December 16, 2020
Building a profitable and sustainable business requires time, patience and hard work. In the early years, it’s common for owners of Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPCs) to reinvest income in the business and forgo salaries, dividends or other remuneration. At some point, however, personal living costs require cash flow from the corporation. This leads business owners to ask: what are the options for extracting cash flow from a corporation and which options are best for me?
There are several options for withdrawing cash from a corporation, each with their own pros and cons. The best option(s) normally depend on the circumstances and the short and long-term objectives of the business owner. Are tax- free payments the primary objective? Perhaps creating RRSP contribution room is the goal. Maybe the payment is being made to reduce corporate taxes, or a loan to a shareholder makes sense. Whatever the reason, simply taking money from a corporation’s bank account for personal use without properly defining the payment can lead to unexpected tax results.
We’ve listed common options for withdrawing funds from a corporation and related issues to consider:
|Type of payment||Considerations|
|Salary and bonus payments|
|Repayment of capital|
|Repayment of shareholder loan|
|Loan to shareholder|
1 A corporation can normally deduct unlimited salary paid to its owner-manager on the principle that its profits are due to the owner’s work.
2 Provided amounts paid align with services provided.
3 Employment insurance premiums do not apply for salaries paid to owner-managers who own 40% or more of the voting shares of the corporation.
4 Contributions to Individual Pension Plans and Retirement Compensation Arrangements are normally based on T4 income.
5 No C/QPP contributions mean no related C/QPP retirement benefit.
6 To purchase a home, shares of the corporation or a motor vehicle for employment purposes.
7 Equal to the difference between the CRA’s prescribed rate and the rate paid.
Whether you require cash for lifestyle or financial obligations, determining an appropriate cash flow mix can be complicated. Owners are advised to consult their tax advisor to review their corporation’s structure and tax attributes, as the best approach can differ from corporation to corporation. When determining an optimal strategy, shareholders should consider the following:
When personal cash flow needs arise, business owners may be tempted to withdraw money from the corporation without formalizing the payment. Indeed, with solely-owned businesses there wouldn’t be anyone to prevent the owner- manager from doing so. However, the Income Tax Act (ITA) has rules in place to discourage such activity, as amounts withdrawn from a corporation are normally subject to personal taxation, with the exception of certain defined options for extracting tax-free cash flow.
Specifically, section 15(1) of the ITA indicates that where a benefit, including cash, is conferred on a shareholder by a corporation, the benefit is included in the shareholder’s income for that year. If the benefit is not reported as income, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) can reassess, resulting in double taxation and potential gross negligence penalties payable by the shareholder. Consider the following example.
Earlier this year, Angela, owner-manager of ABC Inc., withdrew $10,000 from her corporation’s bank account for a personal trip to the Caribbean. No formal declaration of payment was made and Angela has no intention of repaying the amount to the corporation.
As per the ITA, Angela is required to include the $10,000 withdrawal as part of her income for the year. Failure to do so can result in a gross negligence penalty of 50% of the understated tax payable. Making matters worse, while taxable to Angela, the $10,000 withdrawal is not deductible to the corporation, resulting in double taxation.
While “benefit” is not defined in the ITA, it normally includes any type of payment or advantage to a shareholder outside the normal course of business and can include personal use of company assets, such as equipment or vehicles. Given the punitive penalties that can result from shareholder benefits and appropriations – double taxation and gross negligence penalties – these situations should be avoided.
Whether it be for personal leisure or to meet financial obligations, it is important to plan how best to withdraw money from a corporation. The best option(s) for one client might not work well for others, and personal and corporate objectives, both short and long-term, play a role. Business owners are encouraged to work with their tax advisors to determine an appropriate cash flow strategy driven by their specific circumstances.
This communication is published by CI Global Asset Management (“CI GAM”). Any commentaries and information contained in this communication are provided as a general source of information and should not be considered personal investment advice. Facts and data provided by CI GAM and other sources are believed to be reliable as at the date of publication.
Certain statements contained in this communication are based in whole or in part on information provided by third parties and CI GAM has taken reasonable steps to ensure their accuracy. Market conditions may change which may impact the information contained in this document.
Information in this communication is not intended to provide legal, accounting, investment or tax advice, and should not be relied upon in that regard. Professional advisors should be consulted prior to acting based on the information contained in this communication.
You may not modify, copy, reproduce, publish, upload, post, transmit, distribute, or commercially exploit in any way any content included in this communication. You may download this communication for your activities as a financial advisor provided you keep intact all copyright and other proprietary notices. Unauthorized downloading, re-transmission, storage in any medium, copying, redistribution, or republication for any purpose is strictly prohibited without the written permission of CI GAM.
CI Global Asset Management is a registered business name of CI Investments Inc.