Canada’s Cannabis Taxation Regime

photo-1503262167919-559b953d2408There has been much speculation on how Canada will tax cannabis, which is expected to be legalized for retail sale in Canada by July 2018.  The much anticipated draft tax legislation was released by the Department of Finance on Friday November 10, 2017, and is out for consultation until December 7, 2017.

Proposed Tax Regime

Under the proposed cannabis tax regime, most supplies of cannabis will be subject to GST/HST (at rates currently ranging from 5-15% across Canada).  Cannabis, both for recreational or medical use, will also be taxed under the Excise Act, 2001 (Canada) (the “Act”), which currently imposes federal excise duty on spirits, wine and tobacco product made in Canada.  Both taxes on cannabis will be administered by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Similarly to the current GST/HST regime, the provinces and territories will be offered the option of joining the federal tax regime for cannabis taxation, in which case the excise duty on cannabis will be made up of the federal rate, plus an additional rate for the participating province or territory.  The division of tax revenues is currently under discussion between the federal government and the provinces, which will be responsible for controlling the distribution and retail sales of cannabis in each province.  In this regard, the federal government has indicated its goal of setting the maximum total excise duty rate at the greater of $1 per gram or 10 per cent of the sale price of the product.

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New Proposals on the Taxation of Private Corporations can result in Double Taxation

ottawa-815375_1920Much has been written regarding the proposals released by the Department of Finance on July 18, 2017 to limit income splitting and holding passive investments inside a private corporation.[1]  A third measure, namely, placing limits on the conversion of income to capital gains is aimed at preventing an individual selling shares of a corporation to a non-arm’s length person followed by a sale by the non-arm’s length person to a connected corporation.  The foregoing transaction would result in the individual realizing a capital gain based on the fair market value of the transferred share followed by the tax-free extraction of corporate surplus of the transferred corporation.  This is considered an inappropriate conversion of what would otherwise be a payment of dividend income into a capital gain.  The difference in tax rates is about 14%.

The problem is in the application.  Discussions with officials from the Department of Finance indicate that these proposals will prevent some normal post death tax planning aimed at preventing double taxation of the same economic gain (the “pipeline plan”).

The pipeline plan is illustrated in the following example:  Taxpayer A incorporates a company and invests $100 for shares of the company.  The company starts a business or buys investments for $100.  Ten years later the shares of the company are worth $5 million.  Taxpayer A dies, a capital gain of $4,999,900 is realized.  However, the cost of the assets or investments in the company remains at $100.  Thus, if the assets or the investments are sold for $5 million, there is a gain of the same $4,999,900, i.e., the same gain is taxed twice, once in the hands of the deceased taxpayer and once in the hands of the company.  To prevent this economic double taxation, the shares of the company are sold by the estate of Taxpayer A to a new corporation for the same $5 million which then is amalgamated with the company.  The tax result is that the cost base of the assets in the amalgamated company and paid-up capital of the shares of the amalgamated company is increased to $5 million.  This prevents double taxation of the same gain.

Yet, the Department of Finance officials have indicated that the pipeline plan is not available because the transfer of the shares from the deceased Taxpayer A to his estate is a non-arm’s length transfer that is caught by the new proposal.  It is a stretch to think of death as a “specific type of avoidance transaction”.

There is a procedure available to deal with the double taxation issue but there is a stringent time requirement which often causes such a procedure to not be available.[2]

The Minister of Finance should heed the words of Shakespeare “Striving to do better, oft we mar what’s well”.  At a bare minimum, the Minister should announce that these rules will not affect pipeline transactions.

 

[1]       See also our commentary on the proposal, “Targeting Private Corporation Tax Planning: the Canadian Federal Government’s Proposal“.

[2]       Namely, making an election pursuant to subsection 164(6).

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Five Fasken Martineau Partners make the 2017 Tax Controversy Leader’s list

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The 7th edition of the International Tax Review guide mentioned five partners of Fasken as leading tax dispute resolution lawyers in Canada. This prestigious recognition is based on their outstanding success in the past year and consistently positive feedback from peers and clients.

The five partners that made the Tax Controversy Leader’s list of 2017 are :

Congratulations to the listed partners!

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Cinq associés Fasken Martineau figurent dans la liste des chefs de file en litige fiscal

businessman-2056022_1920La 7e édition du répertoire International Tax Review fait mention de cinq associés de Fasken à titre de chefs de file dans le domaine du contentieux fiscal au Canada. Cette reconnaissance prestigieuse est basée sur leur succès remarquable au cours de la dernière année et des commentaires positifs de pairs et de clients.

Les cinq associés figurant dans la liste des chefs de file en litige fiscal de 2017 sont :

Félicitations aux associés nommés!

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Targeting Private Corporation Tax Planning: the Canadian Federal Government’s Proposal

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(The full version of this bulletin was originally published on Fasken.com – “The Federal Government’s Proposals Targeting Private Corporation Tax Planning” – August 3, 2017.)

On July 18, 2017 (the “Consultation Date”), the Minister of Finance (Canada), the Honourable William Morneau, released the Government’s proposals to address tax planning commonly used by private corporations and their owners in the form of a paper (the “Consultation Paper”) and draft legislation amending the Income Tax Act (Canada) (the “Tax Act”) to implement certain of the proposed measures.

The Government addresses three broad issues in the Consultation Paper:

  • sprinkling income using private corporations;
  • holding a passive investment portfolio inside a private corporation; and
  • converting a private corporation’s regular income into capital gains.

Selected proposals and tax measures are detailed below.

Details of the Proposed Tax Measures

Income Sprinkling

Background

The Consultation Paper notes that the Government has imposed a progressive personal income tax system with five marginal tax rates ranging between 15 percent and 33 percent that apply at different taxable income thresholds. The Government is concerned with arrangements that effectively transfer income that may otherwise be taxable in the hands of a high-income individual to a family member subject to lower tax rates resulting in lower tax receipts for the Government (“income sprinkling”).

The Tax Act currently has a number of provisions that deny or limit the potential benefits of income sprinkling, but the Government believes that additional measures are necessary with a particular focus on investments in private corporations.

Proposed Tax Measures

The measures proposed by the Government fall into three categories:

  1. extension of the tax on split-income (“TOSI”) provisions;
  2. restricting claims under the lifetime capital gains exemption (the “LCGE”); and
  3. new tax reporting obligations applicable to trusts and partnerships.

 

Continue reading to learn how the Canadian Federal Government’s announced target tax planning strategies affect private corporations.

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