Canada: Personal Income Tax Measures - March 22, 2016

The Canada child tax benefit (the "CCTB") is a non-taxable benefit which is paid based on a family's adjusted net income and the number of children in the family. There are three general components to the CCTB:

  1. a base benefit for low-to-middle income families ($1,490 each for the first and second child and $1,594 for the third child and each subsequent child of the family);
  2. a national child benefit supplement for low-income families (up to $2,308 for a first child, $2,042 for a second child and $1,943 for each subsequent child); and
  3. a child disability benefit of up to $2,730 (for families caring for a child under the age of 18 who is eligible for the Tax Act's disability tax credit).

All of the amounts outlined above are for the 2016-2017 benefit year. 

In addition to the CCTB, the universal child care benefit (the "UCCB") presently offers a taxable benefit of $160 per month for each child under the age of six and $60 per month for each child between the ages of 6 and 17.  The Budget proposes to consolidate the CCTB and the UCCB in a new Canada Child Benefit, in order to better target and deliver assistance to those in need.

The new Canada Child Benefit will provide a maximum benefit of $6,400 per child for children under the age of 6 and $5,400 per child for children between the ages of 6 and 17.  The Canada Child Benefit will be gradually phased out as a family's adjusted family net income rises.  More particularly, the Canada Child Benefit will be phased out on the portion of adjusted family net income between $30,000 and $65,000 at a rate of 7% for a one-child family, 13.5% for a family with two children, 19% for a family with three children and 23% for larger families.

For families with an adjusted net income that exceeds $65,000, the remaining Canada Child Benefit will be phased out on the portion of income above $65,000 at rates of 3.2% for a family with one child, 5.7% for a family with two children, 8% for a family with three children and 9.5% for larger families.

The following table (which was included by the Federal Government as part of the Budget release) outlines the relevant phase-out rates for the new Canada Child Benefit for adjusted net family incomes between $30,000 to $65,000, and for adjusted net family incomes above $65,000:

Canada Child Benefit Phase-Out Rates and Adjusted Family Net Income Thresholds

 

Phase-Out Rates (%)

Number of Children (for phase-out rates)

$30,000 to $65,000

Over $65,000

1 child

7.0

3.2

2 children

13.5

5.7

3 children

19.0

8.0

4 or more children

23.0

9.5

For families with children who have a severe disability, the Federal Government will continue to provide an additional amount of up to $2,730 per child who is eligible for the disability tax credit under the Tax Act. This additional amount will be gradually phased-out in the same general manner as the Canada Child Benefit, at a rate of 3.2 per cent for families with one eligible child and 5.7 per cent for families with more than one eligible child, on adjusted family net income in excess of $65,000, effective July 1, 2016.  The additional amount will be included as part of the general Canada Child Benefit payments that are made to eligible families. 

A family's entitlement to the new Canada Child Benefit for the July 2016 to June 2017 benefit year will be based on its adjusted family net income for the 2015 taxation year. 

The Budget proposes 2 additional changes that will take effect with the introduction of the Canada Child Benefit. First, the Budget proposes to ensure that all individuals who are Indians under the Indian Act and residents of Canada for tax purposes are eligible to receive the new Canada Child Benefit in circumstances where all other eligibility requirements are met. Second, the Budget proposes to allow a taxpayer to request a retroactive payment of the new Canada Child Benefit, the previous CCTB or the previous UCCB in respect of a month on or before the day that is 10 years after the beginning of that month, effective for requests made after June 2016. In all other respects, the rules governing the new Canada Child Benefit will generally be based on and mirror those which currently apply to the CCTB. For example, the new Canada Child Benefit will paid monthly to eligible families, and amounts received under the new Canada Child Benefit will not be taxable and will not reduce benefits paid under the goods and services tax credit.

Income Splitting Credit

Presently, a non-refundable income splitting tax credit is available for couples with at least 1 child under the age of 18 years of age.  The current tax credit enables a higher-income spouse or common-law partner to notionally transfer up to $50,000.00 of taxable income to his or her spouse or common-law partner in order to reduce the couple's total income tax liability by up to $2,000.00.

The Budget proposes to eliminate this income splitting tax credit for couples with at least 1 child under the age of 18 years, for the 2016 and subsequent taxation years.

Northern Residents Deductions

Certain deductions from taxable income are presently available to individuals who live in prescribed areas in northern Canada for at least 6 consecutive months beginning or ending in a taxation year. These deductions from income include both a residency deduction and a deduction for travel benefits which would otherwise be included in a northern resident's income as a taxable benefit.

Presently, the residency deduction permits each member of an eligible household to deduct up to $8.25 per day. Alternatively, a single member of an eligible household may claim a maximum residency deduction of $16.50 per day if no other member of the household claims the residency deduction (this includes cases where there are no other members in a household). The amount of the residents' deductions currently available depends on whether the taxpayer resides in the Northern Zone or the Intermediate Zone. Residents of the Northern Zone are eligible to deduct the full amounts, while residents of the Intermediate Zone may deduct half of the amounts.

In addition to the residency deduction, the current deduction for travel benefits can be claimed by eligible northern residents to offset the amount of any taxable benefits incurred by such residents in respect of up to 2 employer-paid vacation trips per year and an unlimited number of employer-paid medical trips.

The Budget increases the maximum residency deduction that each member of a household may claim from $8.25 to $11 per day and, where no other member of the household claims the residency deduction, increases the maximum residency deduction from $16.50 to $22 per day for the 2016 taxation year. Residents of the Intermediate Zone continue to be entitled to deduct half of these increased amounts.

Labour-Sponsored Venture Corporations Tax Credit

At the federal level, prior to 2015, individuals acquiring shares of a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation ("LSVCC") qualified for a 15% federal tax credit for investments of up to $5,000 each year. The federal LSVCC tax credit was reduced to 10% for the 2015 taxation year and to 5% for the 2016 taxation year. The federal LSVCC credit is presently scheduled to be eliminated for the 2017 and subsequent taxation years.

At the provincial level, a number of provinces offer similar tax credits (referred to by different names, depending on the province), at varying investment limits and tax credit rates. 

To support provinces that use LSVCC programs to facilitate access to venture capital for small and medium-sized businesses, the Budget proposes to restore the federal LSVCC tax credit to 15% for share purchases of provincially registered LSVCCs prescribed under the Tax Act for the 2016 and subsequent taxation years. This Budget proposal did not come as a surprise as the new Liberal government had addressed reinstating the credit in fall of 2016.    

To be eligible for the federal tax credit, a provincially registered LSVCC must be prescribed for purposes of the Tax Act.  Consistent with the scheduled reduction and elimination of the federal tax credit, new federal LSVCC registrations are not permitted, and new provincially registered LSVCCs are not permitted to be prescribed for the purposes of the federal tax credit.

The Budget proposes that newly registered LSVCCs under existing provincial legislation be eligible for prescription if the provincial legislation is currently prescribed for purposes of the federal LSVCC tax credit. New provincial regimes will be eligible for prescription under the Tax Act, provided the enabling provincial legislation is patterned on currently prescribed provincial legislation. For instance, to be eligible, any new provincial regime would need to:

  1. provide a provincial tax credit of at least 15 per cent of an individual's net cost of shares purchased in an LSVCC;
  2. require that the LSVCC be sponsored by an eligible labour body; and
  3. mandate that the LSVCC invest and maintain a minimum of 60 per cent of its shareholder equity in eligible investments, generally investments in small and medium-sized enterprises. 

Recognizing the discrepancy between the effectiveness of the federal and provincial LSVCC programs, the federal tax credit applicable to federally registered LSVCCs will remain at 5% for the 2016 taxation year and be eliminated for the 2017 and subsequent taxation years, whereas the proposed reinstated federal tax credit of 15% will apply to share purchases of provincially registered LSVCCs prescribed under the Tax Act.  

Teacher and Early Childhood Educator School Supply Tax Credit

The Budget proposes to introduce a teacher and early childhood educator school supply tax credit that will allow an employee who is an eligible educator to claim a 15% refundable tax credit based on an amount of up to $1,000 in expenditures made by the employee in a taxation year for eligible supplies.

To qualify as an eligible educator, a teacher must hold a valid teacher's certificate in the province or territory in which they are employed. Similarly, an early childhood educator must hold a valid certificate or diploma in early childhood education recognized by the province or territory in which they are employed. For the cost of supplies to qualify for the credit, employers will be required to certify that the supplies were purchased for the purpose of teaching or otherwise enhancing learning in a classroom or learning environment. Eligible supplies include, among other things, games, puzzles, educational support software and art supplies.

The teacher and early childhood educator school supply tax credit will not be available in respect of an amount that has already been claimed under any other provision of the Tax Act. This measure will apply to supplies acquired on or after January 1, 2016.

Ontario Electricity Support Program

As of January 1, 2016, low-income households in Ontario receive a monthly credit on their electricity bill. The program, called the Ontario Electricity Support Program ("OESP"), is administered by the Government of Ontario and bases eligibility on household income and the number of people living in the household. Monthly assistance ranges from $30 to $50, and households making up to $52,000 may be eligible for a credit. Electrical heating, a reliance on medical devices requiring a high level of electricity or First Nations and Métis household members will qualify a household for a higher level assistance. An offsetting deduction is provided so that the assistance is non-taxable. The amounts received under OESP will be exempt from income to ensure income-tested benefits are not affected.

Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for Flow-Through Share Investors

The mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors is intended to assist certain mineral exploration companies raise capital. This credit is equal to 15% of specified mineral exploration expenses incurred in Canada and renounced to flow-through share investors. The mineral exploration tax credit is in addition to the deduction provided to the investor for the exploration expenses flowed through from the company. The credit facilitates the raising of equity to fund exploration by enabling qualifying companies to issue flow-through shares at a premium.  

The Budget proposes to extend the 15% mineral exploration tax credit for 1 year, until March 31, 2017. Under the existing "look-back" rule, funds raised in a calendar year with the benefit of the credit can be spent on eligible exploration up to the end of the following calendar year. Accordingly, funds raised with the credit up to March 31, 2017 can support eligible exploration until the end of 2018.   

Education and Textbook Tax Credits

The Budget proposes the elimination of the education and textbook tax credits effective January 1, 2017. The education tax credit currently provides a non-refundable 15% tax credit of $400 per month for full-time students and $120 per month for part-time students. The textbook tax credit currently provides a 15% non-refundable tax credit of $65 per month for full-time students and $20 per month for part-time students. Unused tax credit amounts may still be carried forward from years prior to 2017 and are available to be claimed in 2017 and later years.

Children's Fitness and Arts Tax Credit

The Budget proposes the reduction of eligible amounts for the children's fitness and arts tax credits for 2016 and the elimination of such credits for 2017 and future years. The children's fitness tax credit currently provides a 15% refundable tax credit on up to $1,000 of eligible fitness expenses (to be reduced to $500 for 2016) for children under 16.  The children's arts tax credit currently provides a 15% non-refundable tax credit on up to $500 (to be reduced to $250 for 2016) in eligible fees for programs of artistic, cultural, recreational and developmental activity for children under 16.  For children who are eligible for the disability tax credit, an additional $500 is allowed for each of these credits, and the age limit is extended to children under 18.  The Budget maintains the supplemental amounts and age extension for disabled children in 2016, but both credits will be eliminated effective 2017.

Top Marginal Income Tax Rate - Consequential Amendments

On December 7, 2015, the Federal Government announced a reduction of the second personal income tax rate to 20.55% from 22%. The second personal income rate applies to income of $44,701 to $89,401. The Federal Government also announced on December 7, 2015 the introduction of a 33% personal income tax rate on individual taxable income in excess of $200,000. Previously, the highest income threshold was $138,587 with a marginal tax rate of 29%. The changes to the second personal tax rate and the introduction of a new marginal rate for income in excess of $200,000 are effective for the 2016 and subsequent taxation years. These proposals were included as part of Bill C-2 (An Act to amend the Income Tax Act), which was tabled on December 9, 2015.

A number of amendments were included in Bill C-2 that were consequential to the introduction of the new 33% top personal income tax rate. The Tax Act provides various rules that are intended to maintain the neutrality, fairness and integrity of the income tax system. Certain of these rules use the top personal income tax rate or use rates or formulas that reflect it. The consequential amendments announced adjust a number of the most significant of these rules. The Federal Government also announced that it would review other income tax rules and consider if further changes are warranted.

The Budget proposes further amendments to reflect the new top marginal income tax rate for individuals that will:

  1. provide a 33% charitable donation tax credit (on donations above $200) to trusts that are subject to the 33% rate on all of its taxable income;
  2. apply the new 33% top rate on excess employee profit sharing plan contributions;
  3. increase from 28% to 33% the tax rate on personal services business income earned by corporations;
  4. amend the definition of "relevant tax factor" in the foreign affiliate rules to reduce the relevant tax factor from the current 2.2 to 1.9;
  5. amend the capital gains refund mechanism for mutual fund trusts to reflect the new 33% top rate in the formulas that are used in computing refundable tax;
  6. increase the Part XII.2 tax rate on the distributed income of certain trusts from 36% to 40%; and
  7. amend the recovery tax rule for qualified disability trusts to refer to the new 33% top rate.

These measures will apply to the 2016 and subsequent taxation years. The charitable donation tax credit measure will be limited to donations made after the 2015 taxation year. In the case of the rate increase from 28% to 33% on personal services business income earned by corporations in taxation years that straddle 2015 and 2016, the rate increase will be prorated according to the number of days in the taxation year that are after 2015.

The measure will also extend the proposed 33% charitable donation tax credit in Bill C-2 (which currently applies to donations made after 2015) to be available for donations made by a graduated rate estate during a taxation year of the estate that straddles 2015 and 2016.

Taxation of Switch Fund Shares

Canadian mutual funds are commonly structured as trusts but can be structured as corporations. Certain mutual fund corporations allow a shareholder to exchange one class of shares in the mutual fund corporation to another class of shares in the mutual fund corporation, thereby exposing the shareholder to different classes of assets. Mutual funds organized in this fashion are referred to as "switch funds". The Tax Act permits shares of a mutual fund corporation to be exchanged for a different class of shares in the mutual fund corporation and such exchange is deemed not to be a disposition. Consequently, gains and losses are not realized upon such an exchange. This deferral benefit that is available to investors in switch funds is not available to taxpayers investing in mutual fund trusts or investing on their own account directly in securities.

To ensure what the Federal Government considers the appropriate recognition of capital gains, the Budget proposes to amend the Tax Act to treat an exchange of shares of a mutual fund corporation (or investment corporation) that results in the investor switching between funds as a disposition at fair market value. This proposed measure will not apply to switches where the shares received in exchange differ only in respect of management fees or expenses to be borne by investors and otherwise derive their value from the same portfolio or fund within the mutual fund corporation (e.g., the switch is between different series of shares within the same class).

This measure will apply to dispositions of shares that occur after September 2016.

Sales of Linked Notes

A linked note is a debt obligation, most often issued by a financial institution. The return on a linked note is connected in some fashion to the performance of one or more reference assets or indexes over the term of the obligation.

The common categories of linked notes are principal-protected notes and principal-at-risk notes. The amount payable to an investor upon maturity of a principal-protected note is equal to the principal amount invested plus a return, if any, wholly or partially linked to the performance of the reference assets or index. Under a principal-at-risk note, there is a risk, depending on the performance of the reference asset or index, that the amount payable to the investor at maturity may be less than the principal amount invested.

The Tax Act contains rules that deem interest to accrue on a typical linked note. These rules require the holder of a linked note to accrue the maximum amount of interest that could be payable on the note in respect of a given taxation year. Investors generally take the position that there is no deemed accrual of interest on a linked note prior to the maximum amount of interest becoming determinable. Instead, the full amount of the return on the note is included in the investor's income in the taxation year when it becomes determinable, which is generally shortly before maturity.

A specific rule provides that interest accrued to the date of sale of a debt obligation is included in the income of the vendor for the year in which the sale occurs. However, some investors, who hold their linked notes as capital property, sell them prior to the determination date, effectively converting the return on the notes from ordinary income to capital gains, only 50 per cent of which is included in their income. These investors take the position that no amount in respect of the return on a linked note is accrued interest on the date of sale of the note for the purposes of this specific rule. On that basis, these investors include the full amount of the return on a linked note in the proceeds of disposition and claim the return on the note as a capital gain. Secondary markets have been created to sell linked notes prior to their maturity.

The Budget proposes to amend the Tax Act so that the return on a linked note retains the same character whether it is earned at maturity or reflected in a secondary market sale. Specifically, a deeming rule will treat any gain realized on the sale of a linked note as interest that accrued on the debt obligation for a period commencing before the time of the sale and ending at that time. When a linked note is denominated in a foreign currency, foreign currency fluctuations will be ignored for the purposes of calculating this gain. An exception will also be provided where a portion of the return on a linked note is based on a fixed rate of interest.  In that case, any portion of the gain that is reasonably attributable to market interest rate fluctuations will be excluded.

This measure will apply to sales of linked notes that occur after September 2016.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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