What is a Reasonable Return on Your Private Company Shares?

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What is a Reasonable Return on Your Private Company Shares?

By John Connolly, BBA, CPA, CMA, MRSB Group, Charlottetown, PEI (DFK Affiliate Firm)

On July 18, 2017 and December 13, 2017, the Department of Finance introduced changes to the taxation of dividends that an individual receives from a private company. Many people who receive dividends from a private company could see that income taxed at the top personal tax rate without the benefit of the personal tax credits regardless of what other income they have. The new rules include a maze of exclusions that the Department of Finance says are intended to better target owners of private companies who attempt to “lower their personal income taxes by sprinkling their income to family members who do not contribute to the business.”

Canada Revenue Agency published initial guidance on how they will apply the new rules with a number of examples. They expect that their interpretation and application of the rules could change as they gain experience in dealing with specific factual situations. The current guidance is found at:

https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/programs/about-canada-revenue-agency-cra/federal-government-budgets/income-sprinkling/guidance-split-income-rules-adults.html

Individuals older than 24 who are unable to meet the less subjective tests for exclusion from these rules will have to rely on a highly subjective exclusion for a “reasonable return” on their contributions to the business. The value of contributions to the business will be measured based on labour contributions, property contributions, risks assumed for the business, amounts received from the business in the past, and “such other factors as may be relevant”. CRA’s published guidance says that factors they will consider when determining what is a reasonable return may include the following: 

LABOUR CONTRIBUTION

PROPERTY CONTRIBUTION

RISK ASSUMPTION

TOTAL AMOUNTS PAID

In determining whether a payment received by the individual exceeds a reasonable amount, account should be taken of other amounts previously paid to the individual. This should generally include any payment of any kind (including salary or other remuneration or compensation, dividends, interest, proceeds, and fees), benefits, and deemed payments (as may be reasonably required in the circumstances).

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