We Finally Grew Into Our Dream Space

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2005 Sheppard East treated us well for 17 years. But it was never meant to be a forever address. We wanted to be conveniently central for clients and staff and no more than 20 minutes from Bay Street. We wanted an open-concept space to suit the modern working world. And we wanted a brighter, more collaborative environment.

So the goal was to grow big enough to warrant looking for an office like that and pulling the trigger on it. Well, we did. And then we did.

In August, we’ll be moving to the corner of Yonge and York Mills. We’ll be 90 seconds from the 401 and 17 minutes by subway from King and Bay. We’ll be surrounded by green space and close to great lunch options onsite and at Yonge and Lawrence, Yonge and Sheppard and Yonge and Eglinton. We’ll have underground guest parking, GO/TTC bus and subway access, and beautiful natural light in the office. You’ll love being here and we’ll love having you, just like we always dreamed.

Growing the Segal Team

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Giles Osborne CPA, CA joins the Segal team as a Principal with a focus on information technology.

Giles is a financial and tax advisor to private corporations and not-for-profits, with a concentration on clients in Toronto’s tech and start-up space. He has been involved in all stages of his clients’ development, from start-up through funding rounds and growth to business sale.

Drawing on 4 years’ consulting experience with Deloitte and 8 years as the Director of Professional Services, Americas, for Systems Union/Infor, a mid-market accounting vendor, Giles is also involved in the firm’s IT initiatives, including systems selection, implementation and integrative advisory services.

Giles received his accounting education at the University of Ottawa, and his CA designation from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario in 1994. He is a member of the Canadian Tax Foundation and has completed the Canadian Securities Course. His community and social involvement includes roles as Treasurer of Bellwoods Centres for Community Living and Vice-Commodore Finance of Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club.

We are very excited to welcome Giles and his unique IT, accounting and tax background to the firm.

Foreign Corporations in Canada: Permanent Establishment and Taxes

By Howard Wasserman, Principal—Taxation at Segal LLP 

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Any non-resident that has sales in Canada is taxable in Canada on the profit on those sales.

A number of treaties state that a non-resident corporation is only taxable in Canada if the non-resident corporation has a permanent establishment in Canada: a fixed place of business through which the business of a resident of one country is carried on.

In the Canada-US tax treaty, a permanent establishment is defined to be a place of management, a branch, an office, a factory or a workshop. Building sites or installation projects are also considered permanent establishments if they last more than 12 months. So too are people in Canada habitually exercising the authority to conclude contracts in the name of the non-resident.

And what’s not a permanent establishment?

1. The use of facilities for storage display or delivery of goods.
2. The maintenance of a stock of goods.
3. The purchase of goods or merchandise or the collection of information.
4. Advertising.
5. The use of a broker commission agent or any other independent agent.

Tax implications of permanent establishments

Once a permanent establishment has been created, the non-resident is taxable only on the profits earned in Canada, not the revenues. This can be calculated using foreign expenses that relate to the activity in Canada. For example, a non-resident corporation could allocate some management or administration costs if they can be clearly tied to the activities in Canada.

Additionally, the non-resident corporation must meet Canadian filing requirements even if no taxes are payable. More specifically, the foreign corporation should file schedule 91 and schedule 97 that would be attached to the jacket of a T2 corporate tax return. In this filing, the non-resident corporation is stating that the corporation earns Canadian revenue but is not taxable in Canada because there is no permanent establishment.

Tax implications of doing business in Canada in general

All payments to the non-resident corporation doing business in Canada are subject to 15% withholding tax on the work done in Canada. If it has been determined that the non-resident corporation is not taxable in Canada, then the non-resident corporation can file the treaty-based tax return and request a refund of the withholding taxes.

There is an opportunity to request a waiver for the 15% withholding tax on work done in Canada before the work commences. In order to get a waiver, a submission must be made to CRA, which often includes the contract related to the work being done in Canada. This gives CRA an opportunity to examine the situation to determine if the foreign corporation is taxable in Canada.

If the non-resident corporation receives a waiver, the corporation can give this waiver to its customers to ensure the no withholding tax is payable. Even if a waiver is received, the non-resident corporation must still file a treaty-based Canadian income tax return because of the Canadian revenues earned.

There are a number of issues to be dealt with on carrying on business in Canada, but the first one is always the determination of whether the company owes Canadian corporate income taxes. For help or advice, you can contact me directly.

Tax Relief for the Cost of Driving

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It’s something of an article of faith among Canadians that, as temperatures rise in the spring, gas prices rise along with them. In mid-May, Statistics Canada released its monthly Consumer Price Index, which showed that gasoline prices were up by 14.2%. As of the third week of May, the per-litre cost of gas across the country ranged from 125.2 cents per litre in Manitoba to 148.5 cents per litre in British Columbia. On May 23, the average price across Canada was 135.2 cents per litre, an increase of more than 25 cents per litre from last year’s average on that date.

Unfortunately, for most taxpayers, there’s no relief provided by our tax system to help alleviate the cost of driving as the cost of driving to and from work and back home. That said, there are some (fairly narrow) circumstances in which employees can claim a deduction for the cost of work-related travel.

Those circumstances exist where an employee is required, as part of his or her terms of employment, to use a personal vehicle for work-related travel. For instance, an employee might be required to see clients at their premises for meetings or other work-related activities and be expected to use his or her own vehicle to get there. If the employer is prepared to certify on a Form T2200 that the employee was ordinarily required to work away from his employer’s place of business or in different places, that he or she is required to pay his or her own motor vehicle expenses and that no tax-free allowance was provided, the employee can deduct actual expenses incurred for such work-related travel. Those deductible expenses include:

  • fuel (gasoline, propane, oil);
  • maintenance and repairs;
  • insurance;
  • license and registration fees;
  • interest paid on a loan to purchase the vehicle;
  • eligible leasing costs for the vehicle; and
  • depreciation, in the form of capital cost allowance.

In almost all instances, a taxpayer will use the same vehicle for both personal and work-related driving. Where that’s the case, only the portion of expenses incurred for work-related driving can be deducted and the employee must keep a record of both the total kilometres driven and the kilometres driven for work-related purposes. As well, receipts must be kept to document all expenses incurred and claimed.

While no limits (other than the general limit of reasonableness) are placed on the amount of costs that can be deducted in the first four categories listed above, limits and restrictions do exist with respect to allowable deductions for interest, eligible leasing costs and depreciation claims. The rules governing those claims and the tax treatment of employee automobile allowances and available deductions for employment-related automobile use generally are outlined on the Canada Revenue Agency website.

No amount of tax relief is going to make driving, especially for a lengthy daily commute, an inexpensive proposition. But seeking out and claiming every possible deduction and credit available under our tax rules can at least help to minimize the pain.

Deciphering the Notice of Assessment

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By the middle of May 2018, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had processed just over 26 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2017 tax year. Just over 14 million of those returns resulted in a refund to the taxpayer, 5.5 million required additional payment and about 4.4 million returns were “nil returns” where no tax was owing and no refunds were claimed, but the return was used to provide income information to determine eligibility for tax credit payments (like the federal Canada Child Benefit or the HST credit).

No matter what the outcome of the filing, all returns filed with and processed by the CRA have one thing in common: they result in the issuance of a Notice of Assessment (NOA) by the Agency, outlining income, deductions, credits and tax payable for the 2017 tax year, whether you will be receiving a refund or you have a balance owing. The amount of any refund or tax payable will appear in a box at the bottom of page 1, under the heading “Account Summary.”

On page 2 of the NOA, the CRA lists the most important figures resulting from their assessment, including your total income, net income, taxable income, total federal and provincial non-refundable tax credits, total income tax payable, total income tax withheld at source and the amount of any refund or balance owing. Page 2 also includes an explanation of any changes made by the CRA to your return during the assessment process and provides information on unused credits (like tuition and education credits) that you earned and can claim in future years.

On page 3 of the NOA, you will find information on your total RRSP contribution room (i.e., maximum allowable RRSP contribution) for 2018.

Finally, page 4 provides information on how to contact the CRA with questions about the information provided on the NOA, on how to change the return filed and on how to dispute the CRA’s assessment of the individual’s tax liability.

In a minority of cases, the information presented in the NOA will differ from what you provided on your return. Where that difference means an unanticipated refund, or a refund larger than the one expected, it’s a good day! If the NOA will swing the other way, that’s less good.

When that happens, you must figure out why, and to decide whether or not to dispute the CRA’s conclusions. In that case, your best bet is to consult a tax or accounting professional at Segal LLP.

2018 Federal Budget

On February 27, 2018, the Federal Government released the 2018 budget.

This budget has been long awaited in light of the controversy caused by the July 2017 private company tax proposals released by Finance Minster Bill Morneau.

The significant uncertainty hanging over Canadian business owners was the government’s proposals on passive income investments held by corporations. This budget has clarified the government’s position, which represents a retreat from the severity of the original proposals.

Segal LLP 2018 Federal Budget Commentary.PDF

2017-18 Economic and Fiscal Update

Economic-and-Fiscal

The fiscal cycle of the federal government follows a predictable annual path. Each spring, the Minister of Finance brings down a budget outlining the government’s revenues and expenditures and its surplus or deficit projections for the fiscal year which runs from April 1 to March 31. That budget also includes the announcement of any changes to the tax system which the government wishes to implement.

In the fall, the Minister of Finance announces the Economic and Fiscal Update which, as the name implies, provides an update of the government’s finances approximately halfway through the current fiscal year. Sometimes, as was the case this year, the Update includes announcements of additional tax changes.

The 2017-18 Economic and Fiscal Update brought down by the Minister of Finance on October 24, 2017 included a better than expected deficit picture for upcoming fiscal years. That improved fiscal picture allowed the Minister to announce a number of relieving tax measures. While the measures are few, they will affect a great number of corporations and individuals, whether through lower tax rates or increased taxpayer benefits. Those changes are as follows.

Effective as of January 1, 2018, the small business tax rate will be reduced to 10%. A year later, on January 1, 2019, that rate will be reduced again, to 9%.

Lower and middle income Canadian families are eligible to receive the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) — a non-taxable monthly benefit paid by the federal government. The amount of CCB received depends on the size of the family and the family’s net income. While there has been no change to benefit amounts, the Minister indicated that previously announced plans to provide annual cost-of-living changes to those benefits would be brought forward and implemented effective July 1, 2018. As of that date, the amount of benefits payable and the income thresholds which determine eligibility will both be indexed to inflation.

The full 2016-17 Economic and Fiscal Update can be found on the Finance Canada website at www.budget.gc.ca/fes-eea/2017/docs/statement-enonce/toc-tdm-en.html.

The information presented is only of a general nature, may omit many details and special rules, is current only as of its published date, and accordingly cannot be regarded as legal or tax advice. Please contact your Segal advisor for more information on these topics how it pertains to your specific tax or financial situation.

RRSP and TFSA rules for 2018

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One of the perennial New Year’s resolutions made by many individuals is a commitment to keep on a budget, spend less, save more, deal with any outstanding debt and, generally, to better manage their financial affairs. The start of the new calendar year is also the start of a new tax year and with that, a fresh opportunity to contribute to one’s registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) and tax-free savings account (TFSA). What follows is an outline of the contribution limits and deadlines for both types of plans which will apply for the 2018 tax and calendar year.

RRSPs are, top of mind for most taxpayers at this time of year; making an RRSP contribution is the last opportunity most taxpayers will have to make a difference to their tax payable for the 2017 tax year. This year, any RRSP contribution which will be claimed on the 2017 tax return filed later this spring must be made on or before Thursday March 1, 2018.

While the contribution deadline is the same for everyone, the maximum allowable contribution amount is not. For every taxpayer, the calculation of how much can be contributed for 2017 starts with looking up one’s income for the 2016 tax year. The maximum current year contribution for 2017 is 18% of that 2016 income figure, to a specified maximum. So, a taxpayer who earned $50,000 in 2016 has a current year contribution limit for 2017 of $9,000 ($50,000 × 18%).  In any event, current year RRSP contributions for 2017 are subject to an overall limit of $26,010, regardless of how much the taxpayer earned in 2016.

Good intentions notwithstanding, very few Canadian taxpayers make their maximum allowable RRSP contribution each year. However, where the maximum contribution isn’t made in a year, any “shortfall” is carried forward and can be contributed in any future year. Calculating the amount of any carryforward, plus any current year allowable contribution amount can become complex, and fortunately the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) keeps track of that number for each Canadian taxpayer. That calculation, which shows the total maximum contribution which can be made by the taxpayer for 2017, can be found on page 3 of the Notice of Assessment for the taxpayer’s 2016 return.

When it comes to making a contribution to one’s TFSA, the good news is the timelines and deadlines are much more flexible than those which govern RRSP contributions. A contribution to one’s TFSA can be made at any time of the year, and contributions not made during the current year can be carried forward and made in any subsequent year.

However, determining one’s total TFSA contribution room is significantly more complex than figuring out one’s allowable RRSP contribution amount, for two reasons. First, the maximum TFSA amount has changed several times (increasing and decreasing) since the program was introduced in 2009. Second, and more important, individuals who withdraw funds from a TFSA can re-contribute those funds, but not until the year following the one in which the withdrawal is made. Especially where a taxpayer has several TFSA accounts, and/or a history of making contributions, withdrawals, and re-contributions, it can be difficult to determine just where that taxpayer stands with respect to his or her maximum allowable TFSA contribution for 2017.

2018 Limits and Deadlines for RRSP and TFSA

RRSP deduction limit increases

The maximum RRSP contribution limit for the 2017 tax year is $26,010. To make the maximum current year contribution for 2017, it will be necessary to have had earned income for the 2016 taxation year of $144,500. Deadline for 2017 contributions is Thursday March 1,2018

The RRSP contribution limit for the 2018 tax year is $26,230. To make the maximum current year contribution for 2018, it will be necessary to have earned income for the 2017 taxation year of $145,725.

TFSA contribution limit unchanged

The TFSA contribution room limit for 2018 is unchanged at $5,500. The actual amount which can be contributed by an individual includes both the current year limit and any carryover of re-contribution amounts from previous taxation years.

Keeping track of TFSA contribution room can be complicated, especially where taxpayers have made withdrawals from their TFSA plans.

Taxpayers can obtain RRSP and TFSA information online, through the CRA’s My Account service or by calling their Segal advisor.

Pension Income Splitting — Getting Something for Nothing

pension

Any taxpayer hearing of a tax planning opportunity that offered the possibility of saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars in tax while at the same time increasing his or her eligibility for government benefits, while requiring no advance planning, no expenditure of funds or substantial investment of time could be forgiven for thinking that what was being proposed was an illegal tax scam. In fact, that description applies to pension income splitting which, far from being a tax scam, is a government-sanctioned strategy to allow married taxpayers over the age of 65 (or, in some cases, age 60) to minimize their combined tax bill by dividing their private pension income in a way which creates the best possible tax result.

Many Canadians, even those who can benefit from pension income splitting, have never heard of it. In large part, that’s because the strategy gets very little coverage in the media. While Canadians are inundated during the first two months of the year with advertisements extolling the virtues of making contributions to registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) or tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs), pension income splitting is never mentioned. The reason for that is that it is one of the very few tax planning strategies in which only the taxpayer gains a financial benefit.

The information provided with the annual tax return form issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) also doesn’t highlight the benefits of pension income splitting, and the form needed to carry out a pension income splitting strategy isn’t included in the General Income Tax Return package — it must be ordered from the CRA or downloaded from the Agency’s website. The Income Tax and Benefit Guide issued by the CRA for 2017 returns does flag the pension income splitting option, in the same manner as all other tax tips on deductions and credits which may be claimed.  However, the material on income splitting included in the Guide addresses only the mechanics of filing — which number goes where — with no significant explanation of the tax-saving benefits which can be obtained. Consequently, unless eligible taxpayers are getting good tax planning or tax return preparation advice, it’s likely that they could overlook a significant opportunity to reduce their overall tax burden.

Dividing income between spouses makes for a lower overall tax bill because of the way our tax system is structured. Canada’s tax system is what is known as a “progressive” tax system, in which the rate of tax levied as income rises. In very general terms, for 2017, the first $46,000 of taxable income attracts a combined federal-provincial rate of around 25%. The next $46,000 of such income, however, is taxed at a rate of just under 35%. When taxable income exceeds $142,000, the tax rate imposed can approach 50%. While those percentages and income thresholds will vary by province, provincial and territorial tax rates will, in nearly every province or territory, increase as taxable income goes up. (The one exception to that rule is the province of Alberta, which imposes a flat 10% tax rate on all individual taxable income. However, Alberta taxpayers, like those in other provinces, will still pay increasing federal rates as income rises.) Dividing income allows a greater proportion of that income to be taxed at lower rates. Of course, that means that the total tax payable (and therefore government tax revenues) will be reduced. Consequently, our tax laws include a set of rules known as the “attribution rules” which seek to prevent strategies to divide income in this way. Pension income splitting is a government-sanctioned exception to those attribution rules.

The general rule with respect to pension income splitting is that taxpayers who receive private pension income during the year are entitled to allocate up to half that income with a spouse for tax purposes. In this context, private pension income means a pension received from a former employer and, where the income recipient is over the age of 65, payments from an annuity, an RRSP, or a registered retirement income fund (RRIF). Government source pensions, like payments from the Canada Pension Plan, Quebec Pension Plan, or Old Age Security payments do not qualify for pension income splitting, regardless of the age of the recipient or his or her spouse.

The mechanics of pension income splitting are relatively simple. There is no need to transfer funds between spouses or to make any change in the actual payment or receipt of qualifying pension amounts, and no need to notify a pension plan administrator.

Taxpayers who wish to split eligible pension income received by either of them must each file Form T1032(E)17, Joint Election to Split Pension Income for 2017, with their annual tax return. If you are filing electronically, retain a copy of the completed form should the CRA request a copy.

On the T1032(E), the taxpayer receiving the private pension income and the spouse with whom that income is to be split must make a joint election to be filed with their respective tax returns for the tax year. Since the splitting of pension income affects both the income and the tax liability of both spouses, the election must be made and the form filed by both spouses — an election filed by only one spouse or the other won’t suffice. In addition to filing the T1032(E), the spouse who receives the pension income must deduct from income the pension income amount allocated to his or her spouse. That deduction is taken on line 210 of his or her return for the year. And, conversely, the spouse to whom the pension income is being allocated is required to add that amount to his or her income on the return, this time on line 116. Essentially, to benefit from pension income splitting, all that is needed is to for each spouse to file a single form with the CRA and to make a single entry on his or her tax return for the year.

Generally, when taxpayers sit down to complete their income tax returns this spring, it will be too late to take any action which will reduce taxes payable for the 2017 tax year — in most cases, such actions needed to be taken before the end of the 2017 calendar year (or, for RRSP contributions, by March 1, 2018). One of the best attributes of income splitting as a tax planning strategy is that it doesn’t have be addressed until it’s time to file the return for 2017. By the end of February or early March, taxpayers will have received the information slips which summarize their income for the year from various sources. At that time, couples who might benefit from this strategy can review those information slips and calculate the extent to which they can make a dent in their overall tax bill for the year through a little judicious income splitting.

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