What are capital gains? The profit people generate from selling an asset or investment is typically referred to as a “capital gain.” The term has also become synonymous with taxation, because a percentage of the profit margin may end up in the government’s coffers. But it’s important to understand that not every asset falls under the capital gain rules. Financial planners and accountants have strategies to utilize to minimize tax liability.
How Are Capital Gains Taxed in Canada?
Profits made from selling items such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds generally fall under capital gain rules. The same applies to tangible assets, such as rental properties, second homes, equipment, and luxury items, which also may be subject to after-sale taxation. Principle homes generally are exempt as long as they remain a primary residence.
Although there is not necessarily a “capital gains tax” explicitly written into law, 50 percent of the profit earned from the sale of an asset becomes taxable. The rate of taxation is based on the person’s marginal tax rate. For instance, if you sold a second home for $100,000 above the purchase price, minus expenses, you’d apply $50,000 (half) to your taxable income. If you’re in the 33 percent bracket, then one-third of the $50,000 goes to taxes. The remaining two-thirds plus the untaxed $50,000 are free and clear profit.
That’s why it’s crucial to maintain diligent records regarding reasonable expenses associated with an asset. Fees, commissions, maintenance, advertising, and improvements are generally deducted from the amount of capital gain total and potential taxes.
The Difference Between Capital Gains and Investment Income
It’s not uncommon for people to find the difference between capital gains and investment income confusing. This holds particularly true when dealing with investment opportunities such as stocks.
While the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, investment income generally refers to ongoing profits. Dividends on a lucrative stock or monthly rent payments from a real estate property are examples of investment income. They are not subject to the same tax formula as a capital gain generated from the sale of an asset.
How to Minimize Taxes on Capital Gains
The fact that someone makes a hefty profit on the sale of an asset doesn’t mean they must pay the full face value in taxes. A savvy accountant may employ the following strategies to reduce capital gains tax liability.
- Establish Tax Shelters: These financial umbrellas shield investments and allow people to buy and sell stocks in a duty-free environment. Shelters such as a Registered Retirement Savings Plan, Registered Education Savings Plan, and Tax-Free Savings Account rank among the popular ways Canadians manage wealth without incurring taxes on annual capital gains. However, tax shelters do limit your ability to deduct capital losses.
- Deduct Capital Losses: Sometimes, people become hyper-focused on paying taxes on profits and overlook losses. This scenario proves common with real estate investments. Property owners may lose track of the ongoing expenses, fees, taxes, interest payments, and wide-reaching other costs. Although you may have earned sound investment income over the years, the final sale could result in an overall loss. It’s critical to subtract all of your expenses before arriving at a capital gains figure.
- Know When to Pay: One of the capital gains caveats involves deferment. If you receive a capital gain from a divorced spouse or deceased parent, the taxable amount does not necessarily come due that year. The new owner of an asset incurs the tax liability when they sell it and earn a profit. It’s important to keep in mind that the profit will be calculated based on the value when your ex-spouse or parent purchased the asset.
- Lifetime Exemption: Certain small business owners may be eligible for the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption when selling farms, fishery property, and qualifying private interests. Canada’s lifetime exemption proves complicated, and it’s advisable to consult with a tax professional.
An experienced advisor can help you minimize their tax liability by spreading the profits over years. This strategy, often called a capital gain reserve, does more than simply postpone payment. A capital gain reserve can reduce the amount you pay.
What Is a Capital Gains Reserve?
A capital gains reserve effectively reduces the amount of profit you enjoyed as income in a given year. After calculating your capital gain, everyday people can lower that figure on the income by claiming a reserve amount. Taxpayers can usually spread the total revenue over five years using a specific formula.
In cases involving family farms, fishing businesses, among others, a qualifying capital gains reserve may be extended for upwards of 10 years. This type of deferment helps prevent the gain from driving you into a higher tax bracket and unnecessarily giving more of your hard-earned money to the government.
While Canadians all need to pay their fair share of taxes, it’s equally important to ensure the best financial stability for you and your business.
Want to know more about the difference between capital gains and investment income? Contact Avisar Chartered Professional Accountants and schedule a consultation today.
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