by J. Stephen Pope
Should I take wages or dividends from my privately owned corporation? What is the best way of taking money out of my company? In other words, what will result in the least amount of income taxes?
A Canadian accountant will perform a dividend-salary mix calculation to determine the best way of withdrawing money from the corporation.
Even though Canadian income tax laws are different from other jurisdictions, some of the same principles of tax planning will still apply.
In order to qualify for Canada Pension Plan (C.P.P.) benefits or to make Registered Retirement Savings Plan (R.R.S.P.) contributions, there must be some earned income. This requires the payment of wages. In fact, many accountants will make sure that their clients have maximized their C.P.P. and R.R.S.P. contributions for the year in order to ensure sufficient future retirement benefits, even if it costs a little more in income tax and/or payroll taxes.
On the other hand, the Dividend Tax Credit reduces the tax payable on dividends received from the corporation, since the corporation has already been taxed on its income. Therefore, the accountant may recommend that the corporation pay some dividends.
Sometimes, if the owner doesn’t require the cash, the income is simply retained inside the corporation and tax is paid at the lower small business rate by the corporation. If the corporation had income in excess of the Small Business Deduction, it likely would pay it out in wages.
Depending on the circumstances of the taxpayer, wages may be the least expensive way of taking money out of the corporation. Sometimes, dividends are better. Generally, a mix of both is required.
An accountant will have to balance many factors to come out with the optimal mix for you. He will consider your family situation, other income sources, losses, investment and retirement objectives, et cetera. Keep in mind that the lowest possible tax bill for the current year is not always in your best interests.