When Free Parking is not Free

In a recent court case Anthony v. Canada(2011 FCA 336) it was held that free parking provided to employees at a workplace is a taxable benefit that must be included in an employee’s income.  This case involved approximately 100 employees of Branksome Hall, a private girls’ school in Toronto.  The employees were assessed a taxable benefit by the CRA based on the Fair market value of the free parking provided by the school.

The wording in the Income Tax Act  as it pertains to taxable benefits seems to give the  CRA  considerable scope in determining what is a taxable benefit.  Armed with this broad definition and a need for ever increasing tax revenues one can only wonder what employee benefit CRA will  set its sights on next.


How to Give Like Santa and not end up like Scrooge

December is the time of year employers often choose to give a gift to their employees as a Christmas present.  However, anytime there is an exchange between the employer and an employee the tax consequences need to be considered.

Canada Revenue Agency has the following rules for gifts:

Cash and near-cash gifts or awards are always a taxable benefit to the employee.   A near-cash item is one that can be easily converted to cash such as a gift certificate, gift card, gold nuggets, securities, or stocks.

Non-cash gifts given to employees up to a total value of $500 are exempted from being treated as a taxable benefit to the employee with the following conditions:

  1. A gift has to be for a special occasion such as a religious holiday, a birthday, a wedding, or the birth of a child;
  2. There is no limit to the number of tax-free non-cash gifts and awards you may give your employee in a year;
  3. The employee must be unrelated [at arm’s length] to the employer;
  4. If you give gifts totalling more than $500 the excess amount is taxable.  For example,  if you give an employee gifts in the year  with a total value of $650, there is a taxable benefit of $150 ($650 -$500).


Attention Shoppers – For a Limited Time … Computers – 100% Write off

The CCA rate for computer equipment (including systems software) acquired after January 27, 2009, and before February 2011 was increased from 55% to 100% with no half-year rule. As a result, a full write-off can be claimed in the first tax year that CCA deductions are available.

To be eligible, the computer equipment purchased must be new and situated in Canada, and it must be used in a business carried on in Canada or used to earn income from property situated in Canada.

For more information on this and other tax relief measures go to cra.gc.ca/taxcuts.


The Decision to Incorporate [Part 1]

Advantages of Incorporation

Income Tax Deferral

When a person chooses to begin a new business venture one of the first decisions that will have to made is how to structure the business.  Will it be operated as a sole proprietorship or as a corporation?  There are many significant advantages to be gained from operating a business in a corporation (which will be addressed at a later date).    Perhaps the most significant benefit is the ability to defer the payment of income tax.

A Canadian Controlled Private Corporation [CCPC] is entitled to a  small business deduction [SBD] on the first $500,000 of income.  In 2009, a CCPC operating in Ontario would be subject to a corporate income tax rate of 16.5%.  As of July 1, 2010 the rate is further reduced to 15.5%.  Consider that for a moment.  The first $500,000 of income is taxed at only 16.5%.  

 See the graph below:

What would be the tax rate if that income was earned through an unincorporated business?  To answer that, we need to consider two important tax rates that come into play in calculating the amount of taxes owed when you file your tax return. 

The Average or Effective Tax Rate

The first rate to consider is the “average tax rate”.  Canada Revenue Agency [CRA] uses different rates of income tax depending on how much income you have.  Basically, the more you make, the more they [CRA]take.   For example, in 2009, CRA taxed you at 15% if you made $40,726 or less.  If you made more than that you end up in another tax bracket. The rate increases to 22% on any amount over $40,726 until you get to $81,452.  After that you enter another tax bracket where the tax rate goes up to 26%, and so on, all the way up to 29%.  The Ontario government does something similar.  The result of  this is that when you calculate the amount of taxes owed on your tax return, the tax rate is really a combination of several rates of tax — taken together they represent your “average tax rate”.  

The Marginal Tax Rate

The second rate to consider is the “marginal tax rate”.   Remember what I said above about how CRA calculates your taxes: “The more you make the more they [CRA] take.”  This is referred to as a progressive tax system [It gets progressively worse].  What this means is that your marginal tax rate is higher than your average tax rate.  Let me give you an illustration, as this will be easier to grasp.  If you earn $50,000 in salary you will have to pay $7,980 in taxes.  Thus your average tax rate is 15.96% [$7,980/$50,000].  But let’s say you decide to get a part-time job to earn a little extra money.  Say you earn $1,000 from this part-time job.  How much tax will you have to pay on that extra $1,000?  If you said $159.60, which is $1,000 multiplied by your average tax rate — not only are you wrong, you are also in for a big surprise.  The correct answer is $312 – nearly double your average tax rate.  That is because that $1,000 of part time income is added to your $50,000 salary.  That extra $1,000 of income is taxed according to your highest tax bracket, with the result that it is taxed at a higher rate of tax.

And it only gets worse.  If you have a salary of $100,000, you will  have to pay $26,356 in taxes.  Thus, your average tax rate is 26.36% [$26,356/$100,000].  How much tax will you have to pay if you earn $1,000 from a part-time job.  You had better sit down — 43.4% – yes $434.00.   [I always wondered why my dad declined to work on Saturdays when he was given the opportunity to work over-time.  His answer was always that it wasn’t worth it.  Now I understand what he means.]

Back to our topic – Income Tax Deferral

What would be the tax rate if that income was earned through an unincorporated business?  Once you start making around $150,000, your marginal tax rate would be more than 46%!  Now compare that to the rate of corporate income tax of 16.5% — that is a difference of 30%.  The graph below shows the amount of taxes payable at various levels of income, depending on whether it is earned personally through an unincorporated business or through a corporation.

The next graph compares the percentage of income tax paid on income earned personally through an unincorporated business with income earned through a corporation.  The personal tax rate is the marginal tax rate.

I’ll continue with this topic in Part 2.