Estate Freeze

In 2015, CIBC conducted a poll to see how many Canadian business owners had a business transition plan. Almost half of them didn’t have one.

No business owner likes to think about handing over their business they’ve built from the ground up. But the fact of the matter is, you will have to do it eventually. Even more concerning, what if you were to become ill or incapacitated? Making a decision of this magnitude during trying times would not be ideal.

Your two main choices for passing on your business are:

  • Selling it

  • Transferring ownership to a successor of your choice (this can either be a family member or a non-family member such as a key employee)

When you die, all your capital property is deemed to have been sold immediately before your death. This includes your business. This means that capital gains taxes will be charged on whatever the fair market value (FMV) of your business is considered to be at the time of your death.

The higher the FMV of your business, the higher the capital gains taxes that will be charged. Your successors may not have the funds to pay these taxes which may force them to sell the business in order to fund the tax liability; thus, not to reaping the benefits of all your hard work as intended. 

The good news is that there’s a way to protect your business; an estate freeze.

What is an estate freeze?

For the business owner, an estate freeze can be an integral part of your estate planning strategy. The purpose of an estate freeze is to lock-in (freeze) the value of the business, freeing the successor from the tax liability that may arise should the business’ value increase.

This is how an estate freeze works:

  1. As a business owner, you can lock in or “freeze” the value of an asset as it stands today. Your successors will still have to pay taxes on your business when they inherit it – but not as much as if you hadn’t “frozen” your business and your company had increased in FMV.

  2. You continue to maintain control of your business. As well, you can receive income from your business while it is frozen.

  3. Your successor now benefits from the business’ future growth, but they won’t have to pay for any tax increases that occur before they inherit the business.

Freezing the value of your business can help you plan your tax spending properly. Selecting to “freeze” your business can help give you peace of mind that your successors won’t have to spend a considerable part of their inheritance on excessive taxes.

What happens when you freeze your estate?

  1.  When you execute an estate freeze, the first thing you need to do is exchange your common shares for preferred shares.  Your new preferred shares will have a fixed (a.k.a. “frozen”) value equal to the company’s present fair market value. Make sure you have everything in place to properly determine the fair market value before you exchanging your shares. 

  2. Your company will then issue common shares, which your successors subscribe to for a nominal price (for example, 1 dollar). Note that your successors don’t own the stock yet – subscribing to the stocks means they will take ownership of the stocks at a future date.

As part of your estate freeze, you must have a shareholders’ agreement ready to bring in new shareholders. This agreement should list any terms and conditions related to the purchase, redemption, or transfer of your company’s common shares. 

1. You can choose to receive some retirement income from your preferred shares by cashing in a fixed amount gradually. This action will reduce your preferred shares’ total value, reducing income tax liability upon death. For example:

  • Your shares are worth $10,000,000, and you need $100,000 annually. You can then redeem $100,000 worth of shares.

  • If you live for 30 more after you freeze your estate, you will have withdrawn $3,000,000 of your shares. This reduces the value of your shares to $7,000,000. 

  • At your death, your tax liability is lower than it would have been had your shares remained at the original value of $10,000,000. 

2. You can opt to maintain voting control in your company. This can be complicated (so you should consult a licensed professional), but you can set up your estate freeze so that you still have voting control in your business with your preferred stock. 

How you can benefit from an estate freeze

  1. You get peace of mind. The most important benefit to a tax freeze is that you know, whoever your successors are, they will receive what they are entitled to and not have to deal with any unpredictable tax burdens. Since an estate freeze fixes the maximum amount of taxes to be paid, you can properly plan how much money to set aside for this tax liability. One option is to have a life insurance policy equal to the amount of the tax liability, with your successor as the beneficiary, so you know they will have enough money to pay for these taxes.

  2. You encourage participation in growing your business. Your chosen successors will be motivated to help the company grow, as they know they will benefit in the future.

  3. Further tax reductions. If your shares qualify for lifetime capital gains exemption, then an estate freeze also helps further reduce your successor’s tax liability.

Is an estate freeze the right strategy for you?

There are a few things you need to consider when deciding if an estate freeze is right for you or not. 

  1. Retirement funding. What kind of retirement savings, if any, do you have? If you have money put aside in RRSPs, TFSAs, or even have a pension from a previous job, then an estate freeze may be the right choice for you. If you were planning to sell your company and live off the proceeds in retirement, then it likely is not the right choice for you.

  2. Succession plans. Do you have someone in mind who would be a suitable successor? Just because you think your child, spouse, or best employee may want to take over your business doesn’t mean they do. Talk to anyone you are considering making a successor and see if they are both interested in and able to keep your business going. 

  3. Family relationships. Trying to figure out how to select a successor if you have several children may be challenging. It can cause a lot of strain amongst your children if they are all named successors if only some of them are actively interested in running the business. You may want to consider only making one child a successor and providing for your other children in different ways, such as making them a life insurance beneficiary. 

If you decide to pursue an estate freeze for your business, you are helping plan for your heirs’ future and cutting down on the amount of taxes that will eventually have to be paid.  That being said – an estate freeze can be complicated, and all the steps must be performed correctly. Be sure to consult an experienced professional be taking any steps to freeze your estate.

Easy Exit: Business Succession in a Nutshell

Getting into the world of business is a meticulous task, but so is getting out of it

Whether you’ve just hit the ground running on your business or if you’ve been at it for a long time, there is no better time to plan your exit strategy than now. Although the process may seem taxing, we’ve answered a few questions you may have about planning your business succession strategy. 

1. Who do I talk to about this? 

Deciding on how to go about the transition requires careful planning, and you need to consult no less than people who are well equipped to help you out. First, talk to your key advisors such as bankers and financial partners. You could also use some advice from your accountant and lawyers. If your company has an advisory board, better consult them as well. You may also hire a specialist or a consultant, depending on how you choose to go about your business succession plan. 

2. Who should I choose as a successor? 

There are several ways to go about this, and your decision will ultimately be your personal choice. You may pass on your business to a family member or to your top executives or managers. You may also choose to sell it to an outsider. Whichever path you choose, you can also decide on how much you want to be involved in the business after you pass it on. That is, if you want to be involved at all. 

3. When should I inform my successor about my plans? 

While a surprise inheritance may be heartwarming, it’s not the same with inheriting a business. Getting a successor ready—whether it’s a family member or someone from your company—requires careful planning and training. As soon as you’ve chosen a successor, better get started on getting them ready for the big shoes they’re about to fill. This includes helping them equip themselves with the necessary skills, knowledge, and qualifications necessary to run your business. 

4. How do I plan the transition itself? 

The transition will be twofold—transferring ownership and handing over the business itself. As far as transferring ownership is concerned, you need to consider legal and financial details. These include valuation, financing and taxation. You also need to consider if you wish to keep your current legal structure (corporation, sole prop, partnership, etc.) or if you (or your successor) would like to change it. You also need to plan how to prepare various stakeholders in the business for the transition. How will you prepare your customers, clients, and employees? What would be their level of involvement? Make sure that you put different strategies in place in order to ensure transparency and consistency in communicating changes in your business, especially something as drastic as succession. 

5. Now that I have a business succession plan ready, can I go back to business as usual? 

Not really. Your business and your customers’ needs may change over time. This means that you need to keep reviewing and adjusting your plan as your business also evolves. 

Group Insurance vs Individual Life Insurance

Group Insurance vs Individual Life Insurance

“I already have life insurance from work, so why do I need to get it personally?” or “Work has got me covered, I don’t need it.”

While it’s great to have group coverage from your employer or association, in most cases, people don’t understand that there are important differences when it comes to group life insurance vs. self owned life insurance.

Before counting on insurance from your group benefits plan, please take the time to understand the difference between group owned life insurance and personally owned life insurance. The key differences are ownership, premium, coverage, beneficiary and portability.

Ownership:

  • Self: You own and control the policy.

  • Group: The group owns and controls the policy.

Premium:

  • Self: Your premiums are guaranteed at policy issue and discounts are available based on your health.

  • Group: Premiums are not guaranteed and there are no discounts available based on your health. The rates provided are blended depending on your group.

Coverage:

  • Self: You choose based on your needs.

  • Group: In a group plan, the coverage is typically a multiple of your salary. If your coverage is through an association, then it’s usually a flat basic amount.

Beneficiary:

  • Self: You choose who your beneficiary is and they can choose how they want to use the insurance benefit.

  • Group: You choose who your beneficiary is and they can choose how they want to use the insurance benefit.

Portability:

  • Self: Your policy stays with you.

  • Group: Your policy is tied to your group and if you leave your employer or your association, you may need to reapply for insurance.

Talk to us, we can help you figure out what’s best for your situation.

Estate Planning for Young Families

Having a family is a blessing and can also bring a lot of worry. A lot of this worry can stem from not being prepared for a disaster like if something were to happen to you or your spouse.

We’ve put together an infographic checklist that can help you get started on this. We know this can be a difficult conversation so we’re here to help and provide guidance.

The Children

  • What will happen to the children if both parents were to pass away?

  • Who would take care of them and until what age?

  • What would happen if only parent were to pass away?

Make sure you have a will that:

  • Assigns a guardian for your children

  • If there’s an inheritance for the children, who will take care of this? Make sure you assign a trustee for the inheritance.

  • Always choose 2 qualified people for each position and communicate your intentions with them to ensure they’re up for the responsibility.

Assets and Liabilities

  • What are your assets? Create a detailed list of your assets such as: Home, Family Business Interest, Investments- Non registered, TFSA, RRSP, RDSP, RESP, Company Pension Plan, Insurance Policy, Property, Additional revenue sources, etc…

  • What are your liabilities? Create a detailed list of your liabilities such as: Mortgage, Loans (personal, student, car), Line of Credit, Credit card, Other loans (payday, store credit card, utility etc.)

  • Understand your assets-the ownership type (joint, tenants in common, sole etc.), list who are the beneficiaries are for your assets

  • Understand your liabilities- who’s on the hook for paying back the loan?

Make sure you have a will that:

  • Assigns an executor

  • Provide specific instructions for distribution of assets

  • Always choose 2 qualified people for each position and communicate your intentions with them to ensure they’re up for the responsibility. 

Ongoing Needs

What are your family’s ongoing needs?

  • List out the living expenses

  • List out income needs

  • Do you still need to pay for school?

  • Determine if you have enough (assets minus liabilities) to take care of the family.

Make sure you review your insurance.

  • Once you determine how much need there is, review your life insurance coverage to see if it meets your needs or if there’s a shortfall.

Execution: It’s good to go through this but you need to do this. Besides doing it yourself, here’s a list of the individuals that can help:

  • Financial Planner/Advisor (CFP)

  • Estate Planning Specialist

  • Insurance Specialist

  • Lawyer

  • Accountant/Tax Specialist

  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

  • Certified Executor Advisor (CEA)

There are definitely unique situations in many families and things can get complicated so please use this when you feel it’s applicable.

Next steps…

  • Contact us about helping you get your estate planning in order so you can gain peace of mind that your family is taken care of.

Federal Budget 2021 Highlights

On April 19, 2021, the Federal Government released their 2021 budget. We have broken down the highlights of the financial measures in this budget into three different sections:

  • Business Owners

  • Personal Tax Changes

  • Supplementary Highlights

Business Owners

Extending Covid -19 Emergency Business Supports

All of the following COVID-19 Emergency Business Supports will be extended from June 5, 2021, to September 25, 2021, with the subsidy rates gradually decreasing:

  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) – The maximum wage subsidy is currently 75%. It will decrease down to 60% for July, 40% for August, and 20% for September.

  • Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) – The maximum rent subsidy is currently 65%. It will decrease down to 60% for July, 40% for August, and 20% for September.

  • Lockdown Support Program – The Lockdown Support Program rate of 25% will be extended from June 4, 2021, to September 25, 2021.

Only organizations with a decline in revenues of more than 10% will be eligible for these programs as of July 4, 2021. The budget also includes legislation to give the federal government authority to extend these programs to November 20, 2021, should either the economy or the public health situation make it necessary.

Canada Recovery Hiring Program

The federal budget introduced a new program called the Canada Recovery Hiring Program. The goal of this program is to help qualifying employers offset costs taken on as they reopen. An eligible employer can claim either the CEWS or the new subsidy, but not both.

The proposed subsidy will be available from June 6, 2021, to November 20, 2021, with a subsidy of 50% available from June to August. The Canada Recovery Hiring Program subsidy will decrease down to 40% for September, 30% for October, and 20% for November.

Interest Deductibility Limits

The federal budget for 2021 introduces new interest deductibility limits. This rule limits the amount of net interest expense that a corporation can deduct when determining its taxable income. The amount will be limited to a fixed ratio of its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (sometimes referred to as EBITDA).

The fixed ratio will apply to both existing and new borrowings and will be phased in at 40% as of January 1, 2023, and 30% for January 1, 2024.

Support for small and medium-size business innovation

The federal budget also includes 4 billion dollars to help small and medium-sized businesses innovate by digitizing and taking advantage of e-commerce opportunities. Also, the budget provides additional funding for venture capital start-ups via the Venture Capital Catalyst Program and research that will support up to 2,500 innovative small and medium-sized firms.

Personal Tax Changes

Tax treatment and Repayment of Covid-19 Benefit Amounts

The federal budget includes information on both the tax treatment and repayment of the following COVID-19 benefits:

  • Canada Emergency Response Benefits or Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefits

  • Canada Emergency Student Benefits

  • Canada Recovery Benefits, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefits, and Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefits

Individuals who must repay a COVID-19 benefit amount can claim a deduction for that repayment in the year they received the benefit (by requesting an adjustment to their tax return), not the year they repaid it. Anyone considered a non-resident for income tax purposes will have their COVID-19 benefits included in their taxable income.

Disability Tax Credit

Eligibility changes have been made to the Disability Tax Credit. The criteria have been modified to increase the list of mental functions considered necessary for everyday life, expand the list of what can be considered when calculating time spent on therapy, and reduce the requirement that therapy is administered at least three times each week to two times a week (with the 14 hours per week requirement remaining the same).

Old Age Security

The budget enhances Old Age Security (OAS) benefits for recipients who will be 75 or older as of June 2022. A one-time, lump-sum payment of $500 will be sent out to qualifying pensioners in August 2021, with a 10% increase to ongoing OAS payments starting on July 1, 2022.

Waiving Canada Student Loan Interest

The budget also notes that the government plans to introduce legislation that will extend waiving of any interest accrued on either Canada Student Loans or Canada Apprentice Loans until March 31, 2023.

Support for Workforce Transition

Support to help Canadians transition to growing industries was also included in the budget. The support is as follows:

  • $250 million over three years to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to help workers upskill and redeploy to growing industries.

  • $298 million over three years for the Skills for Success Program to provide training in skills for the knowledge economy.

  • $960 million over three years for the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program to help design and deliver training relevant to the needs of small and medium businesses.

Supplementary Highlights

Federal Minimum Wage

The federal budget also introduces a proposed federal minimum wage of $15 per hour that would rise with inflation.

New Housing Rebate

The GST New Housing Rebate conditions will be changed. Previously, if two or more individuals were buying a house together, all of them must be acquiring the home as their primary residence (or that of a relation) to qualify for the GST New Housing Rebate. Now, the GST New Housing Rebate will be available as long as one of the purchasers (or a relation of theirs) acquires the home as their primary place of residence. This will apply to all agreements of purchase and sale entered into after April 19, 2021.

Unproductive use of Canadian Housing by Foreign Non-Resident Owners

A new tax was introduced in the budget on unproductive use of Canadian housing by non-resident foreign owners. This tax will be a 1% tax on the value of non-resident, non-Canadian owned residential real estate considered vacant or underused. This tax will be levied annually starting in 2022.

All residential property owners in Canada (other than Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada) must also file an annual declaration for the prior calendar year with the CRA for each Canadian residential property they own, starting in 2023. Filing the annual declaration may qualify owners to claim an exemption from the tax on their property if they can prove the property is leased to qualified tenants for a minimum period in a calendar year.

Excise Duty on Vaping and Tobacco

The budget also includes a new proposal on excise duties on vaping products and tobacco. The proposed framework would consist of:

  • A single flat rate duty on every 10 millilitres of vaping liquid as of 2022

  • An increase in tobacco excise duties by $4 per carton of 200 cigarettes and increases to the excise duty rates for other tobacco products such as tobacco sticks and cigars as of April 20, 2021.

Luxury Goods Tax

Finally, the federal budget proposed introducing a tax on certain luxury goods for personal use as of January 1, 2022.

  • For luxury cars and personal aircraft, the new tax is equal to the lesser of 10% of the vehicle’s total value or the aircraft, or 20% of the value above $100,000.

  • For boats over $250,000, the new tax is equal to the lesser of 10% of the full value of the boat or 20% of the value above $250,000.

If you have any questions or concerns about how the new federal budget may impact you, call us – we’d be happy to help you!

What’s new for the 2021 tax-filing season?

Tax season is upon us once again. But since 2020 was a year like no other, the 2021 tax-filing season will also be different. Both how we worked and where we worked changed for a lot of us in 2020.

Some Canadians got to work from home for the first time but saw no other disruption to their jobs. There was a much bigger disruption for other Canadians – they faced temporary or permanent job losses and had to supplement their incomes wide side gigs and emergency government programs.

The Canadian government has introduced some new tax credits and deductions in response to these changes. We’ve covered some of the highlights below.

Claiming home office expenses

With a sudden shutdown happening across the country in March 2020, many Canadians stopped commuting to the office and started working from home. As a response to this, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has offered a new way to claim home office expenses. If you:

  • Worked from home due to COVID-19 – for a minimum of 50 percent of the time for at least four consecutive weeks AND

  • Your employer did not reimburse you for your home office expenses.

You can claim $2 for each day – to a maximum of $400 for the year.

If you have more complicated or higher home office expenses, then your employer must provide you with a T2200 form, with a list of deductions included.

New Canada Training Credit

Suppose you are between the ages of 25 and 65 and taking courses to upgrade your skills from a college, university, or other qualifying institution. In that case, you can claim this new, refundable tax credit.

You can automatically accumulate $250 annually – and the new Canada Training Credit has a lifetime maximum of $5,000. You can claim this credit when you file your taxes.

Pandemic emergency funds

The emergency support programs helped a lot of Canadians avoid financial disaster. If you were one of the Canadians who received pandemic emergency funds, you must be aware of the tax implications.

If you received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), no taxes were withheld at source, so you will be taxed on the full amount. If you received the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), or Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit (CRCB), the CRA withheld a 10% tax at source, so you may not owe additional taxes on this income.

New digital news subscription tax credit

This is a new, non-refundable tax credit that is calculated at 15 percent – and is eligible for up to a maximum of $500 in qualifying subscription expenses. To qualify for this credit, you must subscribe to one or more qualified Canadian journalism organizations – and you could save up to $75 a year thanks to this credit.

I’m here to help you understand where you owe taxes and how you can lower your tax bill. Give me a call today!

The Best Way to Buy Mortgage Insurance

Before buying insurance from your bank to cover your mortgage, understand the difference between self owned mortgage life insurance and bank owned life insurance. The key differences are ownership, premium, coverage, beneficiaries and portability.

Ownership:

  • Self: You own and control the policy.

  • Bank: The bank owns and controls the policy.

Premium:

  • Self: Your premiums are guaranteed at policy issue and discounts are available based on your health.

  • Bank: Premiums are not guaranteed and there are no discounts available based on your health.

Coverage:

  • Self: The coverage that you apply for remains the same.

  • Bank: The coverage is tied to your mortgage balance therefore it decreases as you pay down your mortgage but the premium stays the same.

Beneficiary:

  • Self: You choose who your beneficiary is and they can choose how they want to use the insurance benefit.

  • Bank: The bank is beneficiary and only pays off your mortgage.

Portability:

  • Self: Your policy stays with you regardless of your lender.

  • Bank: Your policy is tied to your lender and if you change, you may need to reapply for insurance.

We’ve created an infographic about the difference between personally owned life insurance vs. bank owned life insurance.

Talk to us, we can help.

Extended COVID-19 Federal Emergency Benefits

On Friday, February 19, 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an extension to several of the COVD-19 federal emergency benefits.  The goal of this extension is to support Canadians who are still being financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following benefits are impacted:

  • Canada Recovery Benefit 

  • Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit

  • Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit 

  • Employment Insurance

Canada Recovery Benefit

The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) provides income support to anyone who is:

  • Employed or self-employed, but not entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

  • Has had their income reduced by at least 50 percent due to COVID-19. 

You can receive up to $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) a week every two weeks for the CRB. The recent changes now allow you to apply for this benefit for a total of 38 weeks – previously the maximum was 26 weeks.  

Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit

The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) helps support people who cannot work because they must supervise a child under 12 or other family members due to COVID-19. For example, a school is closed due to COVID-19 or your child must self-isolate because they have COVID-19.  

You can receive $500 ($450 after taxes withheld) for each 1-week period you claim the CRCB. The recent extension made now allows you to apply for this benefit for a total of 38 weeks instead of the previous 26 weeks. 

Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit

The $500 a week ($450 after taxes) Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) is also getting a boost. If you cannot work because you are sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, you can now apply for this benefit for a total of four weeks. Previously, this benefit would only cover up to two missed weeks of work. 

Employment Insurance 

Finally, the government will also be increasing the amount of time you can claim Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. You will now be able to claim EI for a maximum of 50 weeks – this is an increase of 24 weeks from the previous eligibility maximum.

For full details, go to https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/campaigns/covid-19-update/covid-19-benefits-credits-support-payments.html

Self-employed: Government of Canada addresses CERB repayments for some ineligible self-employed recipients

Great news for some ineligible self-employed Canadians who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). As per canada.ca:

“Today, the Government of Canada announced that self-employed individuals who applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and would have qualified based on their gross income will not be required to repay the benefit, provided they also met all other eligibility requirements. The same approach will apply whether the individual applied through the Canada Revenue Agency or Service Canada.

This means that, self-employed individuals whose net self-employment income was less than $5,000 and who applied for the CERB will not be required to repay the CERB, as long as their gross self-employment income was at least $5,000 and they met all other eligibility criteria.

Some self-employed individuals whose net self-employment income was less than $5,000 may have already voluntarily repaid the CERB. The CRA and Service Canada will return any repaid amounts to these individuals. Additional details will be available in the coming weeks.”

For full details, see full news release at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/news/2021/02/government-of-canada-announces-targeted-interest-relief-on-2020-income-tax-debt-for-low–and-middle-income-canadians.html