Reporting capital gains and capital losses

Accountant, income tax and wealth management adviser Mark Goodfield (aka The Blunt Bean Counter) walks us through the process of planning for and using capital losses to offset capital gains and reduce your income tax liability when filing 2018 tax return.

The Basics

All capital gain and capital loss transactions for 2018 will have to be reported on Schedule 3 of your 2018 personal income tax return. You then subtract the total capital gains from the total capital losses and multiply the net capital gain/loss by 50 per cent. That amount becomes your taxable capital gain or net capital loss for the year. If you have a taxable capital gain, the amount is carried forward to the tax return jacket on Line 127. For example, if you have a capital gain of $120 and a capital loss of $30 in the year, 50 per cent of the net amount of $90 would be taxable and $45 would be carried forward to Line 127. The taxable capital gains are then subject to income tax at your marginal income tax rate.

Planning Preparation

I suggest you should start your preliminary planning immediately. These are the steps I recommend you undertake:

1. Retrieve your 2017 Notice of Assessment. In the verbiage discussing changes and other information, if you have a capital loss carryforward, the balance will be reported. This information is also easily accessed online if you have registered with the Canada Revenue Agency My Account program.

2. If you do not have capital losses to carry forward, retrieve your 2015, 2016 and 2017 income tax returns to determine if you have taxable capital gains upon which you can carry back a current year capital loss. On an Excel spreadsheet or multi-column paper, note any taxable capital gains you reported in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

3. For each of 2015-2017, review your returns to determine if you applied a net capital loss from a prior year on line 253 of your tax return. If yes, reduce the taxable capital gain on your spreadsheet by the loss applied.

4. Finally, if you had net capital losses in 2016 or 2017, review whether you carried back those losses to 2015 or 2016 on form T1A of your tax return. If you carried back a loss to either 2015 or 2016, reduce the gain on your spreadsheet by the loss carried back.

5. If after adjusting your taxable gains by the net capital losses under steps #3 and #4 you still have a positive balance remaining for any of the years from 2015 to 2017, you can potentially generate an income tax refund by carrying back a net capital loss from 2018 to any or all of 2015, 2016 or 2017.

6. If you have an investment advisor, call your advisor and request a realized capital gain/loss summary from 2018 to determine if you are in a net gain or loss position. If you trade yourself, ensure you update your capital gain/loss schedule (or Excel spreadsheet, whatever you use) for the year.

Now that you have all the information you need, it is time to be strategic about how to use your losses.

Basic Use of Losses

For discussion purposes, let’s assume the following:

■ 2018: total realized capital loss of $30,000

■ 2017: taxable capital gain of $15,000

■ 2016: taxable capital gain of $5,000

■ 2015: taxable capital gain of $7,000

Based on the above, you will be able to carry back your $15,000 net capital loss ($30,000 × 50 per cent) from 2018 against the $7,000 and $5,000 taxable capital gains in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and apply the remaining $3,000 against your 2017 taxable capital gain.

Identical Shares

Many people buy the same company’s shares (say Bell Canada) in different accounts or have employer stock purchase plans. I often see people claim a gain or loss on the sale of their Bell Canada shares from one of their accounts, but ignore the shares they own of Bell Canada in another account. However, be aware, you have to calculate your adjusted cost base on all the identical shares you own in say Bell Canada and average the total cost of all your Bell Canada shares over the shares in all your accounts. If the cost of your shares in Bell are higher in one of your accounts, you cannot pick and choose to realize a loss on that account; you must report the gain or loss based on the average adjusted cost base of all your Bell shares, not the higher cost base shares.

Creating Gains From Unutilized Losses

Where you have a large capital loss carry-forward from prior years and it is unlikely that the losses will be utilized either due to the quantum of the loss or because you are out of the stock market and don’t anticipate any future capital gains of any kind (such as the sale of real estate), it may make sense for you to purchase a flow-through limited partnership. (Be aware; although there are income tax benefits to purchasing a flow-through limited partnership, there are also investment risks and you must discuss any purchase with your investment advisor.)

Purchasing a flow-through limited partnership will provide you with a write-off against regular income pretty much equal to the cost of the unit; and any future capital gain can be reduced or eliminated by your capital loss carryforward. For example, if you have a net capital loss carry forward of $75,000 and you purchase a flow-through investment in 2018 for $20,000, you would get approximately $20,000 in cumulative tax deductions in 2018 and 2019, the majority typically coming in the year of purchase.

Depending upon your marginal income tax rate, the deductions could save you upwards of $10,700 in taxes. When you sell the unit, a capital gain will arise. This is because the $20,000 income tax deduction reduces your adjusted cost base from $20,000 to nil (there may be other adjustments to the cost base). Assuming you sell the unit in 2020 for $18,000 you will have a capital gain of $18,000 (subject to any other adjustments) and the entire $18,000 gain will be eliminated by your capital loss carry forward. Thus, in this example, you would have total after-tax proceeds of $28,700 ($18,000 +$10,700 in tax savings) on a $20,000 investment.

This article provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisor.

This is an edited version of an article that was originally published for subscribers in the December 2018, issue of The Taxletter. You can profit from the award-winning advice subscribers receive regularly in The Taxletter.

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