Estate Planning for Business Owners

Writing an estate plan is important if you own personal assets but is all the more crucial if you also own your own business. This is due to the additional business complexities that need to be addressed, including tax issues, business succession and how to handle bigger and more complex estates. Seeking professional help from an accountant, lawyer or financial advisor is an effective way of dealing with such complexities. As a starting point, ask yourself these seven key questions and, if you answer “no” to any of them, it may highlight an area that you need to take remedial action towards. 

  • Have you made a contingency plan for what will happen to your business if you are incapacitated or die unexpectedly?
  • Have you and any co-owners of your business made a buy-sell agreement?
  • If so, is the buy-sell agreement funded by life insurance?
  • If you have decided that a family member will inherit your business when you die, have you provided other family members with assets of an equal value?
  • Have you appointed a successor to your business?
  • Are you making the most of the lifetime capital gains exemption ($835,714 in 2017) on your shares of the business, if you are a qualified small business?
  • Are you taking care to minimize any possible tax liability that may be payable by your estate in the event of your death?

Estate freezes 

The process of freezing the value of your business at a particular date is an increasingly common way of protecting your estate from a large capital gains tax bill if your business increases in value. To achieve this, usually the shares in the business that have the highest growth potential are redistributed to others, often your children, meaning that they will be liable for the tax on any increase in their value in the future. In exchange, you will receive new shares allowing you to maintain control of the business with a key difference – the value of the shares is frozen so that your tax liability is lower and that of your estate when you die will also be reduced. 

Paying for Education

Post-secondary education can be expensive, however having the opportunity to plan for it helps with making sure that you’re capable to meet the costs of education. In addition, when you have a plan, it’s easer to make financial decisions that align with your goals and provide peace of mind. In the infographic, we outline 7 sources of funds for paying for post-secondary education: 

  • Registered Education Savings Plan
  • Tax Free Savings Account
  • Life Insurance
  • Scholarships, grants, bursaries
  • Personal Loans, Lines of Credit
  • Government Student Loan
  • Personal Savings 

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.

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.

 

Why provide an employee benefits plan?

Business owners are increasingly recognizing the key importance of implementing employee benefit plans in their organization and this is an area that has grown considerably in recent decades. Employee benefits comprise all of the additional things that you offer to your employees on top of their regular salary, which could include pension contributions, health cover / insurance policies, training and education programs etc. Employees are more and more interested in the total benefits package that a potential employer can offer them, rather than just being focused on a binary salary figure and recognizing and understanding this cultural shift in the modern working world is crucial to maintain your ability to recruit and retain the right talent for your business.

Many employees value the benefits that their employer offers, considering them an integral part of their take home pay, none more so than health cover. This benefit can provide financial and emotional security to your employees and their families, without the need for them to complete any health requirements to be on the plan. They are likely to benefit from a preferable level of cover and the plan may even provide them with insurance products such as long-term disability cover, which can be harder to gain outside of a group plan. What’s more, group plans often offer out-of-country emergency healthcare for employees which has the potential to save them money on personal travel insurance products.

Not only do these benefits provide a sense of security to your employees, they can also help them to feel valued as part of your organization, which may in turn foster higher morale and increased motivation within their roles. It is therefore worthwhile for business owners to encourage their teams to recognize the fact that the benefits package that you offer should be considered as an integral part of their take home pay, alongside their actual salary.

Talk to us, we can help.

Tax Series: Strategies for Private Corporations

Last summer, Finance Minister Morneau announced a number of tax reforms for Small Business Owners, including the changes to income sprinkling, minimizing the incentives to keep passive investments and reducing the transfer of corporate surpluses to capital gains.

 

This year’s Federal Budget focused on tax tightening measures for business owner:

●     Small Business Tax Rate Reduction from 10% to 9%.

●     Passive Investment Income held within the corp (Reduction begins at $50,000)

●     Tax on Split Income

 

Since these changes will be effective January 1, 2019, a discussion and plan should be prioritized now, since 2018 will be the “prior year” of 2019. Life insurance is a great solution to help business owners address these problems.

 

Reduced Small Business Tax Rate

●     Key Change: Effective January 1, 2019, the small business tax rate will be reduced from 10% to 9%

●     Problem: Lower corporate tax rates result in more capital trapped inside the corporation.

●     Possible Solution: Life Insurance Proceeds credit the capital dividend account on death allowing for tax-efficient distribution of funds from the corporation to the estate.

 

Limited Access to Small Business Tax Rate

●     Key Change: Passive investment income greater than $50,000/year reduces the small business tax rate limit for small business tax rate. The business limit is reduced to zero at $150,000 of investment income.

●     Problem: For companies with passive income over $50,000, the small business limit will be reduced and thus, increase the total amount of tax you have to pay.

●     Possible Solution: Exempt life insurance does not produce passive investment income unless there is a disposition. Put a portion of corporations passive investments into a life insurance policy and reduce passive investment income and limit the erosion of the small business limit. Concepts such as Corporate Estate bond, Corporate Insured Retirement Program, Corporate held Critical Illness with Return of Premium

 

Tax on Split Income

●     Key Change: Tax on split income (TOSI) rules extended to cover adult children in certain cases. Different rules depending on age of adult children

●     Problem: For adult children receiving income and don’t pass the TOSI rules, income is taxed at the highest personal marginal tax rate on the first dollar. More trapped funds inside the corporation due to fewer tax-effective strategies.

●     Possible Solution: Put a portion of corporation’s trapped surplus into a corporate owned life insurance policy which results in tax-efficient distribution of funds from the corporation to the estate. 

Nova Scotia Budget 2018

The 2018 budget for Nova Scotia was announced on March 20, 2018 and has a particular focus on the province’s continuing investment in healthcare and education. The budget covers the following key areas:

Innovation Equity Tax Credit

The budget introduces a new Innovation Equity Tax Credit which will take effect from January 1, 2019. The specific details are not yet set out but the budget states that the existing Equity Tax Credit will be phased out and the new program will have a less broad focus and the threshold will be more in line with comparable programs across Canada.

Cannabis Tax

The budget covers the agreement made by Nova Scotia to adhere to a structured tax framework with the Canadian government for a period of two years after the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes. Specifically, excise duties will be imposed on the flowering material that is used to create cannabis at $0.25 per gram federal excise duty and $0.75 per gram provincial excise duty, both to be collected by the federal government.

Medical Expenses Tax Credit

In relation to the Medical Expenses Tax Credit, the $10,000 cap on eligible medical expenses that an individual can claim on behalf of a dependent relative has been eliminated in this year’s budget.

Basic Personal Amount

The budget confirms that, effective January 1, 2018, the basic personal amount, as well as the spousal amount and that for an eligible dependent, will rise from $8,481 to $11,481, with those earning a taxable income of under $25,000 receiving the maximum benefit.

Age Amount

Also effective January 1, 2018, the age amount credit for seniors with a low income will increase from $4,141 to $5,606 and the maximum benefit will apply to those with a taxable income of less than $25,000.

Alberta Budget 2018

The 2018 budget for Alberta focuses on the diversification of its post-recession economy, with the aim of creating more stability and less vulnerability to future fluctuations in oil prices. Here are some of the highlights:

Corporate

Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit

Alberta intends to bring in a new Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit with a maximum funding of $20 million per year, which aims to offer eligible companies with a benefit of 25% of eligible labour costs. This benefit relates to costs incurred after April 1, 2018 and is aiming to better support the interactive digital media sector in the province.

Alberta Investor Tax Credit

The 2018 budget extends the existing Alberta Investor Tax Credit until 2012-22. The existing program offers a 30% tax credit to both individuals and corporations who commit to making equity investments in eligible Alberta businesses, such as those involved in research, development, digital animation and various others.

Diversity & Inclusion Credit

Relating to the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit and Alberta Investor Tax Credit, the budget notes a 5% diversity and inclusion credit enhancement which could be claimed if the company offers employment to an individual from an under-represented group.

Capital Investment Tax Credit

The budget announces that the Capital Investment Tax Credit, a 10% non-refundable tax credit of up to $5 million for a corporation’s eligible capital expenditures on manufacturing, processing and tourism infrastructure, will also be extended until 2021-22.

Personal

Alberta Child Benefit

The 2018 budget details increases to these benefits for families with 1, 2, 3 and 4 plus children, as well as increasing the phase-out threshold for family net income from $41,786 to $42,287.

Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit

Increases have also been announced in the budget to offer more benefits for working families who have income from employment of more than $2,760 per year. The phase-out threshold has been extended from a family net income of $41,786 to $42,287, as well as increases to the benefit amounts for each family size.

Cannabis Tax

The budget covers the agreement made by Alberta to adhere to a structured tax framework with the Canadian government for a period of two years after the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes. Specifically, either $1 per gram or 10% of the producer price (whichever is greater) will be collected and the province will receive 75% of this tax room, both to be collected by the federal government. In addition, an additional tax of a maximum of 10% of the retail price may also be collected by the province.

Education Property Tax

A freeze has been set on education property tax collection, but the current rates have increased as follows:

·      From $2.48 to $2.56 per $1,000 or equalized assessment for residential/farmland property.

From $3.64 to £3.76 for non-residential property

Easy Exit: Business Succession in a Nutshell

Getting into the world of business is a meticulous task, but so is getting out of it Whether you’ve just hit the ground running on your business or if you’ve been at it for a long time, there is no better time to plan your exit strategy than now. Although the process may seem taxing, we’ve answered a few questions you may have about planning your business succession strategy. 

1. Who do I talk to about this? 

Deciding on how to go about the transition requires careful planning, and you need to consult no less than people who are well equipped to help you out. First, talk to your key advisors such as bankers and financial partners. You could also use some advice from your accountant and lawyers. If your company has an advisory board, better consult them as well. You may also hire a specialist or a consultant, depending on how you choose to go about your business succession plan. 

2. Who should I choose as a successor? 

There are several ways to go about this, and your decision will ultimately be your personal choice. You may pass on your business to a family member or to your top executives or managers. You may also choose to sell it to an outsider. Whichever path you choose, you can also decide on how much you want to be involved in the business after you pass it on. That is, if you want to be involved at all. 

3. When should I inform my successor about my plans? 

While a surprise inheritance may be heartwarming, it’s not the same with inheriting a business. Getting a successor ready—whether it’s a family member or someone from your company—requires careful planning and training. As soon as you’ve chosen a successor, better get started on getting them ready for the big shoes they’re about to fill. This includes helping them equip themselves with the necessary skills, knowledge and qualifications necessary to run your business. 

4. How do I plan the transition itself? 

The transition will be twofold—transferring ownership and handing over the business itself. As far as transferring ownership is concerned, you need to consider legal and financial details. These include valuation, financing and taxation. You also need to consider if you wish to keep your current legal structure (corporation, sole prop, partnership, etc.) or if you (or your successor) would like to change it. You also need to plan how to prepare various stakeholders in the business for the transition. How will you prepare your customers, clients, and employees? What would be their level of involvement? Make sure that you put different strategies in place in order to ensure transparency and consistency in communicating changes in your business, especially something as drastic as succession. 

5. Now that I have a business succession plan ready, can I go back to business as usual? 

Not really. Your business and your customers’ needs may change over time. This means that you need to keep reviewing and adjusting your plan as your business also evolves.