Ontario Budget: Tax Planning is Critical for High Earners

Retroactive tax hikes hurt family financial plans and make it difficult for them to responsibly plan for their financial futures.

Yet, that’s exactly what’s at stake with Ontario’s significant tax hikes on high earners and small business, reintroduced in its budget this week. To preserve wealth in 2014 and offset higher taxation on income, planning to minimize personal tax during work life and at retirement must begin immediately for business owners, employees with higher incomes and, in particular, with executors who will preside over a significant untaxed estate.

Consider the changes to the high income tax brackets. It had been slated to start at just over $514,000. For 2014, however, two new brackets will grab more tax from those whose income exceeds $150,000 and $220,000. This is of particular concern when someone dies with untaxed balances in RRSPs or RRIFs  because your estate will now pay more if you die with untaxed income over $150,000 and don’t have a spouse to roll the balances over to. Also, bracket creep will extract more from accumulated savings before they are passed along to heirs because these income thresholds will not be adjusted for inflation in the future.

For owners of Canadian Small Business Corporations that claim the small business deduction, the increases in taxation for their other-than-eligible dividends puts a significant new tax on retirement income from these sources. This is in addition to the new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan costs that will increase payroll tax costs of these corporations.

Consider the following table for a comparison of 2013 and 2014 rates for dividends. There is a 2.58% increase in marginal tax rate charged on incomes up to $40,120 and a 4.09% increase when taxable income is between $87,908 and $136,270. In fact, at the top that bracket – taxable income over $509,000 – the increase is only 3.66%.

Federal and Ontario Marginal Tax Rates for Dividend Income in 2014 and 2013


2013 Equivalent Rate

Taxable Income*

Small Bus. Corp. Div.

Eligible Div.

Small Bus. Corp. Div.

Eligible Div.

Up to $40,120





$40,120 to $43,953





$43,954 to $70,651





$70,652 to $80,242





$80,243 to $83,237





$83,238 to $87,907





$87,908 to $136,270





$136,271 to $150,000





$150,001 to $220,000





$220,001 to $509,000





Over $509,000





* income ranges slightly lower for 2013    © Knowledge Bureau, Inc.

For small business owners, important planning options include a review of business profitability factors to take into account the increased taxation shareholders now face in their after-tax incomes. What business expense line items must be reduced to take this into account? How much more revenue must be earned at the top line and how will this affect pricing strategies for goods and services?

From a personal tax point of view, deferring income into the future may be wise if this is a year of unusually high income. Year-end planning could also involve a smaller bonus, paying lower income earners in the family more salary if they work in the business, or giving more to charity before year end. Taking the biggest possible registered pension plan and RRSP deductions is a current year strategy, but this must be weighed against future taxation liabilities.

Planning for retirement income will also involve maximizing TFSA contribution room to help to reduce future taxable income levels; so will planning to average in taxable RRSP and RPP withdrawals over a longer time horizon in retirement. A longer withdrawal period will often help to minimize taxation over the entire period by avoiding the high income surtax thresholds.

Portfolio performance, too, is under more pressure. The markets must return several percentage points more to account for these tax changes. Now is a good time to review untaxed accrued gains in non-registered accounts and investments in which return of capital has created a tax liability.

It’s Your Money, Your Life. Because taxes are going up significantly for high earners and potentially the taxes paid on the final returns of deceased taxpayers, it’s best to do some tax planning well in advance of the end of this year to preserve your tax return. Take the time to see an MFA-Retirement Income Specialist to help you preserve income-producing capital in the future.

Evelyn Jacks is president of Knowledge Bureau and author of 51 books on tax and personal wealth management. She is also the founder and director of the Distinguished Advisor Conference (DAC). The theme of the 2014 three day think tank in Horseshoe Bay, Texas Nov 9-12 will be “Think BIG: Find the Sweet Spots in Wealth Management”  Follow Evelyn on Twitter at @EvelynJacks.

Business Owners Face CRA Scrutiny

CRA is acting to shore up compliance for small business owners – both tax practitioners and their clients will be engaged in a “Get it Right the First Time” initiative which includes office visits by CRA.

Today there are millions of small businesses in Canada. They are led by small business owners of every type: retail store owners, consultants, professionals, commission salespersons, farmers, fishermen, and bed and breakfast owners, all of whom are working hard to make money for their families, employees and communities and build equity. Thanks largely to improvements in communications technology, all generations can now make lifestyle decisions to work from home in a self-employment capacity.

Entrepreneurship, in fact, is on an upward trend in Canada. Up to 150,000 new business are expected to emerge in the next ten years[1]. Canada also has the lowest insolvency costs in the G20, and we have recently recruited thousands of new immigrant entrepreneurs as well.

Business owners are distinct from other types of taxpayers. They are people who invest their time and money first, to reap the rewards of both profit and equity in their enterprises later. There is lots of risk involved, too.

The Canadian tax system takes this into account. Business owners can write off business losses against other income of the year; they can also split income by hiring family members to work in their enterprises. When they sell their qualifying Canadian Controlled Private Corporations, each shareholder may also qualify for an $800,000 capital gains exemption for 2014; an increase over the $750,000 amount available in years 2007 to 2013.

But many of these potentially successful ventures of the future will face potential failure because they have not prepared themselves for their relationship with the CRA. They have to, by law, keep proper books and records; they have to collect sales and payroll taxes for various levels of government and remit them properly and on time. And they have to pay personal and corporate income taxes.

Recently, two Winnipeg men, faced the consequences of non-compliance:

On May 16, 2014 the Manitoba Provincial Court fined Ken D. Blackmore, of Winnipeg a total of $12,000 after pleading guilty to charges of failing to file his tax returns from 2007-2012. The Court gave Mr. Blackmore sixty days to file the missing returns. If he does not comply, he could face jail time.

Mitchell Rygiel, a photographer, was fined $48,719 on March 13, 2014 for evading taxes. The fine represents 75% of the total federal and excise taxes that were evaded. Both Blackmore and Rygiel were given 12 months to pay their fines.

It’s Your Money. Your Life. Keeping proper records and filing correct tax returns is a prerequisite to successful business development. Make a great decision: see a Tax and/or Bookkeeping Services Specialist for help as a first line of defence. Working with a qualified professional can help you focus on what you need to do well – making income and building equity – rather than non-compliance with CRA, which can erode both.

Evelyn Jacks is president of Knowledge Bureau and author of 51 books on tax and personal wealth management. She is also the founder and director of the Distinguished Advisor Conference (DAC). The theme of the 2014 three day think tank in Horseshoe Bay, Texas Nov 9-12 will be “Think BIG: Find the Sweet Spots in Wealth Management”  Follow Evelyn on Twitter at @EvelynJacks.


[1] Ernst & Young G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013.