July 18, 2017 – The Minister of Finance announces draft legislation of the Tax on Split Income (TOSI) rule changes that would have far reaching impact into the small business community and although some changes were made, the rules have negatively impacted small businesses ever since and will continue for years to come.
Three years later, July 17, 2020 – The same Minister of Finance tables legislation of the changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), what I like to call CEWS 2.0 which will also continue for years to come.
Before you try to correct me and say that the subsidy is only for 2020, please read on.
While many media and politician soundbites like to give the impression of how CEWS 2.0 will help small business, I cannot help but see this as an opposite approach.
Do not get me wrong, money is money, and businesses will take all the help they can get, and if my business qualifies, I will take full advantage of it, but I personally don’t have to pay a tax specialist to figure it out.
There are two new calculations to CEWS 2.0.
- a baseline amount based on the percentage of revenue decline in the month compared to either the same month in 2019, or the January-February 2020 average revenue amount.
- a top-up amount based on the three-previous month revenue decline where it exceeds 50%.
Instead of an all or nothing at a 30% decline, even a 1% decline will get you a pro-rated payout, although the costs of figuring out your eligible amount might outweigh the benefit.
In fact, you could have an increase in revenue compared to this time last year and still get a payout. Make sense?
If the previous three months were greater than a 50% decline you qualify for the top-up amount regardless of the result for the current month.
The complexity of the CEWS design will reward those that have experts in their corner compared to those that do not.
Consider the following scenario:
A large public corporation that has employees making more than $1,129 a week will be able to not only have a simple calculation, they will not have anyone “related” to the corporation that they have to do extra baseline remuneration calculations for. Just like CEWS 1.0, in CEWS 2.0 every employee including the CEO will be subsidized in a public corporation, with no clawback mechanism (as recommended in my earlier article, the Keep it Simple S…ubsidy).
In the large public corporation, the bookkeeping, payroll, and accounting function will be up to date and (I would hope) accurate because of internal controls. They also frequently have large accounting and I.T. departments to easily calculate the eligibility and amounts for such a subsidy.
But let us compare this to a small owner-managed business like a restaurant for example. The profit margins in restaurants are already sliced thinner than the meat on a charcuterie board. Add to this the extra costs of social distancing and safety precautions, as well as the inconsistency of regulations for being closed, re-opened, and closed again as we navigate the pandemic and restaurants seem like a lost cause for a business owner.
Assuming they are able to still successfully navigate the minefield that COVID19 has placed on their livelihoods, many restaurants have dozens of part-time staff, including family members.
So right away we have a glaring difference: relatives.
The rules in CEWS 2.0 has not reduced any of the requirements for calculations to be made with respect to relatives working in the business. Relatives must have been being paid as a wage employee during one of a few optional calculation periods prior to March 15, 2020 to be eligible for any of the CEWS.
Do you remember TOSI?
TOSI basically was designed so you could only income split dividends with related persons under a complex set of strict rules. Even though restaurants are considered “food services”, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Finance have in Example 4B of their TOSI explanatory notes an example of a restaurant which would not be considered a service. In doing so, they sent the message to continue to pay yourselves in dividends if you run a family owned restaurant.
As a result, family owned restaurants continued to do just that.
Fast forward to 2020 and you now have family members working in a low margin business, with no support for their dividend remuneration under CEWS 1.0 or CEWS 2.0.
Even if the small business owner was one of the lucky fortune tellers that decided to pay themselves wages, they still have to do a baseline calculation (two different ways – weekly or bi-weekly – for each claim period) just to figure out how much they might be able to get.
Keep in mind the bi-weekly periods are the periods that were set by finance, not the period you may already be using for your payroll cutoff.
Now we have the part-time restaurant staff in my example. The family business now must calculate the average weekly earnings of each individual staff member during the claim period to figure out what the maximum amount of benefit is.
To make it better, the bookkeeping records better be pristine and accurate on a month to month basis, rather than on an annual basis like many, if not most, small businesses do.
Enter in that sale on the 1st of this month instead of the 31st of last month, and you could be looked at as “gaming the system”.
If you are a late-night pub restaurant, make sure that you are closing out the tills at 11:59pm on the 31st of the month – or your numbers would be inaccurate and you could be called a “tax cheat.”
I can’t wait for the Halloween pub crawls this year, when the weekly earnings of those late-night pub staff will have to also be cut off at midnight Saturday, October 31st. At least there will be plenty of mask wearing that night.
So, we now have increased the compliance costs for the small restaurants for monthly reporting, weekly payroll calculations, overnight cutoffs on month-ends, and special treatment for relatives of the business.
It doesn’t take a tax specialist, a cost-accounting CPA, or a PhD in mathematics to figure out that this is going to cost more per employee in overhead costs to the small family business in comparison to the large public corporation.
While I am more than happy to receive money from my clients for doing the immense research and calculations that will be required, the fact remains for the small business owner, is all of this extra work and compliance cost worth it in the end?
Sadly, you will not know if it is worth it, until after you have put in the work to calculate it.
If you happen to be one of the lucky ones that qualifies, you will then have to track the amount of CEWS you received for each employee separately.
This is because the CRA in question 29 of their Frequently Asked Questions on CEWS said that there will be a new box at the bottom of the T4 required to be filled in for the amount of CEWS received for that employee.
But what about my earlier statement that CEWS will impact businesses for years to come? With your calculation and compliance is going on until the end of February 2021 with the addition of the T4 box, does it end there?
February 2021 will just be the beginning. This will begin the audits of the CEWS claims (if they have not already started).
Since the CEWS is required to be reported on the 2020 T4 slips filed by the business in February 2021, would it be fair to say that the three-year tax compliance clock only begins at that time?
This means from now until February of 2024 you can expect to have a call from (likely the payroll audit division of) the CRA to take a look at:
- your weekly employee wage calculations;
- the monthly revenue calculations;
- the monthly cut-offs;
- the timing of your invoices;
- the CEWS amounts allocated to individual staff members; and
- the scrutiny of amounts paid to relatives;
All while you have the joy of having an internal debate with yourself on whether to pay your tax specialist to deal with them, or to try and go at it alone and confused.
July 2017 – TOSI
July 2020 – CEWS 2.0
I wonder what July 2023 will bring.
This article was originally published on July 23, 2020.
Cory G. Litzenberger, CPA, CMA, CFP, C.Mgr is the founder of CGL Strategic Business & Tax Advisors (CGLtax.ca). Cory is an advocate for small business in his role as Alberta Governor for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB); converts legislation into layman terms for fun; and provides Canadian tax advisory services to other CPA firms across Canada; opinions are his own.
The Great Wealth Transfer – Billions To Change Hands By 2026
Here comes the boom.
What is ‘The Great Wealth Transfer’?
This term has been coined by several major wealth managers across North America; referring to the tremendous amount of wealth that will be transferred to younger generations over the next decade. Wealth amassed by baby boomers will eventually be passed down to their families or beneficiaries, typically with the aid of a trusted wealth manager or financial advisor.
Similar in a way to climate change, when we visit some of the data that has been reported in both Canada and the US, this issue seems to be far more pressing than most people are aware. Depending on the publication, the exact amount of wealth that will be transferred is questionable. Cited in Forbes, a report done by the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury® program and WealthEngine claim that $68 Trillion will change hands in the US by 2030.
We spoke with Gwen Becker and Devin St. Louis, two VP’s, Portfolio Managers and Wealth Advisors for RBC Wealth Management, offering their expert insight into the industry and the vast amount of wealth that is changing hands in Canada.
According to RBC Wealth Management, their numbers in terms of the wealth transfer report $150 billion is set to change hands by 2026. The industry as a whole is at the forefront of this generational shift, whereas a trusted advisor can onboard younger family members to ensure the highest level of support through the process. Gwen offers her perspective:
“Certainly just around the corner; something that we are definitely paying attention to. My practice has always been very relationship-driven. It has been my privilege to advise many of my clients for decades. I have been intentional to welcome and include multiple generations of the same family. I advise grandparents who are now in their 90s, to which the majority of their children are my clients and even beginning to onboard grandchildren.”
This is an example of what is referred to as multi-generational estate planning. Being in the midst of the ‘great transfer of wealth’, this type of planning is crucial for advisors to implement early so they can continue to support the same family in the future. According to the Canadian Financial Capability Survey conducted in 2019, 51% of Canadians over the age of 65 will refer to a financial advisor to seek literacy and support. Contrary to that, Canadians aged 18-34 show that 51% are more likely to use online resources to aid in their financial literacy.
Devin offers his perspective on how the importance of family legacy plays a role when an advisor poses this question: What is your wealth for?
“If you sat down with a couple 10 years ago, they may say, when I pass away, whatever wealth is left can be distributed evenly amongst our children. That has changed quite a lot now because elder family members are now more concerned about how their wealth is passed on to the next generation. Onboarding grandchildren can ensure that a family legacy that receives their wealth, uses it to benefit their family and their community.”
An important question to consider. Clearly there is a shift in attitude towards having a family legacy live on through younger generations of a family. Evident that having the support of a financial advisor or wealth manager not only ensures the most efficient use of your money and assets but also ensures financial stability for your family in their future.
If we revisit the above study in how a younger demographic is more likely to utilize online resources, interesting how a more digitally inclined audience will be receptive to advisors. Boiling down to how millennials and younger age groups will perceive wealth management if those in that space fail to offer their services through online communication.
Devin agrees that RBC is uniquely positioned for this digital shift:
“interesting that everybody had to transform their processes online through this COVID-19 pandemic. Every company has been forced to step up their technology means, RBC has definitely risen to that occasion. RBC has adapted quickly, improving a great technology base that already existed. I don’t perceive it at this point to be a challenge. I believe we have the right focus. I think it’ll be a good transition for us.”
“I do agree that RBC is very well positioned. The younger generations below millennials that would eventually take over some of this wealth carries some challenges. How does that age demographic think, and what are their expectations of wealth management or financial advisors? It is difficult to understand what that generation will expect out of digital advisors. Estate planning matters, and it will always be tied to you knowing the family, it’s a relationship business”
Consider that RBC Wealth Management oversees $1.05 trillion globally under their administration, has over 4,800 professionals to serve their clients and was the recipient of the highest-ranking bank-owned investment brokerage by the 2020 Investment Executive Brokerage Report Card, safe to say their decades of professionalism, expertise and ‘get it done’ attitude speaks for itself.
So, what does this mean for younger members of families who may not understand the field of wealth management?
Starting the conversation early
Whether you are the elder family member who has their financial ‘quarterback’ preparing their estate to change hands or are younger family members who may be the beneficiary of wealth in the near future, starting the conversation amongst family members early is important for the process to be successful. Considering that some possessions have more than just monetary value, but an emotional tie to the family legacy can be a difficult asset to distribute evenly. Of course, it can be a tough conversation to have, it may involve discussing the passing away of a loved one or even setting a plan to cover future expenses. Gwen mentions:
“I encourage my clients to have open conversations with their children while they are alive so that their intentions are clear. Depending on the dynamics of the family, things such as an annual family meeting with a beneficiary can be effective once it’s put in place. If they are not comfortable leading that conversation, bring a trusted adviser to the table to be impartial and logical.”
There is no way to know what ramifications will come of this ‘great transfer of wealth’. It may be that we see the resurgence of a strong bull market in the near future, we may see new tech innovation that we cannot yet grasp or new business investments that continue to disrupt traditional processes. Only time will tell.
For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary
A Look at the Craft Brewery Boom in Alberta
The microbrewery landscape in Alberta is composed of a niche collection of local businesses, each offering a creative and completely unique approach to beer and dining. Each location tells a different story through its brews, taproom, artwork, product design and individual take on what makes Alberta beer the best.
In this strange and creative world, there is something for everyone. Consumers can enjoy the favorite Super Saturation New England Pale Ale while sitting with friends beneath indoor wooden cabins at Cabin Brewing Company, Brewery of the Year winner at the 2020 Alberta Beer Awards. Those with an affinity for sci-fi might enjoy sampling a flight from Zero Issue while kicking back with a comic book. Patio enthusiasts can enjoy the sunshine while sipping on the 2020 Award winners for Patio Beers at Tool Shed Brewing Company, Sea Change Brewing Co. or Analog Brewing.
Since 2013, the number of microbreweries in Alberta has skyrocketed. What was once one of the most sparsely populated craft beer industries in Canada has become one of the most exciting destinations for craft beer connoisseurs.
According to Avenue Magazine, in December 2013, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission made adjustments to the “antiquated laws that made starting a brewery or brewpub a formidable undertaking,” opening the doors for Alberta brewers to pursue their passion. Since then, there has been a steady increase in craft breweries across Alberta, from no more than 13 in 2013 to 123 province-wide as of January 2020. According to Canadian Beer News, the Alberta brew industry now employs an estimated 3,000 people.
Although each brewery could not be more individual and unique, together these businesses form a tight-knit community built on support, collaboration and a mutual desire to see the craft beer market continue to succeed in Alberta and across Canada. According to Alberta Beer, “Alberta brewers know everyone wins when we support and nurture our communities.”
In Calgary, the craft beer industry has also undergone an extreme expansion in recent years. There are over 30 brewery-taprooms throughout the city, which is also home to a number of collectives. These include the Barley Belt, a collection of breweries spanning several kilometres throughout Calgary’s southeast, and Brewery Flats, a craft beer tour featuring a number of breweries in the Inglewood area.
Offering an ever-changing selection of local brews on tap, the breweries in Calgary push the limits with an ongoing series of strange and spectacular creations. Some stay for a while, some are gone before your next visit.
Follow Todayville Calgary to learn more about Calgary’s unique breweries, now featuring exclusive weekly updates from Whats on Tap?
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