In July 2017, the federal finance minister announced proposals that would drastically affect the taxation of small business corporations. Income splitting, access to the capital gains exemption, “surplus stripping” and passive corporate income were all targeted. The government has since backed off on the surplus stripping, and the capital gains exemption proposals (for now), but is proceeding with the other proposals in somewhat amended form.
Income splitting with family members who have not contributed to the business will be severely limited. Additionally, passive income earned in a corporation will be taxed at a higher rate, reducing the ability to defer taxes by leaving profits in the corporation – a common retirement strategy for many Canadian business owners. Thankfully, existing investments will now be grandfathered, and the first $50,000 of annual passive income should not be affected. The finance minister stated that these proposals are required so that business owners don’t have “unfair tax advantages” that are not available to employees, and “pay their fair share”. In our view the proposals show a disregard for the risks that business owners and their families take to start and run a business.