Tax Letters: Federal Budget Commentary 2019 – Personal Measures

March, 2019

PERSONAL MEASURES

Employee Stock Options

Employee stock options can receive preferential tax treatment. The employee has a taxable employment benefit equal to the excess of the fair market value of the shares acquired at the exercise date over the price paid under the option. If certain conditions are met, the employee will be eligible for deduction of half the benefit effectively making the benefit half-taxable.

The Budget indicates the government’s intention to limit this preferential treatment (presumably the deduction for half the benefit). Specifically, the preferential treatment will only be available on shares acquired that fall under a cap for the year of grant. An annual cap of $200,000 has been set based on the fair market value of the shares that are the subject of the option. The Budget is silent on the date that the FMV is determined. It is intended that these changes would apply to employees of “large, long-established, mature firms.” Employees of start-up and rapidly growing businesses would be exempt from these rules.

The Budget indicates that further details would be released before the summer. The Budget papers do not include a proposed implementation date but do indicate that any new measures would not apply to options granted before the announcement of legislative proposals to implement any new regime.

RRSP Home Buyer’s Plan

Under the RRSP Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP), a first-time home buyer can borrow up to $25,000 from their RRSP to help finance the purchase or construction of a home. In order to qualify as a first-time home buyer, neither the individual nor their spouse can have owned a home in the year or any of the four preceding years. The four-year requirement is waived where the purchase is for a more accessible or suitable home that will be occupied by an individual eligible for the disability credit.

The Budget proposes to increase the maximum withdrawal per individual to $35,000 effective for withdrawals made after March 19, 2019.

The Budget also modifies the HBP rules to better accommodate marital breakdowns. The individual must be living separate and apart from their spouse, including a common-law partner, for a period of at least 90 days. The individual will be eligible to make a HBP withdrawal if the spouses live separate and apart at the time of the withdrawal and began to live separate and apart in the year of withdrawal or at any time in the four preceding years. However, if the individual is living in a home owned by a new spouse, they will not be able to use the HBP. This measure is effective after 2019.

Canada Training Credit

The Budget introduces the refundable Canada Training Credit (CTC). It is intended to provide financial support for professional development and training for working Canadians age 25 to 65. Eligible individuals will accumulate $250 per annum in a notional account which can be used to cover eligible training costs. The annual accumulation will start with the 2019 taxation year, with 2020 being the first year the CTC can be claimed.

In order to accumulate the $250 for a year, the individual must be age 25 to 64 at the end of the year, resident in Canada for the entire year, file a tax return for the year, have qualifying “working” income in the year of at least $10,000 (to be indexed annually) and have net income for tax purposes for the year of no more than the top of the third tax bracket for the year ($147,667 for 2019, indexed annually). Qualifying income includes employment income, self-employment income, maternity/parental Employment Insurance benefits and similar items. The $250 is still accumulated for years in which the CTC is claimed.

The amount of CTC that can be claimed will be the lesser of one-half of the eligible tuition and fees paid in respect of the year (generally those eligible for the tuition credit except that the educational institution must be in Canada) and the accumulated account balance at the beginning of the year. The individual will be able to claim the tuition credit on the eligible tuition and fees net of the CTC claimed. The individual must be resident in Canada throughout the year to be able to claim the CTC.

Kinship Care Providers

Some provinces/territories provide kinship care programs as alternatives to foster care or similar programs. Financial assistance may or may not be provided to defray the costs.

The Canada Workers Benefit (CWB) is a refundable credit available to low income workers. A higher benefit is available to couples and single parents. There was a concern that financial assistance under a kinship care program could preclude the caregiver from being considered the parent of a child for purposes of the CWB enhanced amount. The Budget proposes to clarify that the status of the child for the WCB is not impacted by kinship care financial assistance.

This measure is retroactive to 2009 and subsequent taxation years.

Social assistance payments made on the basis of a means, needs or income test, such as the Old Age Security Guaranteed Income Supplement, are not taxable but are included in income for purposes of determining eligibility for income-tested credits and benefits, for example the quarterly GST/HST credit. A concern was raised that kinship care payments could fall into this category, thereby potentially reducing credits and benefits available to lower income caregivers. The Budget proposes to clarify that kinship care assistance payments will not be included in income for the purposes of such credits and benefits.

This measure is retroactive to 2009 and subsequent taxation years.

Donations of Cultural Property

When cultural property is donated to a qualifying institution, the donor receives a charitable donation tax receipt for the full fair market value of the property but is exempt from tax on the capital gain that would otherwise be taxable on the disposition of the property.

In order to qualify for this treatment, the property must be certified under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. In order to qualify, the property must be of “national importance” to such a degree that its loss to Canada would significantly diminish the national heritage. A recent court case interpreted this test to mean that a direct connection of the property with Canada’s cultural heritage must exist. As a result, there is a concern that significant works of art of foreign origin, such as an “old masters” painting, would not be certified and thus not eligible for the preferential donation treatment. To address this concern, the Budget proposes to eliminate the national-importance requirement for donations made on or after March 19, 2019.

Registered Disability Savings Plans

A Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) is a vehicle intended to assist a family in providing for the long-term financial security of a family member eligible for the disability tax credit (DTC). There are special rules that apply where the beneficiary for whom the RDSP was established ceases to be eligible for the DTC.

Currently, when DTC eligibility ceases, no further contributions to the RDSP can be made and no further Canada disability savings grants and bonds can be paid into the plan. The RDSP must be collapsed by the end of the first year following the first full year of DTC ineligibility, unless an election is made to extend the RDSP’s life. The life can be extended for four years if a medical practitioner certifies in writing that the beneficiary will once again become eligible for the DTC in the foreseeable future. During the election period, no further contributions can be made or grants received, but withdrawals can be made under the normal rules.

The Budget proposes to relax these rules for 2021 and later years. The life of the RDSP will be able to be extended indefinitely and the requirement for medical practitioner certification eliminated. A rollover of a deceased individual’s RRSP or RRIF to the RDSP of a financially dependent infirm child or grandchild will be permitted, as long as the rollover occurs by the end of the fourth calendar year following the first full year of DTC ineligibility.

RDSPs will not be required to be collapsed after March 18, 2019, and before 2021 solely because the beneficiary has become ineligible for the DTC.

PENSION PLANS

Individual Pension Plans

Individual Pension Plans (IPPs) are defined-benefit pension plans that are intended to be an alternative to an RRSP for providing retirement benefits to the owner-manager. When an individual terminates membership in a defined-benefit pension plan, such as on termination of employment, a tax-deferred transfer of the commuted value of the member’s pension benefits is allowed. 100 per cent of the commuted value may be transferred to another defined-benefit plan or a prescribed portion (usually around 50 per cent) may be transferred to an RRSP.

Because of the greater amount that may be transferred to a registered pension plan (RPP), planning has developed making use of IPPs to circumvent the RRSP limitation. A new company is incorporated by the former plan member. This new company establishes an IPP to which the commuted value of the former pension benefits is transferred. The new company generally has no other purpose or activity.
The government considers this type of planning to be inappropriate. Accordingly, the Budget proposes that IPPs not be able to provide retirement benefits in respect of years of service under a defined-benefit plan of other than the company (or its predecessor) that established the IPP. Furthermore, assets transferred from a former employer’s defined benefit plan to an IPP that relate to such service will be required to be included in the income for tax purposes of the former plan member.

These measures are to apply to pensionable service credited under an IPP on or after March 19, 2019.

Permitting additional types of annuities under registered plans

The Budget proposes to permit two new types of annuities to be purchased under certain registered plans, subject to specified conditions.

Firstly, “advanced life deferred annuities” (ALDAs) will be permitted, within limits, under a registered retirement savings plan, registered retirement income fund, deferred profit-sharing plan, pooled registered pension plan (PRPP), and defined-contribution registered pension plan.

An ALDA is a life annuity whose commencement is deferred until the end of the year in which the annuitant turns 85.

Secondly, “variable payment life annuities” (VPLAs) will be permitted under a PRPP and defined-contribution RPP.

A VPLA is a life annuity whose payments vary based on the investment performance of the underlying annuities fund and the mortality experience of VLPA annuitants.

These measures will apply to the 2020 taxation year and beyond.

Specified Multi-Employer Pension Plans (SMEP)

The Budget proposes to prohibit contributions to a SMEP in respect of a plan member after the year in which that member’s 71st birthday occurs. A similar prohibition is proposed for contributions to a defined-benefit provision of the SMEP after the member has begun to receive a pension from the plan.

These changes will bring SMEPs in line with the rules for other registered pension plans.

The new rules will apply to contributions payable in respect of collective bargaining agreements concluded after 2019.

Digital Subscriptions Tax Credit

The Budget proposes a 15 per cent non-refundable tax credit on up to $500 of costs for eligible digital subscriptions per annum, resulting in a maximum $75 annual credit. To be eligible, the amounts must be paid to a Qualified Canadian Journalism Organization (QCJO) for a subscription to digital form content of a QCJO. The QCJO must be primarily engaged in producing written content. A subscription with a broadcaster will not qualify. The credit will be available for amounts paid after 2019 and before 2025.

Change in Use Rules for Multi-Unit Residential Properties

A taxpayer is deemed to have disposed of a property, or a part thereof, when its use is converted from income-earning to personal use, or vice versa. Under current rules, where the use of an entire property is converted to income-earning, or an income-earning property becomes a taxpayer’s principal residence, the taxpayer may elect to not have the deemed disposition occur in order to defer the taxation of any accrued capital gain until the time that the property is sold. In cases where only part of a property is converted, this election is unavailable.

The Budget proposes to extend the above-mentioned election to situations where only part of a property undergoes a change in use. For example, where a taxpayer owns a multi-unit residential property such as a triplex, if the taxpayer begins to live in one of the units previously rented, or vice versa, he or she can elect to not have the deemed disposition occur to that unit.

This measure will apply to changes in use that occur on or after March 19, 2019.

Medical Expense Tax Credit

Amounts paid for cannabis products may be eligible for the medical expense tax credit where such products are purchased for a patient for medical purposes in accordance with the regulations under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. As of October 17, 2018, cannabis is no longer regulated under this Act, but rather is subject to the Cannabis Regulations under the Cannabis Act.

The Budget proposes to amend the Income Tax Act to reflect the current regulations for accessing cannabis for medical purposes. This measure will apply to expenses incurred on or after October 17, 2018.

Carrying on Business in a Tax-Free Savings Account

A Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) is liable to pay tax under Part I of the Income Tax Act (at the top personal rate) on income from a business carried on by the TFSA or from non-qualified investments. Under the current rules, the trustee of the TFSA (i.e., a financial institution) is jointly and severally liable with the TFSA for Part I tax.

The Budget proposes to extend the joint and several liability for that tax owing on income from carrying on a business in a TFSA to the holder of the TFSA. The joint and several liability of a trustee of a TFSA at any time in respect of business income earned by a TFSA will be limited to the property held in the TFSA at that time plus the amount of all distributions of property from the TFSA on or after the date that the notice of assessment is sent.

This measure will apply to the 2019 and subsequent taxation years.

Mutual Funds: Allocation to Redeemers Methodology

A mutual fund trust may allocate its capital gains or ordinary income to its unit-holders and is entitled to a deduction in computing its income for the year. Where a mutual fund trust disposes of investments to fund a redemption of its units, a gain on the investment is realized by the trust and is subject to tax. The accrued gain may also be taxed in the hands of the unit-holder on the redemption of their units. To address this potential for “double tax,” a mutual fund trust has access to a capital gains refund mechanism under the Income Tax Act. This mechanism provides a refund to the mutual fund trust in respect of tax that the mutual fund trust has paid on its capital gains attributable to redeeming unit-holders. However, since this mechanism relies on a formula to approximate the tax, it does not always fully relieve “double taxation.”

The “allocation to redeemers methodology” was developed to more effectively match the capital gains realized by the mutual fund trust on its investments with the capital gains realized by the redeeming unit-holders on their units. This methodology allows a mutual fund trust to allocate its realized capital gains to a redeeming unit-holder and claim a deduction. The allocated capital gains are included in computing the redeeming unit-holder’s income, but its redemption proceeds are reduced by the same amount.

Deferral

Certain mutual fund trusts have been using the allocation to redeemers methodology to allocate capital gains to redeeming unit-holders in excess of the capital gain that would otherwise have been realized by these unit-holders on the redemption of their units. This results in a deferral of tax since the mutual fund trust is allowed a full deduction for the amount allocated but the redeeming unit-holder is taxed on the same gain as it would have realized had there been no allocation of income to them.

The Budget proposes to deny a mutual fund trust a deduction in respect of an allocation made to a unit-holder on a redemption of a unit of the mutual fund trust that is greater than the capital gain that would otherwise be realized by the unit-holder on the redemption, if the following conditions are met:

The allocated amount is a capital gain; and

The unit-holder’s redemption proceeds are reduced by the allocation.

This measure will apply to taxation years of mutual fund trusts that begin on or after March 19, 2019.

Character conversion

Certain mutual fund trusts have also been using the allocation to redeemers methodology to convert returns on an investment that would have the character of ordinary income to capital gains for their remaining unit-holders. This character conversion planning is possible when the redeeming unit-holders hold their units on income account, but other unit-holders hold their units on capital account.

The Budget proposes to deny a mutual fund trust a deduction in respect of an allocation made to a unit-holder on a redemption if:

The allocated amount is ordinary income; and

The unit-holder’s redemption proceeds are reduced by the allocation.

This measure will apply to taxation years of mutual fund trusts that begin on or after March 19, 2019.

 

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