- Charles Rotenberg
‘TIS THE SEASON
Just as the days and weeks seem to have flown by since the lockdowns started in March, the year has flown by as well, and it is time to consider some year end tax planning.
The usual planning steps still need to be considered:
Selling assets with accrued losses to trigger the deduction in the current year. Note that for 2020, publicly traded securities must be sold before December 29th to be effective this year. Settlement Date is supposed to be 2 days after the trade. Those who are more cautious might consider completing any necessary trades on or before December 24th.
Accelerate the recognition of deductible expenses
Postpone the receipt of taxable income
If your tax rate will be higher next year, the usual acceleration of expenses and postponement of income might not be efficient – get professional advice
Make charitable donations before the end of the year to get the charitable tax credit in 2020
Given the uncertainty of businesses in this Pandemic, perhaps thought should be given to an estate freeze. Although this is beyond the scope of this Newsletter, I would suggest that you look at my Newsletter Estate Freezing in Trying Times
The decision about selling securities to trigger capital losses, is more complicated this year. There is a good chance that the next Liberal Budget might raise the capital gains inclusion rate from 50% to 75%, meaning that 75% of capital gains will be included in income rather than the current 50%. The obverse to that is that 75% of capital losses would be deductible rather than 50%. I have discussed this thought process in my Newsletter I Have Some Good News and I Have Some (Potentially) Bad News.
Reimbursement or Deduction for Work-from-Home Expenses
Some employees have been reimbursed by their employers for such things as computer upgrades, and other required technology. The CRA will accept a reimbursement of up to $500 for such expenses, and for the purchase of home office furniture, such as desks, chairs and so forth, without imposing tax.
If an employer reimburses an employee for more than $500, the excess would be a taxable benefit of employment. It is important to note that the $500 amount is the total for each employee, not for each expenditure.
Employees who are required to pay for employment expenses, including those for a home office that are not reimbursed by their employer, may be able to claim a deduction for such expenses. For a valid claim, employees must obtain a properly completed and signed Canada Revenue Agency Form T2200, Declaration of Conditions of Employment.
There would seem to be nothing to prevent an employee from receiving a $500 reimbursement, and then deducting the cost in excess of that amount, subject to obtaining the Form T2200.
Gifts to Employees
As we approach the Christmas season, it is important to note the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administrative policy regarding non-cash gifts to employees. Years ago, the CRA policy was that one non-cash gift per year could be given to an employee on a non-taxable basis, as long as the gift had a value of less than $100.00 and the employer could not deduct the value of the gift. This changed effective 2001.
Employers can give their employees up to two non-cash gifts per year, on a tax-free basis, for special occasions such as Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays, and marriages. As long as the total cost of the gifts to the employer, including taxes, is not more than $500 per year, the employer can deduct the cost of the gifts, even though the employee is not taxable on the value of the gift.
This does not apply to cash or near-cash gifts and awards. The value of such gifts and awards will be considered a taxable employment benefit. Near-cash gifts and awards may include such things as gift certificates, gift cards, or any items that can easily be converted to cash.
The gift could, however, be in the form of additional technology or office equipment. BUT it is important, for this purpose, that the employer purchase the item and then make a gift to the employee, and not give the employee cash or near cash amounts to pay for the expenditure.
Unlike a work-from-home reimbursement, where the cost of the gift or gifts exceeds $500, the total fair-market value of the gift(s) will be included in the employee's income. There is no exemption for the first $500. If the cost of the gift exceeds the $500 limit, the gifts are deemed to form part of the employee's remuneration package.
For employers who want to give employees gifts at this time of year, as opposed to cash bonuses, the benefit of being able to deduct the value of the gifts while allowing the employees to receive the gifts tax free can be significant.
Income Splitting with Low Prescribed Rate Loans
This isn’t really a year end issue, but is an important consideration in one’s overall planning. I have written about this many times, most recently this past January.
At that time, the prescribed rate was 2% and it has now dropped to 1%, making it even more attractive. My Newsletter Low Interest Loans to Family Members, was written with a 1% prescribed rate in effect.
Aside from the need to have proper paperwork to document the loan, in order to avoid the attribution of income on the loaned funds and any property purchased with the loaned funds, the interest has to be payable, and actually be paid, no later than 30 days after the end of the taxation year. No matter how insignificant, this interest must be paid by January 30th, not January 31st.
Not only should paperwork be kept to show the payment, but the lender should be including the interest received in his or her tax return for the year of receipt of the interest. A lot of good, and expensive, tax planning could go out the window because the interest was paid 1 day too late, or because the lender neglected to include the interest payment in his or her income.
Once the loan is in place, the prescribed rate at the time of the loan will continue to be applicable to the outstanding balance of the loan, even if the prescribed rate increases in the future.
For those that have outstanding prescribed rate loans at a rate higher than 1%, it is possible to take steps to re-finance the loan at the new lower rate. However, The CRA has stated that simply repaying a higher prescribed rate loan with a lower rate loan would not be effective.
There are ways to re-finance a higher rate loan, but care must be taken to do it properly.
As always, I would be pleased to work with your advisors on any of these issues.
I hope everyone has a safe holiday season.