On November 21, 2017 Segal GCSE LLP prepared an update on the tax proposals based on a series of news releases provided by the Liberal government. On December 13, 2017 the government finally provided new draft legislation for the dividend / income sprinkling rules. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the new proposed legislation.
These rules will all apply as of January 1, 2018. However, certain rules with regard to share ownership will apply as of December 31, 2018. This means that, in certain situations, there may be ownership planning steps to be undertaken between now and the end of 2018
The general principal is still that any adult family member that is inactive will pay the top rate of tax on split income (TOSI). Split Income includes the following sources:
Fortunately, the government has removed the proposal to apply TOSI to income on income – secondary income. As well, family will no longer include aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews in considering the source of the income.
The TOSI will not be applied to several new circumstances not previously addressed in the old proposals:
One of the key differences to the new proposals is that individuals within specific age ranges are treated differently:
There is a new rule that a shareholder can receive dividend income or incur a taxable capital gain, that would otherwise have been subject to TOSI, and the income or capital gain would be subject graduated tax rates if the shareholder’s spouse is 65 years or older and the shareholder’s spouse was an active shareholder in that corporation.
These rules appear to be aimed at critics who stated that it is unfair that a senior can split income on pensions but can’t receive dividend income from a corporation.
a. Income earned from a “related business” is subject to TOSI. Related business is generally defined to be a company where a related person owns 10% or more. Where the income is from a partnership, a related person need only be a partner. The percentage ownership or allocation of a partnership is not relevant.
b. Income earned from an “excluded business” is NOT subject to TOSI. An excluded business is defined to be a business where the individual taxpayer works on a “regular, continuous and substantial basis in the year” or for five previous years. The Department of Finance has given some guidance that this would mean working an average of 20 hours per week “during the portion of the year in which the business operates”. This means that if the family member works in the business in the year, then TOSI would not apply to dividends in that year. Moreover, if the family member worked in the business for any five previous years (doesn’t have to be consecutively), the family member will never be subject to TOSI on the income paid from that business. How a person would prove they worked 20 hours a week is unclear. For example, if a daughter worked full time in a business from ages 20 to 25 years old, she could receive dividends, for the rest of her life, and not be subject to TOSI.
c. There is a new concept called “safe harbor capital return”. This allows a child in the above age range, to lend funds to the company and earn a rate of return at the prescribed rate (currently 1%) that is not subject to TOSI. There are no rules as to the source of these funds. That is, a father could lend funds to a child (18-24 years old) to make this loan.
d. The last exclusion is what the proposed rules call “a reasonable return” having regard to “arm’s length capital” of the individual. This would allow an individual who has accumulated funds on their own to advance funds to the corporation and earn a reasonable return based on the following:
The funds advanced cannot be from a related party, cannot be borrowed and cannot be from income distributed by a company owned by family members. Though this is meant to be a relieving provision, there are very few circumstances where an 18-24 year-old has accumulated their own funds to lend to their parent’s corporation.
For those family members over 24 years old, the rules related to a “related business” and “excluded business”, noted above in the 18-24 age range, will also apply. That is, if there is income from a related business it is subject to TOSI. If there is income from an excluded business, there will not be TOSI.
For this age group there are two additional exclusions from TOSI:
Excluded shares are a new definition. They have nothing to do with excluded business, but they are part of the definition of excluded amount.
Excluded shares are defined as a corporation that is owned by the taxpayer where the following conditions are met:
If these two tests are met, the next test is whether the individual taxpayer owns 10% or more of the votes and 10% or more of the value of the company.
Lastly, 90% of the income of the corporation must NOT come from other related businesses. There are many issues in this definition.
It appears that the taxpayer must own these shares directly in order to fit into the exclusion. Therefore, to own these shares through a trust would not work. If the excluded share test is not met, TOSI could still be avoided through the excluded business test (discussed above) or reasonable return test (discussed below).
This ownership test (10% of votes and 10% of value) must be met by December 31, 2018 in order to apply for the full 2018 year and onwards. This provides time for taxpayers to change their ownership to give family members, who are older than 24, ownership of 10% of the votes and value. In those situations where a freeze has been done in the past, there could be challenges with transferring 10% of the value on a tax-free basis. Any transactions between parents and children are at fair market value. There are opportunities to transfer frozen shares to a spouse tax free. However, the attribution rules will attribute back any income or gains from the transfer unless the spouse pays fair market value for the shares. This would include an actual cash payment or a note payable with the prescribed interest rate whereby the interest is paid by January 30th after each year. Bottom line, it’s complicated and will only be available in very specific situations.
This is the second test. This test has nothing to do with the first test. That is, a family member can still receive income that is not subject to TOSI if this test is met. This is similar to the test noted above in that the amount paid to the individual that is reasonable having regard to the following factors relating to the relative contributions of the taxpayer.
One big difference from before is that this is no longer an arm’s length analysis. It is an analysis of the relative contribution of the individual. The problem is how does one determine an appropriate amount. It is all subjective (again). The government has added in “other factors” to be considered. At first blush, one would think that this allows taxpayers some leeway with regard to justifying contributions. However, this could be of advantage to CRA when they make their determination of a reasonable amount. That is, they could consider other factors that support their claim that the amount being paid is not reasonable.
Capital gains on the sale of shares or fishing properties that qualify for the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) are not subject to TOSI. It is not dependent on claiming the LCGE, only that the LCGE could be claimed. In brief terms, the LCGE is available for shares of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (CCPC) where 90% of the corporate assets are active Canadian business assets at the determination time and 50% of the assets were active Canadian business assets in the preceding 24 months before the determination time.
Where there are gains on shares that don’t qualify for the LCGE, the tax treatment depends on whether the vendor is over 17 years old or under 18 years old. Where the vendor, directly, or through a trust, is over 18 years old, the gain is subject to TOSI and taxed at the top rates. Where the vendor is under 18 years old, the gain is treated as dividend and subject to TOSI at the top rate. The dividend is 100% of the gain and not 50%.
Clearly, it becomes very important to ensure that shares in a CCPC qualify for the LCGE. This means ensuring that non business assets do not accumulate in the company.
In summary, the government has attempted to give a few more situations where TOSI won’t apply. Specifically, to seniors and family members who have worked in the business for a period of time. However, there are still very few situations where a family member would fit into one of the exclusions. The rules are still very complicated and open to subjective determinations. Determining a “reasonable return” will likely take many court cases until there is clearer guidance to both tax practitioners and taxpayers. This is the beginning of the process.
It is important that you speak to your Segal GCSE LLP advisor to determine how these rules affect you and if there are any planning opportunities or changes required in 2018.