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Turn a spouse’s loss into your gain

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Before rebalancing a portfolio for a new client, I make it a habit to confirm the Adjusted Cost Base (ACB) of any holdings in non-registered investment accounts.   In knowing the ACB, I’m able to know the capital gain (or loss) that would be triggered and the associated tax liability (if any) of selling the portfolio.  Now, we don’t want to let the ‘tax tail wag the dog’ so to speak; if the portfolio needs to be changed it needs to be changed.  But if we can save taxes while doing so clients certainly appreciate it!

I recently came across a situation where using a little known strategy, I was able to do just that.  Let’s call these clients Bob & Sue.

Sue is a high income earner (48% marginal tax rate) while Bob earns less and has a marginal tax rate of 20%.  Sue has a non-registered investment account in her name only, with a capital gain position of $30k.  Bob also has a non-registered investment account in his name with a capital loss position of $30k.  The tax liability for the household ‘as is’ would be $4,200 as follows:

Sue:  ($30,000 gain x 50%) x 48% = $7,200 owing.
Bob: ($30,000 loss x 50%) x 20% = $3,000 value of carrying loss forward.

If Sue had capital losses from previous years she could use them to offset her taxable capital gain.  In this instance, she did not.

Bob has a capital loss which he can carry back three years, or carry forward indefinitely to offset gains in other years.  However, being the lower income spouse the loss is less valuable to the household.  This is where the strategy comes in.

Bob sells the securities in his account for $40k (with an ACB of $70k) incurring a capital loss of $30k.  Sue immediately buys the same number of shares of the securities for $40k.  This step triggers the superficial loss rule, which comes into play when a taxpayer sells securities at a loss, and the identical property is acquired by the taxpayer, their spouse, or a corporation controlled by the taxpayer or their spouse within a 61-day period around the sale (30 days before the sale and 30 days afterward).  Under this rule Bob is denied use of the $30k loss, and the amount is added to the cost base of the securities purchased by Sue.

Sue’s cost base has now increased to $70k.  She must hold the securities for at least 30 days, but can sell them any time after that.  If we assume the share prices stay the same during that period, she will be able to declare a loss of $30k on the sale.  This loss can be applied against the capital gains in her account thus eliminating the $4,200 tax liability for the household.

While this wouldn’t apply to too many clients, it is an example of the types of strategy that we at TriDelta try to consider for all clients – wherever it can add value.

Brad Mol
Written By:
Brad Mol, CFP, CIWM, FMA
VP, Wealth Advisor
brad@tridelta.ca
(416) 802-5903

Managing the Drawdown of your RRIF/RRSP

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Many of us have worked hard all of our lives to build up our retirement nest egg in our RRSP funds. We’ve been successful enough to build a RRSP nest egg in excess of $1million to see us through our retirement.

Now we are at the stage of flipping the RRSP into a RRIF and managing the drawdown of our funds, which requires a balance between CRA’s required minimum withdrawal, lifestyle needs, longevity, and tax efficiencies. Some things to consider include:

  1. You can flip your RRSP into a RRIF as early as 60 and as late as 71. Once you’ve changed it into a RRIF you must make the minimum withdrawals per CRA or face penalties. You can leave your funds as RRSPs during your early 60’s, still make withdrawals to meet your lifestyle needs, but not have to meet CRA imposed minimum standards.

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    At age 65, when you are eligible for a pension income tax credit, you may want to consider transferring a portion of your RRSP to a RRIF to take advantage of this credit.

  2. Historically we’ve been taught to leave our RRSP untouched as long as possible to maximize the benefit of the deferred tax bill. However, you are eligible for Old Age Security (OAS) payments after age 65, which are income tested.

    You might be better off to start your RRSP withdrawals in your 60’s so that when age 71 hits and you have an annual Required Minimum Distribution (RMD), you’ve reduced the total RRIF and subsequent annual RMD to the point that it is under the income threshold for OAS clawback. Alternatively, if your RMD is large enough that your OAS will be clawed back 100% for the balance of your life, you could trigger a one-time liquidation of a portion of the RRIF now, to get your RMD below the OAS clawback threshold.

    Finance professor Moshe Milevsky says Canada’s Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) rates from tax-sheltered accounts are higher than most countries, including the U.S. At age 75, Canada’s RMD is 7.85%, versus 4.37% for the U.S., 6.31% for the U.K., 6% for Australia and 3% for Ireland. Canada’s RMD is also highest at age 90: a whopping 13.62%, versus 8.77% for the U.S., 6.31% for the U.K., 11% for Australia and 3% for Ireland. (Financial Post)

    There are tax strategies that you can use to reduce the taxes on a one-time significant RRIF withdrawal.

  3. When the first spouse passes away, the RRIF/RRSP passes to the surviving spouse (assuming that is the beneficiary choice) without tax consequences. However, when the second spouse passes away the remaining RRIF/RRSP is dissolved and taxed at normal tax rates. In Ontario, the estate of an individual leaving a RRIF/RRSP greater than $509,000 to anyone other than their spouse will be subject to the maximum tax rate of 49.53%. Imagine an estate with a RRSP/RRIF of $1million – and half goes to Ottawa.

    There are tax and estate planning strategies to help manage this tax bill – either before you get to that stage or at the time of passing.

Most of us have a goal, while we are still employed, to build up our retirement nest egg to fund a comfortable lifestyle in our retirement. Once you have retired, you now need to manage the drawdown in a tax efficient manner. It’s not just a matter of calculating what your minimum RMD is each year.

If you work with a financial planner, discuss with them options you can put in place now on how to minimize your taxes and maximize the value of your estate. TriDelta Financial has expertise to assist you with tax strategies, which may save huge dollars. Contact us for a no obligation consultation.

Gail can be contacted by email at gail@tridelta.ca and by phone at (905) 399-2035.

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