Proposed Tax Changes Punish the Family Farm

In its 2015 Economic Action Plan budget, the federal government stated, “The Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption for farm or fishing property provides an incentive to invest in the development of productive farm and fishing businesses and helps farm and fishing business owners to accumulate capital for retirement.”

Fast forward to 2017 when times have changed. In its 2017 document Tax Planning Using Corporations, the federal government is proposing to tax part of this incentive back from the family farm, the backbone of our rural communities.

A segment of the document states, “specifically, individuals would no longer qualify for the capital gains exemption in respect of capital gains that are realized or that accrue before the taxation year in which the individual attains the age of 18.” Furthermore, the document states, “the second measure would introduce a reasonableness test for determining whether the lifetime capital gains exemption applies in respect of a capital gain” and “the third measure would no longer permit individuals to claim the lifetime capital gains exemption in respect of capital gains that accrue during a period in which a trust holds the property.”

The following examples illustrate how each of these proposed changes would affect the family owners of shares of a family farm corporation or interest in a family farm partnership:

  • A farmer and spouse co-own a farm through a farm partnership or corporation. On disposition of their shares or partnership interest the spouse may lose all or part of their capital gains exemption if they do not meet a reasonableness test. Whether the reasonableness test is met or not will be determined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). This test is based on the amount that would have been paid to an unrelated individual considering their labour contribution, past earnings, asset contributions and business risk. To add insult to injury, any portion of the taxable gain that is not considered reasonable will be taxed at the highest PEI rate of 51.37%. It is a well-known fact that the farm spouse contributes in many ways to the family farm operation and their involvement is critical to its success. However, this contribution may not meet the reasonableness test as it cannot always be assigned a dollar value and most farms would not be tracking this information.

 

  • Another common structure is where a family trust owns the shares of the family farm corporation. Even where the farmer is the main beneficiary of the trust, on the disposition of the shares by the family trust, capital gains exemption would no longer be allowed.

 

We would encourage all farmers to contact their local MP. These MPs have to stand up for the farm community who are being unfairly targeted by these proposals.