New Trust Rules and implications to Corporate Bare Trustees

On December 15, 2022, Parliament passed Bill C-32.  In that bill, were some new trust reporting rules that will impact a number of people.  In particular, anyone who has a Bare Trust agreement. Why is this causing a fair amount of stress for business owners and professional accountants? 

Here is a bit of background:

In BC, the Property Purchase Transfer Tax is assessed each time a property is sold.  Currently, the rates are 1% on the fair market value to $200,000 and then an additional 2% on the fair market value that is in excess of $200,000 to $2,000,000.  And if the property is worth more than $2 million, the property purchase transfer tax increases to 3%.  If the fair market value of the property is over $3 million, there is an additional 2% tax.  As an example[1], if a $4,500,000 property in BC is sold, the property purchase transfer tax is $143,000. 

              $2,000 on the first $200,000

              $36,000 on the next $1,800,000

              $75,000 on the next 2,500,000 and ($4,500,000 – $2,000,000 = 2,500,000 x 3%)

              $30,000 on the amount in excess of the $3M FMV ($4,500,000 – $3,000,000 = $1,500,000 x 2%)

If you are in a property development business, where properties are bought and sold as a normal course of business, this is a high cost to doing business.  One way to avoid having to pay the Property Purchase Transfer Tax each time is to establish a Bare Trust agreement, where a corporation holds the legal title to the land as a Bare Trustee.  The Trustee only looks after the property according to the instructions of the beneficiaries of the property.   The property developers can instruct the Bare Trustee on how they want the land to be developed.  If the beneficiaries (the property developer) sell the property, they will sell the shares of the Bare Trustee corporation.   In this scenario, the title holder of the property doesn’t change, just the shareholders of the company.  So, there hasn’t been a change in ownership of the land.  So no property purchase transfer tax needs to paid to the province.  Which can save a business a LOT of money.  Any gain or loss on the sale of the property is taxed in the hands of the beneficiary company, so the property developer will pay the tax on the disposition of the land.

Prior to the new Trust Reporting Rules, the Bare Trustee would file an annual Corporation Income Tax Return (T2), since it is a corporation.  However, with the new Trust Reporting rules, even though a corporation owns the property, the Bare Trustee agreement between the corporation and the property developing company creates a Trust relationship and are now required to file as though they are a Trust.  So now the corporate Bare Trustees will need to file both a Corporation Income Tax Return and a Trust Information Return (T3).

A bare trust arrangement may also exist in many common situations where parents have added their children to title of their home for estate planning purposes or children have added a parent to title in order to qualify for a mortgage.  In these instances there is no formal written agreement that sets up this arrangement as a trust arrangement, but it is in fact a bare trust, where one person holds an asset on behalf of another person, but the benefit of the asset belongs to the first person.  Certain trust arrangements are exempt from this reporting requirement.  Some common examples are:

  • If the trust arrangement has not been in place for three months;
  • If the underlying asset(s) are valued at less than $50,000 throughout the year – assets may include deposit accounts, government debt obligations or listed securities; and several more but less common to individual taxpayers.

The tricky part is figuring out if you have a trust arrangement that even needs to be considered for these reporting rules.  As these situations are not well documented and most taxpayers will not even know to ask.  Our firm is taking this very seriously and will be having a conversation with every one of our clients to make sure we do not miss this new form as the penalties are outrageous.

The penalties for not filing the returns are pretty high.  There is the standard $25 a day, with a minimum of $100 to a maximum of $2,500.  But there is also an additional penalty of the greater of $2,500 or 5% of the maximum value of the property held during the taxation year if there was a failure to file or gross negligence can be proven.  So, in the case of the example above, where there is a property of $4.5M held by a Bare Trustee, if the T3 Trust Information Return is never filed, there will be the initial $2,500 penalty plus a potential additional $225,000 penalty owed for not filing for one year. 

The good news is that these new rules don’t apply to 2022.  They will apply for tax years ending after December 30, 2023.  It is a great time to reach out to your accountants to chat about what these new reporting rules mean to you. 

[1] BC government website:,-See%20general%20property&text=Calculate%20the%20tax%20payable%3A,%24450%2C000%20X%202%25%20%3D%20%249%2C000

What is a dividend?

A dividend is one of the most common ways that Owner-managed businesses will distribute funds to the owners. Dividends are also distributions of their accumulated after-tax dollars that companies will give their shareholders. However, there are some key points that shareholders need to be aware of when they decide that they would like to receive dividends. Here’s a quick and dirty checklist:

  1. Is there a class of Shares that can pay dividends? If so, what are the rights and restrictions?
  2. Are there Retained Earnings available to be distributed to the shareholders?
    Dividends are distributions to shareholders with after-tax corporate dollars. So if your company is in a Deficit, the company may not be able to distribute dividends.
  3. Is there a set amount that you need to distribute as dividends for your class of shares? Or is it discretionary?
  4. Are you distributing Eligible or Non-eligible dividends to the shareholders?
  5. Do you have all of the relevant information for the shareholders? (SIN/Business Number, Address)
  6. Have the Directors of the company authorized the payment of the dividends, by way of a director’s resolution?
  7. Who is preparing the T5 Dividend Slip and Summary that needs to be filed with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)? If it is your accountant, please make sure that you have discussed this with them so that they are aware that these forms need to be filed.

Bonuses – pay it out or contribute to a Group RRSP (pros & cons)

February is a month that is commonly used for paying out bonuses to employees. One of the reasons for this is so that employees can use those bonuses to contribute into their RRSPs prior to the RRSP contribution deadline. Another reason, is that it allows employees to be taxed on these bonuses in the following year, vs the previous year. Some employers will pay out this bonus directly and employees can contribute it into their own RRSP plans or employers will make the contributions into a Group RRSP that the employer establishes for their employees. There are pros and cons to both options.

Self Administered plans BenefitsGroup RRSP Benefits
You control where your money is investedThe company takes care of managing the plan (i.e. less work for you)
You can determine how much you put into a planYour withholding taxes from your employer are less (takes into account the deduction you’d receive for making an RRSP contribution), so more $$ is in your pocket each pay period
You can enlist various advisors to assist with making decisions about where your money is investedAs the withholding taxes are reduced with the contribution, you can put more money into your RRSP right away rather than waiting for next year’s tax refund
Self Administered plans CautionsGroup RRSP Cautions
It can be more time consuming for youYou don’t control how your money is invested
You may forget to deposit an amount into your planThere could be some restrictions on what happens when you leave your company.
    What your money is invested in may be restricted to certain types of investments

Fresh Starts: Assembling your Year-end info. What does my accountant need to file my Business Taxes?

Happy New Year!  January is a time for Fresh Starts. For your business, it’s also a time to reflect on how the year went.  And as Accountants, its now the beginning of the time when we start reaching out to our clients to remind them of what we’ll be needing in order to prepare their corporate tax returns. 

Here’s a snapshot of the checklist that we’ll generally send out to our new clients.  What I’m adding though is some of the reasoning behind the requests.

1) Two years of historical tax returns, financial statements, and notices of assessments – both corporate and personal

a. This allows us to get a general idea of how your business is doing and to gain a better understanding of how your business operates.
b. This also allows us to see where there are potential tax and accounting treatments that could be more advantageous for you and your company.

2) Any legal agreements outstanding for the company

a. For accounting and tax purposes, this allows us to understand if there are any liabilities that need to be recorded, and any potential liabilities that may be arising in the future.
    i. This supports us in our helping you plan your cash flow and also for some potential tax planning.

3) Minute book, including certificate of incorporation as well as supporting schedules, share register, bylaws, shareholder agreement (if applicable)

a. For many small businesses, there is a tendency for business owners to self-incorporate. While this is a legitimate way to incorporate, there is a tendency to forget or be unaware that there are certain documents/agreements that need to be in place in order to ensure that the business is properly incorporated.
    i. The most common mistake is that shares are not issued. Shares are the asset that each shareholder should hold. This piece of paper is what is needed to indicate that the company is owned by someone.
b. The minute book is a record of the actions that the directors of the company have approved.
    i. Common documents in the minute book are:
      1. The appointment of directors
      2. Resolutions approving any issuance of dividends
        a. The type of dividend that have been approved.

4) A copy of the bookkeeping file and password (i.e. Quickbooks Desktop/Sage) or an invitation sent to [email protected] to access the accounting system if it is web-based (i.e. Quickbooks Online, Xero, Wave).

a. This is to allow us to generate reports like the Balance Sheet, Profit & Loss Statement, and Trial Balance
    i. These are reports that we will use to create your financial statements and tax return.
b. It also allows us to focus on the entries that make up a balance in the accounting records without having to ask you about it, which allows us to be as efficient as possible

5) Year-end bank reconciliation and bank statement for all bank accounts

a. This allows us to see that you have performed a reconciliation of your cash accounts and that you understand what cheques have not been cashed, or what funds have not been received.

6) Inventory count documentation at year end (if applicable)

a. This allows us to ensure that what you have on your books matches what you actually have in inventory

7) Investment portfolio statement for marketable securities held by the corporation;

a. For accounting and tax purposes, we need to know if there are any realized or unrealized gains or losses in your portfolio.
b. We will also need the Foreign Reporting statement that your Financial Institution provides you with as there is a separate Tax Form (T1135) that may need to be completed and submitted to the CRA>

8) Copies of insurance policies if insurance has been prepaid for the year;

a. This allows us to determine if a portion of the insurance that was paid in the year, should still be recorded on your books. If there is a portion of the policy that hasn’t expired by the end of your fiscal year-end, this amount would need to remain on your books as a prepaid expense.
    i. Example. You pay your insurance on an annual basis. But the insurance period is from October to September each year. You have a calendar year-end. Therefore, in December, you should have on your Balance Sheeet 9 months worth of a prepaid expense (Jan – Sept) since this portion of your insurance policy hasn’t been used.

9) Purchase agreements and/or bills of sale for any capital assets acquired or disposed of during the year.

a. Certain capital assets, like vehicles, have restrictions on how much can be capitalized for tax purposes. Therefore, having the purchase agreements allows us to determine how much can be capitalized on your tax return.
b. This also allows us to determine if any leased assets should be treated as a capital or operating lease for accounting and tax purposes.

10) Year-end credit card reconciliations and credit card statements

a. This ensures that you have performed a proper cut off to the end of your fiscal period since it is rare that a Credit Card statement will be created at the end of a month.
b. This also ensures that you are aware as to what your upcoming credit card payment will need to be in the following month.

11) Copies of payroll calculations and remittances made for the year;

a. This supports any T4 Slips and Summaries that need to be prepared in a year.

12) Statements and agreements for any long-term debt, lines of credit, or other financing in place;

a. These statements and agreements allows us to determine if the interest expense has been properly accrued/expensed and as well that the amount of the liability showing up on your Balance Sheet matches what the financial institutions have on their records.

13) Any lease or rental agreements in place;

a. This coincides with the Capital Assets and Long term debt requests

    i. Having this information allows us to assist you in determining if leased assets should be reported on the Balance Sheet and what the related liability would be as well.

14) Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) correspondence.

a. This would include any Notices of Assessment or Reassessment
b. Any requests that they may have sent you
c. This allows us to understand if there are any outstanding payments to be made, what instalments have been made during the year, and if the CRA disagrees with any of our filing positions.

15) Copies of any T-slips received in the year (T3/T5/T5008, etc);

a. This allows us to assist you in ensuring that your investment portfolio is properly accounted for
b. It also allows us to ensure that your investment income is properly recorded on your income statement
    i. These slips will disclose what portion of the investment income is considered to be interest income, dividend income or a capital gain

16) Details of any home office costs and mileage incurred during the year if not already included in the company bookkeeping.

a. This allows us to help you calculate the portion of your home office and mileage costs that are reimbursable to you for the usage of your car or office.

17) Mileage log for any business use of personal vehicles or personal use of business vehicles

a. This allows us to deduct the appropriate amount in your business and save you from CRA audit headache later on.
b. We may also need to record a personal benefit to you personally as an employee or shareholder so it is important to have support so that these amounts are not over/under stated.

Holidays, Presents, Parties, etc. – How to prevent Financial Overindulging during the holiday season.

Are you someone who plans out their holiday spending in November?  Maybe even has all of their holiday shopping completed by December 1st?  If so, I’m jealous.  Every year, I have the best intentions, and some years are better than others, but for the most part, I’m a 50/50 person when it comes to planning my holiday spending.  50% of the time I’m on budget and on track to complete my shopping before December 15th and the other 50% of the time, I’m overbudget, didn’t stick to what I planned to buy or left it too late and am now scrambling to find the perfect gift.  Which means that January, when the credit card bills come in, there is pain, but maybe not as much pain as there could have been. 

So here are some tips that have worked for me in the past and ones that seem like a great idea, but I have yet to be successful in implementing it 100%.

Gift Checklist:  Look at who is on you gift giving list and brainstorm ideas as to what sorts of gifts you’d like to buy for them and then start searching out the most reasonably priced options.  Then use that as a checklist and as a guide to stay focused.  This will help you save time and money.  It will help you cluster where you need to drive to pick up your gifts and will also help you figure out if someone has something on sale.  Also, I know that it is tempting to purchase things online from the Big guys, but check out your local retailers.  Chances are that they have similar prices and likely better customer service. 

This also helps to avoid the last minute panic about not finding something for someone that you had planned to give a gift to. 

Monthly Calendar:  Plot out the dates and times that you have available to spend trekking around the city to pick up gifts or to visit with Friends or to even do some baking.  Make sure you give yourself a generous amount of time to do these things too.  For instance, don’t assume that you can go shopping from 12-1; meet up with a friend from 1-2 and then be home to bake a couple dozen cookies between 2-4 and then have time to take the kids to their hockey practice at 4:30.  If you get ahead of schedule, great!  You can use that time to relax – but really, it’s the holidays, is there ever a time to relax? 

Sidenote:  I’ve been trying to use EverNote as my means to keep track of things this year.  It seems to be hitting around 75% this year.  So I figure it’s something that I can keep doing and improving on next year.  I know that Microsoft has templates for Calendars and a variety of holiday shopping spreadsheets that you can use. 

Purchasing gifts throughout the year: This is one of those that sounds like a great idea, and has been known to work on occasion, but I think that in order to be successful, you need to have a single spot to store these goodies and you need to have a list as to who you bought a particular gift for.  Where I’ve been unsuccessful with this is when I have multiple spots for storing the gifts since I’m trying to “hide them” and then I forget where that spot was.  And then I find the gift that I’m going to give, but I can’t remember who it is for. 

Buy in Bulk(?):  This isn’t to say to only buy one thing to give to everyone on your wish list (although I’m not saying that this is a bad idea either).  What I mean is that if you have a number of holiday parties to go to and you’re going to be purchasing a gift to give to the hosts of the party, perhaps buy multiples of this. Some retailers will give you a discount for purchasing multiples of one item. 

Pay with Cash/Debit Card:  Credit cards have their purpose and the majority of us have at least one.  But they can hide or mask your actual amount of spend each month.  The easiest way to avoid the “Oh Crap” feeling when you open your Credit Card statement in January is to pay with Cash.  Just make sure you keep your receipts in case you need to return something (Tip: Take a picture of the receipt with your camera).  If you pay with Cash, you have a limited amount of funds that you have to spend on gifts.  With your handy budget and calendar, one option would be to take out the funds that you need for that particular day and only use that to purchase the gifts on your list for that day. 

But just remember to enjoy the time with family and friends and if you have the opportunity to relax and recuperate from the stress of the year, take advantage of it.  You deserve it. 

Wishing you all the best for this holiday season!

If you have your favourite tip that helps you minimize financial overindulging over the holidays, we’d love to hear your thoughts!