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 BDO. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humour/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Tax-Loss Selling - 2018 Version

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

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

For full disclosure, the following two comments are the only new items to consider that are different from last year's version.

1. The stock markets in 2018 have been much weaker than the last few years and you may unfortunately have "more opportunity" to sell stocks with unrealized losses to reduce your current year capital gains or carryback the losses to any of the last 3 years to recoup some of the tax you paid on gains you previously realized.

2. If you intend to tax-loss sell in your corporation, keep in mind the new passive income rules are applicable for taxation years beginning after 2018 and you should speak to your accountant to determine whether a realized loss would be more effective in a future year (to reduce the potential small business deduction clawback) than the current year.

Many people persist in waiting until the third week of December to trigger their capital losses to use against their current or prior years capital gains. To avoid this predicament, you may wish to set aside some time this weekend or next, to review your 2018 capital gain/loss situation in a calm methodical manner. You can then execute your trades on a timely basis knowing you have considered all the variables associated with your tax gain/loss selling.

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

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

Reporting Capital Gains and Capital Losses – The Basics


All capital gain and capital loss transactions for 2018 will have to be reported on Schedule 3 of your 2018 personal income tax return. You then subtract the total capital gains from the total capital losses and multiply the net capital gain/loss by ½. That amount becomes your taxable capital gain or net capital loss for the year. If you have a taxable capital gain, the amount is carried forward to the tax return jacket on Line 127. For example, if you have a capital gain of $120 and a capital loss of $30 in the year, ½ of the net amount of $90 would be taxable and $45 would be carried forward to Line 127. The taxable capital gains are then subject to income tax at your marginal income tax rate.

Capital Losses


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

Planning Preparation


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

1. Retrieve your 2017 Notice of Assessment. In the verbiage discussing changes and other information, if you have a capital loss carryforward, the balance will reported. This information is also easily accessed online if you have registered with the CRA My Account Program.

2. If you do not have capital losses to carryforward, retrieve your 2015, 2016 and 2017 income tax returns to determine if you have taxable capital gains upon which you can carryback a current year capital loss. On an Excel spreadsheet or multi-column paper, note any taxable capital gains you reported in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

3. For each of 2015-2017, review your returns to determine if you applied a net capital loss from a prior year on line 253 of your tax return. If yes, reduce the taxable capital gain on your excel spreadsheet by the loss applied.

4. Finally, if you had net capital losses in 2016 or 2017, review whether you carried back those losses to 2015 or 2016 on form T1A of your tax return. If you carried back a loss to either 2015 or 2016, reduce the gain on your spreadsheet by the loss carried back.

5. If after adjusting your taxable gains by the net capital losses under steps #3 and #4 you still have a positive balance remaining for any of the years from 2015 to 2017, you can potentially generate an income tax refund by carrying back a net capital loss from 2018 to any or all of 2015, 2016 or 2017.

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

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

Basic Use of Losses


For discussion purposes, let’s assume the following:

· 2018: total realized capital loss of $30,000

· 2017: taxable capital gain of $15,000

· 2016: taxable capital gain of $5,000

· 2015: taxable capital gain of $7,000

Based on the above, you will be able to carry back your $15,000 net capital loss ($30,000 x ½) from 2018 against the $7,000 and $5,000 taxable capital gains in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and apply the remaining $3,000 against your 2017 taxable capital gain. As you will not have absorbed $12,000 ($15,000 of original gain less the $3,000 net capital loss carry back) of your 2017 taxable capital gains, you may want to consider whether you want to sell any other stocks with unrealized losses in your portfolio so that you can carry back the additional 2018 net capital loss to offset the remaining $12,000 taxable capital gain realized in 2017. Alternatively, if you have capital gains in 2018, you may want to sell stocks with unrealized losses to fully or partially offset those capital gains.

Identical Shares


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

Creating Gains when you have Unutilized Losses


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

Purchasing a flow-through limited partnership will provide you with a write off against regular income pretty much equal to the cost of the unit; and any future capital gain can be reduced or eliminated by your capital loss carryforward. For example, if you have a net capital loss carry forward of $75,000 and you purchase a flow-through investment in 2018 for $20,000, you would get approximately $20,000 in cumulative tax deductions in 2018 and 2019, the majority typically coming in the year of purchase. Depending upon your marginal income tax rate, the deductions could save you upwards of $10,700 in taxes. When you sell the unit, a capital gain will arise. This is because the $20,000 income tax deduction reduces your adjusted cost base from $20,000 to nil (there may be other adjustments to the cost base). Assuming you sell the unit in 2020 for $18,000 you will have a capital gain of $18,000 (subject to any other adjustments) and the entire $18,000 gain will be eliminated by your capital loss carry forward. Thus, in this example, you would have total after-tax proceeds of $28,700 ($18,000 +$10,700 in tax savings) on a $20,000 investment.

Donation of Marketable Securities


If you wish to make a charitable donation, a great way to be altruistic and save tax is to donate a marketable security that has gone up in value. As discussed in this blog post from two weeks ago, when you donate qualifying securities, the capital gain is not taxable. Read the blog post for more details.

Donation of Flow-Through Shares


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

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

Superficial Losses


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

Disappearing Dividend Income


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

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


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

Settlement Date


It is my understanding that the settlement date for Canadian stock markets in 2018 will be December 27th, as the settlement date is now the trade date plus 2 days (U.S. exchanges may be different). Please confirm this date with your investment advisor, but assuming this date is correct, you must sell any stock you want to crystallize the gain or loss in 2018 by December 27, 2018.

Summary


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

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

Monday, November 12, 2018

Advice for Entrepreneurs - A Case Study of a Failed Restaurant

Just over a year ago, my wife handed me our monthly copy of Toronto Life Magazine. She suggested I read a story “on a guy who started a restaurant”. The article's headline had the intriguing header of, “A Restaurant Ruined My Life”.

The story is a first-hand account by Robert Maxwell of the trials and tribulations of a would-be restaurateur. The piece goes through how he quit his job, bought a restaurant, struggled, had a little success, had personal issues and eventually lost the restaurant. The quick synopsis above does not do the story justice. The actual details make for a fascinating read on many levels. I suggest you consider reading this article. Here is the link.

What I want to do today is compare Robert’s experience to a blog post I wrote way back in 2011, titled, Advice for Entrepreneurs that had 12 pieces of advice. Not all are applicable, and a restaurant can be a whole other beast, but let’s see how my advice stands up; and consider if Robert had read my blog, would he have been better off? My original comments are in black and my comments related to the article are in red.

Personal Relationships


In the blog, I stated that “the most important issue facing any entrepreneur involved in a relationship or married, is their significant other. Starting a business requires a significant time commitment and comes with a large element of risk. If your significant other is not willing to support you both financially and spiritually, either your business or marriage/relationship is doomed”.

In the article Robert recounts that his wife Nancy eventually embraced his dream of opening his own restaurant. As a neutral observer I would suggest that Robert provided Nancy a romantic notion of what owning a restaurant would be like (they would have breakfast at the competition, work together at lunch and Robert would be home in time to tuck in the kids) and thus she embraced a somewhat fanciful notion.

Be Honest With Yourself


In the original blog post I stated that “you must ask yourself before you commence any business is; are you an entrepreneur by choice or circumstance?”

I would suggest that the restaurant was Robert’s dream and that the circumstance of a buy-out from his employer allowed him to start the restaurant, it was clearly a choice he wanted to make. So, he gets a check-mark here.


"Business Plans and Cash Flow Statements


In the blog I stated “my first suggestion is to walk before you run. Make sure you start slowly and have everything you require in place. To ensure you have everything in place, you need a business plan and cash flow statement”.
In my opinion, this is the genesis of Robert’s failure and largest error in starting his business. He did start walking by first operating a booth at food market that allowed him to test his food and ability. He also knew that 80% of restaurants failed.

However, Robert’s critical first error which he could never really recover from was he did not put together a business plan and most importantly a cash flow statement. For a restaurant, the cash flow statement is almost impossible from a revenue side, as you never know how quickly or if the restaurant will catch on; nevertheless, a cash flow statement allows you to understand what your initial cost will be and how long you can operate under various revenue scenarios.

In the article he states he had $60,000 and had already run out of money before the restaurant opened and needed an additional $20,000, he was lucky to get from a friend. But from that point he was always on a shoestring budget and tight. The lack of planning also contributed to him leasing a location that was in terrible condition and not necessarily the best location.


Partners and Employees – Know Your Abilities


Another point I made in the blog was that “most people are either sales oriented or business oriented. If you are strong in both aspects, you have the best of both worlds. Whether you start with a partner or hire an employee later, know your strength. If you are a sales person hire a good bookkeeper or accountant to help you. If you are the business person, hire a good marketing person or get advice on how to market your product or service”.

In reading this article, I felt Robert was in a sort of no-man’s land regarding to his abilities. He was an excellent chef, but still needed to hire one, was weak in financial planning (even though he had an analyst background) nor was he a marketer. There is nothing wrong with this no-man’s land, but Robert needed to account for his lack of expertise in his budgeting and cash flow.


Financing


In respect of financing, I said the following back in 2011, “where possible, you should try to start your business after you have worked a few years and built some capital. Many young entrepreneurs access family money, either as loans or as equity. However, since many start-up businesses fail, you should ensure that if you borrow or capitalize your business with money from your parents, you do not put their retirement plans in jeopardy. Where possible, have a line of credit or capital cushion arranged in advance”.

As noted in the article, financing is almost non-existent for a new restaurant. Thus, Robert needed to build greater capital before starting the restaurant. His financing was weak.


Marketing


Marketing is vital for many businesses. The marketing for a restaurant is a little different than the average business, thus my comments were not entirely applicable in the November 2011, post.

That being said, the restaurant had a soft launch and was advertised and eventually got a couple reviews from newspapers that spurred business. It is not clear if Robert pursued these restaurant reviews and if he used social media to publicize the restaurant.


Don’t Discount Your Services or Product


In the original blog I stated,“one of the biggest mistakes I have seen entrepreneurs make is discounting their services or products to get business”.

In the article Robert says “What I didn’t realize was that I was charging too little - we were producing exquisite, labour-intensive meals and selling them at Swiss Chalet prices. I clearly didn’t have a head for business.” Not much more to be said.


Keep Your Books Yourself


In the original post I said “This is a bit of an unusual suggestion, but if possible, you should initially keep your own books and learn about accounting. You may require a bookkeeper to assist you, but you will always be a better decision maker if you understand your own books. You do not want to be dependent on your bookkeeper”.

There is not enough information to comment on this. But Robert did not spend enough time to learn about the basics of owning a business such as he would need to incorporate for creditor protection and that he was liable for HST and payroll taxes as the owner.

Give it Time to Grow


In my post I said “Most businesses require three to five years to begin to mature and solidify. Thus, you will need patience and an understanding that you will not be “raking in the cash” for several years.”

For a restaurant this is not relevant, since so many close within a year or two. They are typically hit or miss, most often a miss.


Your Psyche


Finally, my last comment on the blog post in 2011 was “Many entrepreneurs at some point in their business lives have been perilously close to bankruptcy or have actually had a business go bankrupt. While not always the case, entrepreneurs seem to have nerves or steel or at least give that impression. You may be able to be successful without those steely nerves, but they would be an attribute if you start a business, so you can face down the many challenges that will confront your business.”


I don’t know if Robert has nerves of steel or not, he certainly went through a lot. However, as he notes, his nerves were artificially re-enforced with sleeping pills and alcohol, not the ideal way to combat the stress.


Summary


In my post I concluded with the following “It has been my experience that when entrepreneurs reflect upon their businesses, they almost all say that if they knew about the physical toll, long hours and financial stress they would endure, they would not have started their business.”

Robert notes at the end of his article that he is sharing his story as a cautionary tale to other amateurs who have big ideas and dreams and his advice is don’t even think about it. While I am fully in on the caution, especially for the restaurant and bar business, if you are considering starting a business and go through the list of considerations above, I think you may qualify or disqualify yourself if you are honest with yourself.


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, November 5, 2018

Donating Marketable Securities – Altruism and Tax Savings Rolled into One!

As the year winds down, many people consider making charitable donations for income tax purposes or because the holiday season is approaching and they feel altruistic. Whatever the reason, I applaud them; although based on this Globe & Mail article, Canadians as whole are not donating as generously as our American friends.


With the strong markets of the last few years, many people have large unrealized capital gains in their portfolios and may be considering locking in some of those gains given the recent turbulent markets.

A great way to benefit both a charity and your own tax situation is to make a donation of qualifying marketable securities that have increased in value. By doing such, you enrich a charity, obtain a personal charitable donation credit and you do not have to pay any capital gains tax on the donation of the marketable security.

The above is best reflected by an example:

Assume that you purchased 100 shares of ABC Corp. for $10 and the stock price is now $20. The shares are qualifying public marketable securities.

Assume you wish to make a $2,000 donation this year to your favourite charity.

Assume you are a high-rate taxpayer.

Please note the initial posting contained a calculation error that has been corrected.

Donation with Personal Cash


If you make your donation with $2,000 of personal funds you have in your bank account, the charity will receive $2,000 and you will receive a charitable credit. That credit is worth approximately $1,000 on your 2018 tax return. Thus, you are out of pocket approximately $1,000.

Donation with Sale of Stock


If you sell your shares of ABC Corp. to fund the donation, the proceeds from the sale of stock will be $2,000. However, you must account for the taxman and you will owe approximately $250 in tax (again assuming you are a higher rate taxpayer) on the capital gain and thus, the maximum donation you can make is $1,750 (unless you top it up with $250 of personal cash) and the tax savings on your 2018 tax return in relation to the donation credit will be approximately $875. Thus, net-net, you are out of pocket $1,125 and only made a $1,750 donation as opposed to the $2,000 donation you wanted to contribute.

Donation of Stock


Alternatively, if you donate your shares of ABC Corp. directly to a charity (instead of first selling the shares), the charity receives a $2,000 donation (the charity can then sell or hold the shares), you receive a $2,000 charitable donation receipt and receive a tax credit worth approximately $1,000 on your 2018 tax return. Thus, as with the donation of personal cash, the charity received $2,000 and you are only out of pocket approximately $1,000.

However, you will not have to pay the $250 in capital gains tax that you would on a typical public market sale, since the Income Tax Act exempts the gain from capital gains tax when qualifying shares are donated directly to a charity. If you are feeling really altruistic, you can then donate the $250 tax savings from your personal cash.

Qualifying Securities


To make the donation the investment must be a publicly traded security. The most common publicly traded securities are shares, debt obligations, and mutual funds that are listed on designated stock exchanges.

Practicalities


You should first confirm with the charitable organization that they accept donations of marketable securities and try to give yourself some time for the transfer and paperwork to occur. You should try to do this by early December at the latest. Each organization has their own paperwork and rules, but in the end, many can arrange electronic transfers.

Corporations


Corporations can also donate shares and eliminate their capital gains tax. In addition, the gain can often be added to the tax-free capital dividend account (see this blog post on capital dividends).

Since corporations can be taxed in various manners depending upon the type of income and their corporate status, you need to run the numbers with your accountant to understand the specific benefit to your corporation, but in some cases the savings are even better than for an individual.

If you have marketable securities with unrealized capital gains and wish to make a donation, I would suggest donating the securities to a charitable organization is the most tax efficient way to make the donation while achieving your altruistic objectives.

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.