Income taxes in Canada

Income taxes in Canada

Income taxes in Canada constitute the majority of the annual revenues of the Government of Canada, and of the governments of the Provinces of Canada. In the last fiscal year, the government collected roughly three times more personal income taxes than it did corporate income taxes.Fact|date=June 2008

Tax collection agreements enable different governments to levy taxes through a single administration and collection agency. The federal government collects personal income taxes on behalf of all provinces and territories except Quebec and collects corporate income taxes on behalf of all provinces and territories except Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Canada's federal income tax system is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Quebec's income tax system is administered by Revenu Québec, formally Ministère du Revenu du Québec.

Canadian federal income taxes, both personal and corporate are levied under the provisions of the Income Tax Act [ [ Income Tax Act] ] . Provincial and territorial income taxes are levied under various provincial statutes.

The Canadian income tax system is a self-assessment regime. Taxpayers assess their tax liability by filing a return with the CRA by the required filing deadline. CRA will then assess the return based on the return filed and on information it has obtained from employers and financial companies, correcting it for obvious errors. A taxpayer who disagrees with CRA's assessment of a particular return may appeal the assessment. The appeal process starts when a taxpayer formally objects to the CRA assessment. The objection must explain, in writing, the reasons for the appeal along with all the related facts. The objection is then reviewed by the appeals branch of CRA. An appealed assessment may either be confirmed, vacated or varied by the CRA. If the assessment is confirmed or varied, the taxpayer may appeal the decision to the Tax Court of Canada and then to the Federal Court of Appeal.


Unlike the United Kingdom and the United States, Canada avoided charging an income tax prior to World War I. The lack of income tax was seen as a key component in Canada's efforts to attract immigrants as Canada offered a lower tax regime compared to almost every other country. Prior to the war Canadian federal governments relied on tariffs and customs income under the auspices of the National Policy for most of their revenue, while the provincial governments sustained themselves primarily through their management of natural resources (the Prairie provinces being paid subsidies by the federal government as Ottawa retained control of natural resources for the time being there). The federal Liberal Party considered the probable need to introduce an income tax should their negotiation of a free trade agreement with the United States in the early 20th century been successful, but the Conservatives defeated the Liberals in 1911 over their support of free trade.

The Conservatives opposed income tax as they wanted to attract immigrants primarily from the United Kingdom and the United States, as opposed to Eastern Europe, and they wanted to give their preferred choice of newcomers some incentive to come to Canada. Wartime expenses forced the Tories to re-consider their options and in 1917 the wartime government imposed a "temporary" income tax to cover expenses. Despite the new tax the Canadian government ran up considerable debts during the war and were unable to forego income tax revenue after the war ended. With the election of the Mackenzie King-led Liberal government, much of the National Policy was dismantled and income tax has remained in place ever since.

Personal income taxes

Canada levies personal income tax on the worldwide income of individuals resident in Canada and on certain types of Canadian-source income earned by non-resident individuals.

After the calendar year, Canadian residents file a T1 Tax and Benefit Return [cite web
url =
title = T1 Tax and Benefit Return
] for individuals. It is due April 30, or June 15 for self-employed individuals and their spouses, or common-law partners. It is important to note, however, that any balance owing is due on or before April 30. Outstanding balances remitted after April 30 may be subject to interest charges, regardless of whether the taxpayer's filing due date is April 30 or June 15.

The amount of income tax that an individual must pay is based on the amount of their taxable income (income earned less allowed expenses) for the tax year. Personal income tax may be collected through various means:
#deduction at source - where income tax is deducted directly from an individual's pay and sent to the CRA.
#installment payments - where an individual must pay his or her estimated taxes during the year instead of waiting to settle up at the end of the year.
#payment on filing - payments made with the income tax return
#arrears payments - payments made after the return is filed

Employers may also deduct Canada Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan (CPP/QPP) contributions, Employment Insurance (EI) and Provincial Parental Insurance (PPIP) premiums from their employees' gross pay. Employers then send these deductions to the taxing authority.

Individuals who have overpaid taxes or had excess tax deducted at source will receive a refund from the CRA upon filing their annual tax return.

Generally, personal income tax returns for a particular year must be filed with CRA on or before April 30 of the following year.

Basic calculation

An individual taxpayer must report his or her total income for the year. Certain deductions are allowed in determining net income, such as deductions for contributions to Registered Retirement Savings Plans, union and professional dues, child care expenses, and business investment losses. Net income is used for determining several income-tested social benefits provided by the federal and provincial/territorial governments. Further deductions are allowed in determining taxable income, such as capital losses, half of capital gains included in income, and a special deduction for residents of northern Canada. Deductions permit certain amounts to be excluded from taxation altogether.

Tax payable before credits is determined using four tax brackets and tax rates. Non-refundable tax credits are then deducted from tax payable before credits for various items such as a basic personal amount, dependents, Canada/Quebec Pension Plan contributions, Employment Insurance premiums, disabilities, tuition and education and medical expenses. These credits are calculated by multiplying the credit amount (e.g., the basic personal amount of $9,600 in 2008) by the lowest tax rate. This mechanism is designed to provide equal benefit to taxpayers regardless of the rate at which they pay tax.

A non-refundable tax credit for charitable donations is calculated at the lowest tax rate for the first $200 in a year, and at the highest tax rate for the portion in excess of $200. This tax credit is designed to encourage more generous charitable giving.

Certain other tax credits are provided to recognize tax already paid so that the income is not taxed twice:
*the dividend tax credit provides recognition of tax paid at the corporate level on income distributed from a Canadian corporation to individual shareholders; and
*the foreign tax credit recognizes tax paid to a foreign government on income earned in a foreign country.

Provincial and territorial personal income taxes

Provinces and territories that have entered into tax collection agreements with the federal government for collection of personal income taxes ("agreeing provinces", i.e., all provinces and territories except Quebec) must use the federal definition of "taxable income" as the basis for their taxation. This means that they are not allowed to provide or ignore federal deductions in calculating the income on which provincial tax is based.

Provincial and territorial governments provide both non-refundable tax credits and refundable tax credits to taxpayers for certain expenses. They may also apply surtaxes and offer low-income tax reductions.

Canada Revenue Agency collects personal income taxes for agreeing provinces/territories and remits the revenues to the respective governments. The provincial/territorial tax forms are distributed with the federal tax forms, and the taxpayer need make only one payment -- to CRA -- for both types of tax. Similarly, if a taxpayer is to receive a refund, he or she receives one cheque or bank transfer for the combined federal and provincial/territorial tax refund. Information on provincial rates can be found on the [ Canada Revenue Agency's site] .


Quebec administers its own personal income tax system, and therefore is free to determine its own definition of taxable income. To maintain simplicity for taxpayers, however, Quebec parallels many aspects of and uses many definitions found in the federal tax system.

Personal federal marginal tax rates

The following historical federal marginal tax rates of the Government of Canada come from the website of the Canada Revenue Agency. They do not include applicable provincial income taxes (which is at least 10% in Alberta; higher in other provinces). Data on marginal tax rates from 1998 to 2006 are publicly available. [cite web
url =
title = Previous-years' income tax rates in Canada | publisher = Canada Revenue Agency
] Data on basic personal amounts (personal exemption taxed at 0%) can be found on a year by year basis is also available. [cite web
url =
title = Tax packages | publisher = Canada Revenue Agency
] Their values are contained on line 300 of either the document "Schedule 1 - Federal Tax", or "General Income Tax and Benefit Guide", of each year by year General Income Tax and Benefit Package listed.

Income not taxed

The following types of income are not taxed in Canada (this list is not exhaustive):
* gifts and inheritances;
* lottery winnings;
* winnings from betting or gambling for simple recreation or enjoyment;
* strike pay;
* compensation paid by a province or territory to a victim of a criminal act or a motor vehicle accident*;
* certain civil and military service pensions;
* income from certain international organizations of which Canada is a member, such as the United Nations and its agencies;
* war disability pensions;
* RCMP pensions or compensation paid in respect of injury, disability, or death*;
* income of First Nations, if situated on a reserve;
* capital gain on the sale of a taxpayer’s principal residence;
* provincial child tax credits or benefits and Québec family allowances;
* the Goods and Services Tax or Harmonized Sales Tax credit (GST/HST credit) or Quebec Sales Tax credit; and
* the Canada Child Tax Benefit.

Note that the method by which these forms of income are not taxed can vary significantly, which may have tax and other implications; some forms of income are not declared, while others are declared and then immediately deducted in full. In certain cases, the deduction may require off-setting income, while in other cases, the deduction may be used without corresponding income. Income which is declared and then deducted, for example, may create room for future Registered Retirement Savings Plan deductions.

Deductions which are not directly linked to non-taxable income exist, which reduce overall taxable income. A key example is Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contributions, which is a form of tax-deferred savings account (income tax is paid only at withdrawal, and no interim tax is payable on account earnings).

*Quebec has changed its rules in 2004 and, legally, this may be taxed or may not – Courts have yet to rule.

Corporate income taxes

Corporate taxes include taxes on corporate income in Canada and other taxes and levies paid by corporations to the various levels of government in Canada. These include capital and insurance premium taxes; payroll levies (e.g., employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan, Quebec Pension Plan and Workers' Compensation); property taxes; and indirect taxes, such as goods and services tax (GST), and sales and excise taxes, levied on business inputs.

Corporations are subject to tax in Canada on their worldwide income if they are resident in Canada for Canadian tax purposes. Corporations not resident in Canada are subject to Canadian tax on certain types of Canadian source income (Section 115 of the Canadian Income Tax Act).

The taxes payable by a Canadian resident corporation may be impacted by the type of corporation that it is:

*A Canadian-controlled private corporation, which is defined as a corporation that is:
**resident in Canada and either incorporated in Canada or resident in Canada from June 18, 1971, to the end of the taxation year;
**not controlled directly or indirectly by one or more non-resident persons;
**not controlled directly or indirectly by one or more public corporations (other than a prescribed venture capital corporation, as defined in Regulation 6700);
**not controlled by a Canadian resident corporation that lists its shares on a prescribed stock exchange outside of Canada;
**not controlled directly or indirectly by any combination of persons described in the three preceding conditions; if all of its shares that are owned by a non-resident person, by a public corporation (other than a prescribed venture capital corporation), or by a corporation with a class of shares listed on a prescribed stock exchange, were owned by one person, that person would not own sufficient shares to control the corporation; and
**no class of its shares of capital stock is listed on a prescribed stock exchange.

*A private corporation, which is defined as a corporation that is:
**resident in Canada;
**not a public corporation;
**not controlled by one or more public corporations (other than a prescribed venture capital corporation, as defined in Regulation 6700);
**not controlled by one or more prescribed federal Crown corporations (as defined in Regulation 7100); and
**not controlled by any combination of corporations described in the two preceding conditions.

*A public corporation, defined as a corporation that is resident in Canada and meets either of the following requirements at the end of the taxation year:
**it has a class of shares listed on a prescribed Canadian stock exchange; or
**it has elected, or the Minister of National Revenue has designated it, to be a public corporation and the corporation has complied with prescribed conditions under Regulation 4800(1) on the number of its shareholders, the dispersing of the ownership of its shares, the public trading of its shares, and the size of the corporation.

If a public corporation has complied with certain prescribed conditions under Regulation 4800(2), it can elect, or the Minister of National Revenue can designate it, not to be a public corporation. Other types of Canadian resident corporations include Canadian subsidiaries of public corporations (which do not qualify as public corporations), general insurers and Crown corporations.

Provincial/territorial corporate income taxes

Corporate income taxes are collected by the CRA for all provinces and territories except Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. Provinces and territories subject to a tax collection agreement must use the federal definition of "taxable income," i.e., they are not allowed to provide deductions in calculating taxable income. These provincies and territories may provide tax credits to companies, often in order to provide incentives for certain activities such as mining exploration, film production, and job creation.

Ontario, Quebec and Alberta collect their own corporate income taxes, and therefore may develop their own definitions of taxable income. In practice, these provinces rarely deviate from the federal tax base in order to maintain simplicity for taxpayers.

"Ontario has concluded negotiations with the federal government on a tax collection agreement under which its corporate income taxes would be collected on its behalf by the CRA starting in 2009."

Integration of corporate and personal income taxes

In Canada, corporate income is subject to corporate income tax and, on distribution as dividends to individuals, personal income tax. The personal income tax system, through the gross-up and dividend tax credit (DTC) mechanisms, currently provides recognition for corporate taxes, based on a 20 per cent notional federal-provincial rate, to taxable individuals resident in Canada.

Because of tax policy issues relating to the proliferation of publicly traded income trusts, the federal government has proposed to introduce an enhanced gross-up and DTC for eligible dividends received by eligible shareholders. An eligible dividend will be grossed-up by 45 per cent, meaning that the shareholder includes 145 per cent of the dividend amount in income. The DTC in respect of eligible dividends will be 19 per cent, based on the expected federal corporate tax rate in 2010. The existing gross-up and tax credit will continue to apply to other dividends. Eligible dividends will generally include dividends paid after 2005 by public corporations (and other corporations that are not Canadian-controlled private corporations) that are resident in Canada and subject to the general corporate income tax rate.

See also

* Comparison of Canadian tax software
* Canadian federal budget
* Foreign Accrual Property Income


T1 General []

External links

* [ The Canadian Tax Foundation]
* [ The Department of Finance, Canada] - responsible for Canadian tax policy
* [ Canada Revenue Agency] - administers tax law for the federal and most provincial governments

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