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. 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, June 27, 2016

What Small Business Owners Need to Know - Section 85 Rollovers

Section 85 of the Income Tax Act ("Act") provides for the transfer of certain assets with inherent tax liabilities to a corporation on a tax-deferred basis. Thus, accountants often utilize this section of the Act, to meet many of the objectives small business owners have.

Section 85 is most commonly used as follows:

1. Incorporation of a business – A sole proprietor has decided that their business is growing and ready for the next stage (incorporation). They can transfer all of their business assets to the new corporation under section 85.

2. Sale of a proprietorship – Section 85 helps sole proprietors looking to sell their business utilize the capital gains exemption by providing under certain circumstances for the transfer of their assets to a new corporation in exchange for shares; and those new shares are sold shortly thereafter. The typical 24-month holding period requirement for the use of the capital gains exemption will typically not apply in this situation (this is technical and your accountant should be consulted to ensure all criteria are met).

3. Crystallization of capital gains – A small business owner can make use of the capital gains exemption by using section 85 to transfer their current shares back to their corporation in exchange for new shares redeemable at a higher value – usually up to the maximum capital gains exemption available. For 2016, the exemption is $824,117 which is indexed annually. See this this blog post on the complexities of accessing the capital gains exemption.

4. Estate planning and income-splitting – Section 85 can help transfer an individual’s business to a future generation and allow the growth of the business to accrue to the new generation also allowing for dividend sprinkling. However the attribution rules and “kiddie tax” should also be considered when dealing with minor children.

5. Asset Protection – Section 85 allows small business owners to transfer assets usually land and building used in their active business out of their operating company to a holding company on a tax-deferred basis.

Some Technical Details

Section 85 is a valuable tool for corporate transfers because of the flexibility provided by a tax attribute known as the elected amount (“EA”). The parties involved in the transaction (typically the small business owner personally and corporation they own) can choose within limits, what the EA is and that becomes the deemed proceeds of disposition of the selected assets. Thus, in most transactions the parties elect the EA to be the adjusted cost base of the asset being transferred and thus, there is no gain, since the EA is the same as the cost. For example: if you have an asset with a cost base of $100 and a fair market value of $100,000, you could elect at $100 to avoid any adverse tax consequences.

If you elect a higher EA than the adjusted cost base, a capital gain will result. In cases where a small business owner wants to “crystalize” their capital gains exemption, they will often elect to trigger a gain equal to their capital gains exemption to bump-up their cost base of their shares and thus the small business owner pays no tax as their capital gains exemption eliminates the capital gain, however, alternative minimum tax may sometimes apply.

In order for subsection 85(1) to apply, both the taxpayer and the corporation must jointly elect in prescribed form T2057 – Election on disposition of property by a taxpayer to a taxable Canadian Corporation. There are various administrative matters that need to be considered when filing this election.

Section 85 is probably one of the most powerful and most utilized tax planning tools for tax practitioners. Therefore careful planning should be undertaken. When planning to utilize section 85 rollover, the below factors should be considered or adverse tax consequences could apply!

1. What types of property can be transferred? Attention needs to be taken when determining what types of property to transfer under section 85. The most commonly mistaken property that cannot be transferred is real property held as inventory i.e. land and building (Note: most people hold their real estate as capital property and not inventory). However other planning can be achieved to rollover real property held as inventory to a corporation on a tax deferred basis.

2. Should you transfer accounts receivable under section 85(1)? Other provisions of the Act should be considered to allow for the most tax efficient rollover of A/R.

3. What type of property can be received for transferring assets to the corporation? Can you receive cash or a promissory note in return without triggering punitive income tax consequences?

4. Do you have to receive shares in return for the assets being transferred? Can you receive a fraction of a share?

5. What type of corporation can you transfer the assets to on a tax deferred basis? Can it be a non-resident corporation or non-resident individual?

6. Determining the amount to elect if intellectual property is being transferred (i.e. goodwill)?

Once the assets are transferred to the corporation, there is no mirror provision available to roll them back out. It is generally advisable to include a price adjustment clause in case CRA does not agree with the estimated FMV of the property transferred (it is recommended that a valuation be undertaken to support the fair market value). The CRA recently published an Income Tax Folio: S4-F3-C1 – Price Adjustment Clauses that deal with the various types of situation in which a price adjustment should be included.

Other items to remember include GST/HST. Usually this tax will apply to the transfer price or the FMV of the assets. However an election can often be made which would allow the transfer of the assets to be exempt from GST/HST if certain conditions are met.

Section 85 is a very powerful provision of the Act and must be used with care. All of the above questions should be considered prior to commencing a rollover. There are other issues not mentioned above due to complexity. Always consult a tax specialist when dealing with rollovers.

[Thanks to Lorenzo Bonanno of BDO Canada LLP, for his assistance with this blog post]

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

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  1. Can I rollover a property from one Corp to an affiliated corp without triggering land transfer tax?

    1. Hi Anon

      I am not a real estate lawyer, so you would have to ask one. There is a love an affection exemption in most provinces for related party transactions, but you would need to ask your lawyer if it would apply to a rollover in your province.