Do you REALLY need life insurance?

You most likely do, but the more important question is, What kind? Whether you’re a young professional starting out, a devoted parent or a successful CEO, securing a life insurance policy is probably one of the most important decisions you will have to make in your adult life. Most people would agree that having financial safety nets in place is a good way to make sure that your loved ones will be taken care of when you pass away. Insurance can also help support your financial obligations and even take care of your estate liabilities. The tricky part, however, is figuring out what kind of life insurance best suits your goals and needs. This quick guide will help you decide what life insurance policy is best for you, depending on who needs to benefit from it and how long you’ll need it. 

Permanent or Term? 

Life insurance can be classified into two principal types: permanent or term. Both have different strengths and weaknesses, depending on what you aim to achieve with your life insurance policy. 

Term life insurance provides death benefits for a limited amount of time, usually for a fixed number of years. Let’s say you get a 30-year term. This means you’ll only pay for each year of those 30 years. If you die before the 30-year period, then your beneficiaries shall receive the death benefits they are entitled to. After the period, the insurance shall expire. You will no longer need to pay premiums, and your beneficiaries will no longer be entitled to any benefits.

Term life insurance is right for you if you are: 

  • The family breadwinner. Death benefits will replace your income for the years that you will have been working, in order to support your family’s needs.

  • A stay-at-home parent. You can set your insurance policy term to cover the years that your child will need financial support, especially for things that you would normally provide as a stay-at-home parent, such as childcare services.

  • A divorced parent. Insurance can cover the cost of child support, and the term can be set depending on how long you need to make support payments.

  • A mortgagor. If you are a homeowner with a mortgage, you can set up your term insurance to cover the years that you have to make payments. This way, your family won’t have to worry about losing their home.

  • A debtor with a co-signed debt. If you have credit card debt or student loans, a term life insurance policy can cover your debt payments. The term can be set to run for the duration of the payments. 

  • A business owner. If you’re a business owner, you may need either a term or permanent life insurance, depending on your needs. If you’re primarily concerned with paying off business debts, then a term life insurance may be your best option. 

Unlike term life insurance, a permanent life insurance does not expire. This means that your beneficiaries can receive death benefits no matter when you die. Aside from death benefits, a permanent life insurance policy can also double as a savings plan. A certain portion of your premiums can build cash value, which you may “withdraw” or borrow for future needs. You can do well with a permanent life insurance policy if you: 

  • …Have a special needs child. As a special needs child will most likely need support for health care and other expenses even as they enter adulthood. Your permanent life insurance can provide them with death benefits any time within their lifetime.

  • …Want to leave something for your loved ones. Regardless of your net worth, permanent life insurance will make sure that your beneficiaries receive what they are entitled to. If you have a high net worth, permanent life insurance can take care of estate taxes. Otherwise, they will still get even a small inheritance through death benefits.

  • …Want to make sure that your funeral expenses are covered. Final expense insurance can provide coverage for funeral expenses for smaller premiums.

  • …Have maximized your retirement plans. As permanent life insurance may also come with a savings component, this can also be used to help you out during retirement.

  • …Own a business. As mentioned earlier, business owners may need either permanent or term, depending on their needs.

A permanent insurance policy can help pay off estate taxes, so that the successors can inherit the business worry-free. Different people have different financial needs, so there is no one-sized-fits-all approach to choosing the right insurance policy for you. Talk to us now, and find out how a permanent or term life insurance can best give you security and peace of mind. 

Group Retirement Benefits

Working at an organization that offers a pension plan is one of the greatest financial advantages a Canadian can enjoy. Pension plans are designed to provide retirement income and help employees reach their retirement goals and for business owners- help retain key employees.

Pension plans can offer:

  • Employer contributions

  • Forced retirement savings for employee

There are 2 main types of pension plan:

  • Defined Benefit Plan

  • Defined Contribution Plan

Defined Benefit Plan

  • Retirement income is guaranteed, contributions are not.

  • The pension amount is based on a formula that includes the employee’s earnings and years of service with the employer

  • Usually, contributions are made by the employee and employer

  • The employer is responsible for investing the contributions to ensure there’s enough money to pay the future pensions for all plan members.

  • If there’s a shortfall, the employer pays the difference.

Defined Contribution Plan

  • Contributions are guaranteed, retirement income is not.

  • Usually, contributions are made by the employee and employer.

  • The employee is responsible for investing all contributions.

  • The amount available in retirement depends on how the investment performs including total contributions.

  • At retirement, the money in the account can be used to generate retirement income through purchasing an annuity or transferring the amount to a locked-in retirement income fund.

In summary, a defined benefits plan guarantees you a retirement income and a defined contribution plan guarantees contributions but not retirement income.

Talk to us, we can help.

Government of Canada to allow up to $400 for home office expenses

For the 2020 tax year, the Government of Canada introduced a temporary flat rate method to allow Canadians working from home this year due to Covid-19 to claim expenses of up to $400. Taxpayers will still be able to claim under the existing rules if they choose using the detailed method.

Eligibility

From the canada.ca website:

Each employee working from home who meets the eligibility criteria can use the temporary flat rate method to calculate their deduction for home office expenses.

To use this method to claim the home office expenses you paid, you must meet all of the following conditions:

  • You worked from home in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • You worked more than 50% of the time from home for a period of at least four consecutive weeks in 2020

  • You are only claiming home office expenses and are not claiming any other employment expenses

  • Your employer did not reimburse you for all of your home office expensesWhat if your employer has reimbursed you for some of your home office expenses

You need to meet all of the above conditions to be eligible to use the Temporary flat rate method.

New eligible expenses

For the detailed method, the CRA has expanded the list of eligible expenses that can be claimed as work-space-in-the-home expenses to include reasonable home internet access fees. A comprehensive list of eligible home office expenses has also been created.

Business Owners: 2020 Tax Planning Tips for the End of the Year

It’s a great time to review your business finances now that we are nearing year-end. Your business may be affected by recent tax changes or new measures to help with financial losses due to COVID-19. Figuring out the tax ramifications of these new measures can be complicated, so please don’t hesitate to consult your accountant and us to determine how this may affect your business finances.

We’re assuming that your corporate year-end is December 31. If it’s not, then this information will be useful when your business year-end comes up.

Below, we have listed some of the critical areas to consider and provide you with some helpful guidelines to make sure that you cover all the essentials. We have divided our tax planning tips into four sections:

  • Year-end tax checklist

  • Remuneration

  • Business tax

  • Estate

Business Year-End Tax Checklist

Remuneration

  • Salary/dividend mix

  • Accruing your salary/bonus

  • Stock option plan

  • Tax-free amounts

  • Paying family members

  • COVID-19 wage subsidy measures for employers

Business Tax

  • Claiming the small business deduction

  • Shareholder loans

  • Passive investment income including eligible and ineligible dividends

  • Corporate reorganization

Estate

  • Will review

  • Succession plan

  • Lifetime capital gains exemption

Remuneration

What is your salary and dividend mix?

Individuals who own incorporated businesses can elect to receive their income as either salary or as dividends. Your choice will depend on your situation. Consider the following factors:

  • Your current and future cash flow needs

  • Your personal income level

  • The corporation’s income level

  • Tax on income splitting (TOSI) rules. When TOSI rules apply, be aware that dividends are taxed at the highest marginal tax rate.

  • Passive investment income rules

Also consider the difference between salary and dividends:

Salary

  • Can be used for RRSP contribution

  • Reduces corporate tax bill

  • Subject to payroll tax

  • Subject to CPP contribution

  • Subject to EI contribution

Dividend

  • Does not provide RRSP contribution

  • Does not reduce a corporate tax bill

  • No tax withholdings

  • No CPP contribution

  • No EI Insurance contribution

  • Depending on the province¹, receive up to $50,000 of eligible dividends at a low tax rate provided you have no other sources of income

¹The amount and tax rate will vary based on province/territory you live in.

It’s worth considering ensuring that you receive a salary high enough to take full advantage of the maximum RRSP annual contribution that you can make. For 2020, salaries of $154,611 will provide the maximum RRSP room of $27,830 for 2021.

Is it worth accruing your salary or bonus this year?

You could consider accruing your salary or bonus in the current year but delaying payment of it until the following year. If your company’s year-end is December 31, your corporation will benefit from a deduction for the year 2020. The source deductions are not required to be remitted until actual salary or bonus payment in 2021.

Stock Option Plan

If your compensation includes stock options, check if you will be affected by the stock option rules that went into effect on January 1, 2020. These new rules cap the amount of specific employee stock options eligible for the stock option deduction at $200,000 as of January 1, 2020. These rules will not affect you if a Canadian controlled private corporation grants your stock options.

Tax-Free Amounts

If you own your corporation, pay yourself tax-free amounts if you can. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Pay yourself rent if the company occupies space in your home.

  • Pay yourself capital dividends if your company has a balance in its capital dividend account.

  • Return “paid-up capital” that you have invested in your company

Do you employ members of your family?

Employing and paying a salary to family members who work for your incorporated business is worth considering. You could receive a tax deduction against the salary you pay them, providing that the salary is “reasonable” with the work done. In 2020, the individual can earn up to $13,229 (increased for 2020 from $12,298) and pay no federal tax. This also provides the individual with RRSP contribution room, CPP and allows for child-care deductions. Bear in mind there are additional costs incurred when employing someone, such as payroll taxes and contributions to CPP.

COVID-19 wage subsidy measures for employers

To deal with the financial hardships introduced by COVID-19, the federal government introduced two wage subsidy measures:

  • The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program. With this, you can receive a subsidy of up to 85% of eligible remuneration that you paid between March 15 and December 19, 2020, if you had a decrease in revenue over this period. You must submit your application for the CEWS no later than January 31, 2021.

  • The Temporary Wage Subsidy (TWS) program. With this program, which reduces the amount of payroll deductions you needed to remit to the CRA, you can qualify for a subsidy equal to 10% of any remuneration that you paid between March 18, 2020, and June 19, 2020. You can claim up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 in total.

You can apply for both programs if you are eligible. If you qualify for the TWS but did not reduce your payroll remittances, you can still apply. The CRA will then either pay the subsidy amount to you or transfer it over to your next year’s remittance.

Business Tax

Claiming the Small Business Deduction

Are you able to claim a small business deduction? The federal small business tax rate decreased to 9% in 2019. It did not increase in 2020, nor is it expected to increase in 2021. From a provincial level, there will be changes in the following provinces:

Therefore, a small business deduction in 2020 is worth more than in 2021 for these provinces.

Should you repay any shareholder loans?

Borrowing funds from your corporation at a low or zero interest rate means that you are considered to have received a taxable benefit at the CRA’s 1% prescribed interest rate, less actual interest that you pay during the year or thirty days after the end of the year. You need to include the loan in your income tax return unless it is repaid within one year after the end of your corporation’s taxation year.

For example, if your company has a December 31 year-end and loaned you funds on November 1, 2020, you must repay the loan by December 31, 2021; otherwise, you will need to include the loan as taxable income on your 2020 personal tax return.

Passive investment income

If your corporation has a December year-end, then 2020 will be the second taxation year that the current passive investment income rules may apply to your company.

New measures were introduced in the 2018 federal budget relating to private businesses, which earn passive investment income in a corporation that also operates an active business.

There are two key parts to this:

  • Limiting access to dividend refunds. Essentially, a private company will be required to pay ineligible dividends to receive dividend refunds on some taxes. In the past, these could have been refunded when an eligible dividend was paid.

  • Limiting the small business deduction. This means that, for impacted companies, the small business deduction will be reduced at a rate of $5 for every $1 of investment income over $50,000. It is eliminated if investment income exceeds $150,000. Ontario and New Brunswick are not following these federal rules. Therefore, the provincial small business deduction is still available for income up to $500,000 annually.

Suppose your corporation earns both active business and passive investment income. In that case, you should contact your accountant and us directly to determine if there are any planning opportunities to minimize the new passive investment income rules’ impact. For example, you can consider a “buy and hold” strategy to help defer capital gains.

Think about when to pay dividends and dividend type

When choosing to pay dividends in 2020 or 2021, you should consider the following:

  • Difference between the yearly tax rate

  • Impact of tax on split income

  • Impact of passive investment income rules

Except for two provinces, Quebec and Alberta, the combined top marginal tax rates will not change from 2020 to 2021 at a provincial level. Therefore, it will not make a difference for most locations if you choose to pay in 2020 or 2021.

In Quebec and Alberta, as there will be increases in the combined marginal tax rate, you will have potential tax savings available if you choose to pay dividends in 2020 rather than 2021.

When deciding to pay a dividend, you will need to decide whether to pay out eligible or ineligible dividends. Consider the following:

  • Dividend refund claim limits: Eligible refundable dividend tax on hand (ERDTOH) vs Ineligible Refundable dividend tax on hand (NRDTOH)

  • Personal marginal tax rate of eligible vs. ineligible dividends (see chart below)

Given the passive investment income rules, typically, it makes sense to pay eligible dividends to deplete the ERDTOH balance before paying ineligible dividends. (Please note that ineligible dividends can also trigger a refund from the ERDTOH account.)

Eligible dividends are taxed at a lower personal tax rate than ineligible dividends (based on top combined marginal tax rate). However, keep in mind that when ineligible dividends are paid out, they are subject to the small business deduction; therefore, the dividend gross-up is 15% while eligible dividends are subject to the general corporate tax rate, a dividend gross-up is 38%. It’s important to talk to a professional to determine what makes the most sense when selecting the type of dividend to pay out of your corporation.

Corporate Reorganization

It might be time to revisit your corporate structure, given recent changes to private corporation rules on income splitting and passive investment income to provide more control on dividend income distribution.

Before you issue dividends to other shareholders in your private company (this includes your spouse, children, or other relatives), review the TOSI rules’ impact with us or your tax and legal advisors.

Another reason to reassess your structure is to segregate investment assets from your operating company for asset protection. You don’t want to trigger TOSI, so make sure you structure this properly. If you are considering succession planning, this is the time to evaluate your corporate structure as well.

Another aspect of corporate reorganization can be loss consolidation – where you consolidate losses from within related corporate groups.

Estate

Ensure your will is up to date

If your estate plan includes an intention for your family members to inherit your business using a trust, ensure that this plan is still tax-effective; income tax changes from January 1, 2016 eliminated the taxation at graduated rates in testamentary trusts and now taxes these trusts at the top marginal personal income tax rate. Review your will to ensure that any private company shares that you intend to leave won’t be affected by the most recent TOSI rules.

Succession plan

Consider a succession plan to ensure your business is transferred to your children, key employees or outside party in a tax-efficient manner.

Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption

If you sell your qualified small business corporation shares, you can qualify for the lifetime capital gains exemption (In 2020, the exemption is $883,384), where the gain is entirely exempt from tax. The exemption is a cumulative lifetime exemption; therefore, you don’t have to claim the entire amount at once.

The issues we discussed above can be complicated. Contact your accountant and us if you have any questions. We can help.

The Difference between Segregated Funds and Mutual Funds

Segregated Funds and Mutual Funds often have many of the same benefits however there are key differences you should consider:  

  • Both are managed by investment professionals. 

  • You can generally redeem your investments and get your current market value at any time. 

  • You can use them in your RRSP, RRIF, RESP, RDSP, TFSA or non-registered account. 

There are key differences including:

  • Guarantees

  • Contract

  • Fees

  • Resets

  • Creditor Protection

  • Probate

Contract:

  • Segregated Funds: Policy owner, Annuitant and Life Insurance company

  • Mutual Funds: Account holder, Mutual fund and Investment Company

Fees

  • Segregated Funds: Management Expense Ratio & Insurance Fee (Typically higher)

  • Mutual Funds: Management Expense Ratio

Why is this important?  

Since Segregated funds are offered by life insurance companies, they are individual insurance contracts. Which means….

  • Maturity Guarantees

  • Death Benefit Guarantees

  • Maturity and death benefit resets

  • Potential Creditor Protection (depends on the setup)

  • Ability to Bypass Probate

Mutual Funds do not have these features with the exception of possible creditor protection of RRSP, RRIF dependant on provincial legislation.

What are these features?

Maturity and Death Benefit Guarantees mean the insurance company must guarantee at least 75% of the premium paid into the contract for at least 15 years upon maturity or your death. 

Resets means you have the ability to reset the maturity and death benefit guarantee at a higher market value of the investment.

Potential Creditor Protection is available when you name a beneficiary within the family class, there are certain restrictions associated with this. 

Bypass Probate: since you name a beneficiary to receive the proceeds on your death, the proceeds are paid directly to your beneficiary which means it bypasses your estate and can avoid probate fees. 

We can help you decide what makes sense for your financial situation. 

Insurance Planning for Business Owners

For business owners, making sure your business is financially protected can be overwhelming. Business owners face a unique set of challenges when it comes to managing risk. Insurance can play an important role when it comes to reducing the financial impact on your business in the case of uncontrollable events such as disability, critical illness or loss of a key shareholder or employee.

This infographic addresses the importance of corporate insurance.

The 4 areas of  insurance a business owner should take care of are:

  • Health

  • Disability

  • Critical Illness

  • Life

Health: We are fortunate in Canada, where the healthcare system pays for basic healthcare services for Canadian citizens and permanent residents. However, not everything healthcare related is covered, in reality, 30% of our health costs* are paid for out of pocket or through private insurance such as prescription medication, dental, prescription glasses, physiotherapy, etc.

For business owners, offering employee health benefits make smart business sense because health benefits can form part of a compensation package and can help retain key employees and attract new talent.

For business owners that are looking to provide alternative health plans in a cost effective manner, you may want to consider a health spending account.

Disability: Most people spend money on protecting their home and car, but many overlook protecting their greatest asset: their ability to earn income. Unfortunately one in three people on average will be disabled for 90 days or more at least once before the age of 65.

Consider the financial impact this would have on your business if you, a key employee or shareholder were to suffer from an injury or illness. Disability insurance can provide a monthly income to help keep your business running.

Business overhead expense insurance can provide monthly reimbursement of expenses during total disability such as rent for commercial space, utilities, employee salaries and benefits, equipment leasing costs, accounting fees, insurance premiums for property and liability, etc.

Key person disability insurance can be used to provide monthly funds for the key employee while they’re disabled and protect the business from lost revenue while your business finds and trains an appropriate replacement.

Buy sell disability insurance can provide you with a lump sum payment if your business partner were to become totally disabled. These funds can be used to purchase the shares of the disabled partner, fund a buy sell agreement and reassure creditors and suppliers.

Critical Illness: For a lot of us, the idea of experiencing a critical illness such as a heart attack, stroke or cancer can seem unlikely, but almost 3 in 4 (73%) working Canadians know someone who experience a serious illness. Sadly, this can have serious consequences on you, your family and business, with Critical Illness insurance, it provides a lump sum payment so you can focus on your recovery.

Key person critical illness insurance can be used to provide funds to the company so it can supplement income during time away, cover debt repayment, salary for key employees or fixed overhead expenses.

Buy sell critical illness insurance can provide you with a lump sum payment if your business partner or shareholder were to suffer from a critical illness. These funds can be used to purchase the shares of the partner, fund a buy sell agreement and reassure creditors and suppliers.

Life: For a business owner, not only do your employees depend on you for financial support but your loved ones do too. Life insurance is important because it can protect your business and also be another form of investment for excess company funds.

Key person life insurance can be used to provide a lump sum payment to the company on death of the insured so it can keep the business going until you an appropriate replacement is found. It can also be used to retain loyal employees by supplying a retirement fund inside the insurance policy.

Buy sell life insurance can provide you with a lump sum payment if your business partner or shareholder were to pass away. These funds can be used to purchase the shares of the deceased partner, fund a buy sell agreement and reassure creditors and suppliers.

Loan coverage life insurance can help cover off any outstanding business loans and debts.

Reduce taxes & diversify your portfolio, often life insurance is viewed only as protection, however with permanent life insurance, there is an option to deposit excess company funds not needed for operations to provide for tax-free growth (within government limits)  to diversify your portfolio and reduce taxes on passive investments.

Talk to us about helping making sure you and your business are protected.

Accessing Corporate Earnings

One of the financial planning issues that business owners face is how to access their corporate earnings in a tax efficient way.

There are 5 standard methods:

  • Salary

  • Dividend

  • Shareholder Loans

  • Transfer Personal Assets

  • Income Splitting

There are also unique ways utilizing life insurance and critical illness insurance to access your retained earnings. Please contact us to learn how we can get more money in your pocket than in the government’s.