 2018

How the Principal Residence Exemption Works When You Construct a New Home

Several provinces have experienced booming real estate markets the last few years and some people have used the increased equity in their home to buy land and construct their dream home. In some cases, people sell their current home and rent until the new home is ready to occupy, while others continue to own and live in their present home and then sell it before they move into their new home.

In both these situations, people are often surprised at how the Principal Residence Exemption (“PRE”) must be calculated. Today, I will review what the possible tax consequences are under these scenarios.

Construction of a Home on Vacant Land


Where you acquire vacant land for the purpose of constructing a home for you and your family in a future year, the property cannot be designated as your principal residence until you and your family commence to ordinarily inhabit the newly constructed home.

Consequently, if the newly constructed home goes up significantly in value prior to you moving in, those years while the home was under construction may be problematic for purposes of the PRE. I review the details below.

The Principal Residence Exemption

As you may be aware, the PRE is a formulaic calculation that determines the amount of the gain on the sale of your principal residence that is exempt. I set forth the formula below:

The capital gain on the sale of your home multiplied by:

The number of years you have lived in your home & designated the property as your PR, plus 1 divided by the number of years you have owned the property

The one-year bonus is meant to ensure that you are not penalized when you move from one home to another in the same year. Thus, where you live in your home the entire time you owned it, you are typically not subject to tax on the sale of the home (don’t forget, you are now required to report the sale of your principal residence on your personal income tax return as I detailed in this recent blog post titled Reporting the Sale of Your Principal Residence). 

Income Tax Folio S1-F3-C2 Principal Residence


Income tax folio S1-F3-C2 sets forth a great example of how the PRE works where you have constructed a new home. The example (2.29) is as follows:

“In 2002, Mr. A acquired vacant land for $50,000. In 2005, he constructed a housing unit on the land, costing $200,000, and started to ordinarily inhabit the housing unit. In 2011, he disposed of the property for $300,000. Mr. A’s gain otherwise determined on the disposition of the property is equal to his $300,000 proceeds minus his $250,000 adjusted cost base = $50,000 (assume there were no costs of disposition). Mr. A can designate the property as his principal residence for the years 2005 to 2011 inclusive, but not for the years 2002 to 2004 inclusive because no one lived in a housing unit on the property during those years. The principal residence exemption formula cannot, therefore, eliminate his entire $50,000 gain otherwise determined, but rather can eliminate only $40,000 of that gain, as shown in the following:

Applying the formula A × (B ÷ C):

A is $50,000

B is 1 + 7 (being tax years 2005 to 2011)

C is 10 (being tax years 2002 to 2011)

= $50,000 x (8 ÷ 10)

= $40,000”

How the Principal Residence Exemption Works When You Continue to Own Your Current Home While You are Constructing a New Home


So, what the heck happens when you have a home and build a new one? Essentially two things:

1. As noted in the CRA example above, for the years you did not ordinarily inhabit the new home while it was under construction you will at most only be able to protect one year of those years you did not inhabit the home from being taxable when you eventually sell.

2. If your old home had a yearly gain smaller than the yearly gain on the home under construction before you move in, you cannot save (not designate) those years with the larger gain on the newly constructed home.

What this means is the following. Typically, you would suspect the result would be similar to where you owned say a home and a cottage. In those circumstances (since you ordinary inhabit both properties) where you sell your home, if your home went up $5,000 a year in value and your cottage for example went up $25,000 a year, you would likely not designate all the years to your home, since you would want to save as many years as possible of your PRE exemption for when you sell the cottage (since you would be saving $25k a year versus $5k a year) and pay some tax on the sale of your home.

However, where you had a home under construction for say three years that goes up in value $25,000 per year, you will not have the option to not designate all three years on your home sale and you can at best only protect one year, because you did not ordinarily inhabit the home under construction. Yes, I know, clear as mud.

Clearly this is a very fact specific situation, but the income tax result is often an unexpected tax hit. In any case, I strongly suggest you obtain income tax advice if you are in this situation, since it is obviously extremely complex.

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, May 14, 2018

Terminal Income Tax Return Planning – Capital Gains and Losses

Today, I am going to discuss tax planning in respect of capital gains and losses on the final tax return (“terminal return”) of a deceased person. While a slightly morbid topic, many of you likely have been named as an executor in your parents, siblings or friends wills and today's discussion will provide you some basic understanding of one of the more important issues when filing a terminal return.

General Rules


When a person passes away, they are deemed under the Income Tax Act (“Act”), to have disposed of their capital property immediately prior to their death. In English, this means you are taxed as if you sold all your capital property the moment before you died and thus, your estate must recognize any capital gains or losses caused by this phantom disposition. For example, say a person had 100 shares of ABC Co. which they bought at $10 in 2010 and at their date of death, the stock was trading at $18. They would have a deemed capital gain of $800 ($18-10 x 100 shares) even though they never had sold the stock before they passed away.

The most typical examples of capital property are stocks, cottages and rental properties (I have assumed the real estate is capital property and not inventory, which it could be if your business is real estate development).

There is one main exception to the deemed disposition rule. Where you are married or live common law and have left your property to your spouse, there is an automatic spousal rollover such that these assets can be transferred to your surviving spouse with no immediate tax consequences and the deemed disposition can be deferred until the death of the surviving spouse.

The rest of this discussion involves planning where the deceased person has a spouse. If this is not the case in your particular circumstance, you can stop reading unless you want some general knowledge or will be an executor in the future.

Electing Out of The Automatic Spousal Rollover


The Act contains an interesting provision that allows a person’s legal representative to elect out of the automatic spousal rollover noted above. The election which is done on a property-by-property (or share by share) basis is typically undertaken for the following two reasons.

1. To trigger capital gains

2. To trigger capital losses

Triggering Capital Gains


You may wish to trigger a capital gain for the reasons I list below:

1. The deceased person is in a low-income tax bracket and by triggering capital gains, you utilize their marginal tax rates.

2. The deceased person was a small business owner and their shares are eligible for the Qualifying Small Business Corporation tax exemption of $848,252.

3. The deceased person had capital losses or non-capital losses that would be “lost” if you do not trigger additional income (be careful with this one, as per #2 below, the capital losses can be deducted against income in the year of death in certain circumstances, so don't waste them).

4. The deceased person has donation or medical credits that will not be utilized without additional income being generated.

It is important to note, not only is the election beneficial for the reasons listed above, but there is a significant additional benefit. Where you elect to trigger a capital gain, the cost base of the capital property to the surviving spouse is increased to the fair market value of the property elected on. So, for example, if an executor elected out of the automatic spousal rollover on the 100 shares of ABC Co. the adjusted cost base of the shares to the surviving spouse would now be $1,800 (100 shares x $18 market value at death) instead of $1,000

Triggering Capital Losses


Although slightly counter intuitive, a legal representative may wish to trigger a capital loss. There are two reasons for this:

1. Any net capital loss triggered can be carried back against capital gains reported in the prior 3 years.

2. The representative can also choose to apply the capital losses against any other income on the terminal return and the preceding year. This means the capital loss can be applied against not only capital gains, but regular income if the capital losses are greater than any capital gains on the terminal return and prior years return. The one constraint is that if the deceased had claimed their capital gains exemption in prior years, the loss carryback is reduced by the prior capital gains exemption claim and may wipe out the benefit of option #2.

Tax planning for a terminal tax return is very complicated and I have simplified the above for purposes of discussion. If you are an executor for a will, I strongly urge you to seek professional advice to guide and assist you through the various tax implications and options.

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.