Some basics of Canadian Investing; Mutual Funds, Eligible Dividends and Deferred Tax

Here is a brief introduction to the absolute basics of investing Canada. If you know this, you really just know the basics.  If you do not know much about Mutual funds, Eligible dividends, income trusts, and deferring taxes owing then trust me, this is the tip of the iceberg.  The Investment Fund Institute of Canada (IFIC) has a mutual fund course as probably does the Canadian Securities Institute (CSI).  Both are sought after for entry into the financial sector.

At the very basic, here are the 2 main types of tax-sheltered investments you probably have heard about – RRSP or RRIF.  In both cases, you put money away into these investments which are NOT taxed at year-end.  you pay taxes when you withdraw or remove the funds after certain milestones, such as age 65. 

Investments that generate capital gains or Canadian source dividends are taxed more favourable than interest income because interest income earned from investments such as T-Bills, bonds, and GIC’s are generally taxed at the highest marginal tax rate.
• Dividends earned from a Canadian Corporation are taxed at a lower rate than interest income.  This is because dividends are eligible for a dividend tax credit, which recognizes that the corporation has already paid tax on the income that is being distributed to shareholders.
o This only applies to dividends from a Canadian corporation.
o Dividends paid from a foreign corporation are not eligible for the dividend tax credit.

As of 2006 there are now two types of dividends, eligible and non-eligible dividends, and they are treated differently from a tax perspective.
• Eligible dividends include those received from a public Canadian corporation and certain private, resident corporations that must pay Canadian tax at the general corporation rate. As a result, they have a federal tax credit of 18.97% and are grossed up by 145%.
• Non-eligible dividends include those received from Canadian-controlled private corporations not subject to the general corporate tax rate.  They have federal tax credit of 13.33% and are grossed up by 125%.

This change was introduced by the government of Canada in order to present a more balanced tax treatment between corporations and income trusts as Canadians were investing more and more in income trusts and less and less in corporations and why wouldn’t they, since prior to 2006 income trusts were not taxed on any income allocated to unit holders, whereas dividends paid by a Canadian corporation are paid out of after tax earnings. 

To combat this, many corporations began to restructure their operations to become income trusts.  Something had to be done.

In a typical income trust structure, the income paid to an income trust by the operating entity may take the form of interest, royalty or lease payments, which are normally deductible in computing the operating entity’s income for tax purposes.  These deductions reduce the operating entity’s tax to nil.   

The trust “flows” all of its income received from the operating entity out to unitholders.  The distributions paid or payable to unitholders reduces a trust’s taxable income, so the net result is that a trust would also pay little to no income tax, which is never a good thing in the government’s eyes.

So who then gets hit with the tax bill??  The net effect is that the interest, royalty or lease payments are taxed at the unitholder level;
1. A flow-through entity whose income is redirected to unitholders, the trust structure avoids any possible double taxation that comes from combining corporate (T2) income taxation with shareholders’ dividend taxation
2. Where there is no double taxation, there can be the advantage of deferring the payment of tax.  When the distributions are received by a non-taxed entity, like a pension fund, all the tax due on corporate earnings is deferred until the eventual receipt of pension income by participants of the pension fund.
3. Where the distributions are received by foreigners, the tax applied to the distributions may be at a lower rate determined by tax treaties, that had not considered the forfeiture of tax at the corporate level.
4. The effective tax an income trust owner could pay on earnings could actually be increased because trusts typically distribute all of their cashflow as distributions, rather than employing leverage and other tax management techniques to reduce effective corporate tax rates.  It’s easier to distribute all the funds out and show nothing being retained that it is to implement strategies to reduce corporate tax owing which is the path most often taken. 

Where can a holder find their dividends reports?  Dividends are usually shown on the following CRA slips:
• T5, Statement of Investment Income
• T4PS, Statement of Employees Profit Sharing Plan Allocations and Payments
• T3, Statement of Trust Income Allocations and Designations
• T5013, Statement of Partnership Income
• T5013A, Statement of Partnership Income for Tax Shelters and Renounced Resource Expenses

When completing a Canadian tax return, where should a holder enter their dividend information?

Enter on Line 180 the taxable amount of dividends (other than eligible dividends) as follows:
• box 11 on T5 slips
• box 25 on T4PS slips
• box 32 on T3 slips
• box 51-1 on your T5013 or T5013A slips.

Enter on Line 120 the taxable amount of all dividends from taxable Canadian corporations, as follows:
• boxes 11 and 25 on T5 slips
• boxes 25 and 31 on T4PS slips
• boxes 32 and 50 on T3 slips
• boxes 51-1 and 52-1 on your T5013 or T5013A slips.

What do I do if I did not receive an information slips?

Ignore it and the CRA will let me off the hook?  No chance.  If you did not receive an information slip, you must calculate the taxable amount of other than eligible dividends by multiplying the actual amount of dividends (other than eligible) you received by 125% and reporting the result on line 180.  You must also calculate the taxable amount of eligible dividends by multiplying the actual amount of eligible dividends you received by 141%. Report the combined total of eligible and other than eligible dividends on line 120.

So what exactly is a capital gain?

Capital gains occur when you sell an asset for more than you paid for it. This gain is offset by any losses and can be further reduced by any expenses that are incurred by the purchase or sale of the asset – resulting in net capital gain.
Taxation of capital gains: 50% of a net gain is taxable at the appropriate federal and provincial rates.

My accountant advised me I need more “Tax deferral”.  What does she mean?   She means contributing the maximum amount to your RRSP which provides an immediate tax deduction and tax sheltered growth as long as the investment(s) remain in the plan.

Other less commonly used strategies include:
• Universal Life Insurance is a policy that combines life insurance coverage with a tax deferred investment component. Premiums paid are first used to ensure life coverage and the balance accumulates in an investment account where it grows tax deferred.
• Registered Educations Savings Plan (RESP) is a plan where contributions are used to fund a child or grandchild’s post secondary education costs.
o initial contributions are not tax-deductible
o any income earned within the plan is only taxable in the hands of the student at the time of withdrawal.

More is coming in the next few days, weeks and months…

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What tax slips / returns did I receive and why?

Have you ever received tax slips in the mail and wondered why?

Here are some of the slips you may have received and a description of what they are reporting:

 

RRSP Contribution Receipts

RRSP contribution receipts are issued for all contributions, regardless of the amount, and show all reportable contributions for the tax year.   These get mailed more frequently if you are actively contributing to your RRSP,  with the first mailing at the end of January (for contributions made between March 1st and December 31st), and in separate mailings until mid-March (for contributions made in the first 60 days of the following year, to be applied to the previous year. 

 

T4RSP/T4RIF Relevé 2 (RL2)

T4RSPs/T4RIFs are issued for all withdrawals, regardless of amount, and show actual or deemed withdrawals from an RRSP/RRIF, including Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP), Homebuyers Plan, marriage breakdown and hardship. Quebec residents must file the RL2, in addition to the T4RSP/T4RIF.   These slips are mailed by the last day in February, so you should be receiving them around then, early March at the latest. 

 

NR4

NR4s are only issued for amounts of at least $50 per currency for investment accounts, but for any amount for registered accounts. NR4s are also issued for amounts less than $50 per currency if tax was withheld from the payment. It records reportable income from Canadian sources for non-residents of Canada.  The NR4 is required to be mailed before the last day in March (or early April if March 31st falls on a Saturday or Sunday). 

 

T4A/Relevé 1 (RL1)

T4As are issued for all withdrawals, regardless of amount, and show actual or deemed withdrawals from an RESP. Quebec residents must file the RL1, in addition to the T4A.   T4A’s / RL1’s are required to be mailed by the last day in February. 

 

T5/Relevé 3 (RL-3)

T5’s report dividend and interest income and are only issued for amounts of at least $50 per currency. It consists of two parts: the T5 Supplementary (which shows the reportable regular and split share income for the tax year) and the Investment Income and Expense Summary (which provides details of the totals, including expense items). Quebec residents must file the provincial tax form, Relevé 3, in addition to the T5.   These are mailed out to holders before the last day in February.

 

T3/Relevé 16 (RL16)

T3’s report trust and mutual fund income and are only issued for amounts of at least $100. It consists of two parts: the T3 Supplementary (which shows the reportable capital gains and other income for the tax year) and Summary of Trust Income and Expense (which provides details of the totals, including expense items, as well as the adjusted cost base portion – return of capital). Quebec residents must file a RL16, in addition to the T3.  These are to be mailed before the last day in March. 

 

T5013/ Relevé 15 (RL15)

T5013s are issued for limited partnership income, regardless of the amount, and record the partnership’s gain or losses at the partnership’s year-end. Quebec residents must file the RL15, in addition to the T5013.   These are sent out before the end of March.

 

Relevé 7 (RL7)

RL7’s are issued for Quebec Residents only, recording all reportable income from the Small and Medium Enterprises Growth Stock Plan (SME), formerly called the Quebec Stock Savings Plan.  These are mailed before the last day of February. 

 

1099-DIV

1099-DIVs show all reportable dividends paid to a U.S. person (or individuals subject to US tax laws) during the tax year.   1099-DIV’s can be mailed out by the end of January, however, the IRS allows for companies to file for 30 day extensions, and most apply for it to be sure of no penalty or interest, so these forms are mailed by the end of February instead.  

 

1099-INT

1099-INTs show all reportable interest paid to a US person (or individuals subject to US tax laws) during the tax year. These are to be mailed by the end of January.

 

1099-B

1099-Bs show all reportable distributions for a US person (or individuals subject to US tax laws) during the tax year.  As mentioned with the 1099-DIV’s are subject to an extension and thus are usually mailed by the end of February instead of the end of January. 

 

1042-S

1042-S’s show all reportable US source income paid to a non-resident of the US during the tax year.  These forms are to be mailed by the end of March. 

The Canada Revenue Agency Informant Leads aka “Snitch” Line

You have come to this blog for more information on the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Informant Leads or Snitch Line.  Yes, the line does exist and if you are looking for the number in order to use it, that number is 1.866.809.6841.

You may have heard me speak on CFAX1070 about the CRA Snitch line, or possibly you heard my interview on CBC.ca regarding the existence and use of this line.  If you have not, then let me take a moment to clear the air on this line.  The Informant Leads line does exist.  In fact, it has become such a popular tool for finding new collection sources that it’s increased volume of calls can be directly attributed to a reduction in the need for collections staff / auditors and investigators who were responsible for digging up new leads.

It is absolutely not possible for someone to call the line, make up a story and have someone investigated.  Anyone who states that does not know the purpose of this line and obviously has no experience working in the CRA.  To say that is irresponsible and fear mongering.   The CRA will act on leads but there must be some proof provided.  Simply asking for your neighbour to be audited because they drive a nicer car than you is not going to begin years or investigations-hell for them.  If, however, you purchase an item from a retail establishment, and are charged taxes, but you notice that the teller never ran the purchase through the till, then you can be assured that they are pocketing the taxes instead of remitting it to the CRA.  Or, if you notice on the receipt that they have charged you the wrong rate of tax, then you need to notify the CRA.

In one case, while I was working at the CRA, I purchased a large ticket item from a local store only to find out later that the taxes on the bill totaled 28%.  I went back to the store to ask for it to be corrected, only to have them advise me that it was a “US cash register” and that the rate was incorrect.  I took the receipt into the office hoping to launch an internal investigation but was told it would be 6-weeks before they were able to look at it.

So I walked over to a phone beside my desk, called the snitch line, explained the issue and after providing the receipt as proof, found that an investigation was launched the next day and heard through the grapevine that over $200,000.00 was recovered from the company.

That is where the snitch line can be put to good use.

If, however, you hear your neighbour bragging about how much money he makes under the table and he lives way better than you do?  You can call the snitch line.   Or if your ex-spouse is unwilling to file their outstanding tax returns because it would mean they would have to increase child support payments, then you can call the snitch line.  The CRA will take the information, begin with an internal investigation to see if there is merit, then possibly drop by the home or business to get a feel for whether an audit is required or if a net worth assessment is needed.

At the end of the day, the intention of the snitch line is to provide a direct link to the CRA’s Audit department and it assists the CRA as they use these “tips” to recover funds from professional tax avoiders.

Key words the CRA likes to hear includes;

Their names, their address, an amount of unreported income greater than, say $50K, maybe a second set of books, or 2nd property in the name of their cat…

It never hurts to call.

It always hurts to not call.

This line is anonymous and believe it or not, the majority of “tips” come from exes who are left holding the bag while their ex-spouses are living it up.

I figured I would post this since it is the most frequently asked question I get.  Yes a line exists and yes it gets acted on… and fast if the dollar amount to be recovered is high.

I have actual experience seeing this line work and I know for certain of instances where people have called this line in effort to discredit or attack someone and at the end of the day, the CRA  has investigated that person or party and punished them for making a false claim.  Those in glass houses should never throw stones.

Snitch Logo

How Brilliant is the Internal Revenue Service?

How brilliant is the IRS? Really? I am 100% serious.

These guys just rolled out something that the taxation industry has long been in need of and after going through it, I give it top marks for creativity, originality and for the final product.

You see, the IRS unveiled a website called “Understanding Taxes” and it contains some great educational content, including detailed lesson plans, interactive activities, simulations, and more!

The site is broken into resources for educators, and for students. So if you’re teaching tax, you can grab resources to assist, including lesson plans with links to the applicable national and state standards, which makes it really easy to integrate Understanding Taxes into an existing classroom curricula, or to teach to your tax staff. The intention is for this material to be presented to high school or community college classrooms with the assumption being that once you get into higher levels of education, those with an interest are taking courses in taxation, finance and accounting.

The Understanding Taxes Student Site provides high schools, community colleges, and the general public with a technology-based instructional tool aimed at raising the awareness of the IRS’ policies, practices and general taxation education. It’s a win-win and I cannot wait for the CRA to do the same.

In the meantime, happy reading.

The link to the site is below;

http://www.irs.gov/app/understandingTaxes/index.jsp

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2011-05

I found this IRS tax tip quite interesting as it relates to third party tax functions and peovides a reminder to this people and companies who outsource that at the end of the day THEY are responsible for any tax debts and NOT the third party provider.

That is why tax forms for the CRA, MRQ and IRS require a signature.
So they have someone to hold liable.

Intaxicating tax tip: If you’re not sure, or do not understand what is contained on a form, slip or return. do NOT sign it!!!

Here is the IRS release:

Three Tips for Employers Outsourcing Their Payroll

Outsourcing payroll duties to third-party service providers can streamline business operations, but the IRS reminds employers that they are ultimately responsible for paying federal tax liabilities.

Recent prosecutions of individuals and companies who – acting under the guise of a payroll service provider – have stolen funds intended for payment of employment taxes makes it important that employers who outsource payroll are aware of the following three tips from the IRS:

1. Employer Responsibility. The employer is ultimately responsible for the deposit and payment of federal tax liabilities. Even though you forward the tax payments to the third party to make the tax deposits, you – the employer – are the responsible party. If the third party fails to make the federal tax payments, the IRS may assess penalties and interest. The employer is liable for all taxes, penalties and interest due. The IRS can also hold you personally liable for certain unpaid federal taxes.

2. Correspondence. If there are any issues with an account, the IRS will send correspondence to the address of record. The IRS strongly suggests you do not change the address of record to that of the payroll service provider. That could limit your ability to stay informed of tax matters involving your business (I do not necessarily agree with this as a good third party providor will either eat any penalty charged or should be providing updates to their client including copies of notices as part of thier day-to-day process.
3. EFTPS. Choose a payroll service provider that uses the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. You can register on the EFTPS system to get your own PIN to verify the payments.

Information on EFTPS is available on the IRS web-site. The staff in the EFTPS are are VERY knowledgable and VERY friendly. Trust me… I know.

CRA releases New Forms for Treaty-Reduced Rates of Canadian Withholding Tax

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) recently released final versions of new forms, NR301, NR302 and NR303 which is to be provided by recipients of payments from Canadian residents to certify eligibility for treaty-reduced rates of Canadian withholding tax.

These Forms are not to be provided to the CRA, but rather to the Canadian resident payer of the withholdable amount or to certain intermediaries along a chain of payments subject to withholding.

Until recently, the CRA generally accepted reliance on the payee’s address for determining whether to apply a treaty rate. By releasing these forms, it signals that the CRA is requiring a greater level of diligence on the part of payers of withholdable amounts to be as sure as possible that the correct reduced treaty rate is applied.

Although the use of the Forms is not mandatory, and they will not guarantee avoidance of penalties, interest, or liabilities for underwithheld tax, many taxpayers will likely apply a 25% withholding rate on payments of withholdable amounts to recipients who do not complete the Forms.

The CRA is looking at the payor, to review the information provided by a non-resident on these forms, or in another format, and to make sure they have enough information to support that the non-resident is eligible for tax convention/treaty benefits on the income being paid.

In cases of inconstencies, the CRA is looking for intermediaries, prior to establishing a withholding tax rate, to question the information given and look at other information received from the non-resident, or known about the non-resident, if the payer knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the information on the form:
• is not correct or is misleading;
• contradicts information in the payer’s files; or
• is given without knowledge or consideration of the facts of a situation.

Forms are valid for the earlier of 2 years, or a change in the eligibility for convention benefits.

* Completing Form 301 is not mandatory. However, if a non-resident refuses to provide certification of beneficial ownership, residency, or eligibility for treaty benefits on request by a payer, the full statutory rate should be withheld.

One question that came up after the release of these forms was that they do not address holding global securities through CDS or DTC.

For some direction, you need to check the update to IC76-12, “Applicable Rate of Part XIII Tax on Amounts Paid or Credited to Persons in Countries with Which Canada Has a Tax Convention” related to Forms NR301, NR302, and NR303.

In this update, the CRA states that payments made to CDS on securities registered in the name of Cede & Co. (the nominee name for DTC) are made without tax. Tax will be withheld by CDS based on information received from DTC and collected by DTC’s participants.

I recommend you read the news release below to familiarize yourself with these forms.

The link to the release follows; http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/formspubs/frms/nr301-2-3-eng.html

Here are the forms;

Form NR301, Declaration of eligibility for benefits under a tax treaty for a non-resident taxpayer; http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pbg/tf/nr301/nr301-10e.pdf

Form NR302, Declaration of eligibility for benefits under a tax treaty for a partnership with non-resident partners; http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pbg/tf/nr302/nr302-10e.pdf

Form NR303, Declaration of eligibility for benefits under a tax treaty for a hybrid entity; http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pbg/tf/nr303/nr303-10e.pdf

From PWC Tax: Canadian corporate and personal tax rates on your Blackberry

Thanks to our friends at PWC Tax, you can now get notification of tax rate changes sent directly to your Blackberry. This is going to save quite a lot of time investigating current rates.

Here is the PWC email that came out;

“Whether you’re sitting in a budget meeting, considering the sale of an asset, or just want a quick fact – our free Blackberry app will give you access to Canadian and provincial corporate tax rates and personal tax rates right at your fingertips. We’ve built upon the success of our annual Tax Facts and Figures publication to bring you up-to-date tax rate information, no matter where you are.

Click http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/28203?lang=en to download the PwC Tax Rates app onto your hand-held device.”