The CRA is aware that owner-managers have an incentive to receive benefits deductible by their corporation which are non-taxable to the owner. In essence, this can be perceived as a method to extract profits out of a corporation without paying tax on it. As such, CRA is particularly vigilant to ensure that these benefits comply with the Income Tax Act and do not confer unfair advantages on owners.
To start off, it must be established whether the benefits or allowances have been conferred on the individual in their capacity as an employee or in their capacity as a shareholder. Unless the particular facts establish otherwise, CRA presumes that an employee-shareholder receives a benefit or an allowance in their capacity as a shareholder (assuming the individual can significantly influence business policy). This presumption may not apply if: 1) the benefit or allowance is available to all employees of the corporation; or 2) all of the employees are shareholders or individuals related to a shareholder, and the benefit or allowance is comparable (in nature and amount) to benefits and allowances generally offered to non- shareholder employees of similar-sized businesses, who perform similar services and have similar responsibilities.
If the benefit or allowance is received in their capacity as an employee, the federal income tax treatment is the same as for an unrelated employee. This means that the benefit is generally deductible to the corporation and, under certain special circumstances, not taxable to the employee.
Where an employee-shareholder receives a benefit or an allowance in their capacity as a shareholder, the value of the benefit or allowance is included in the shareholder’s income and may not be deductible to the company.
Action Item: When commencing the provision of non- taxable benefits, consider whether they will also be offered to non-shareholder employees. If not, they may be taxable to the shareholder employee.