There are three primary ways in which you, as an owner-manager, can withdraw funds from your corporation. You can pay yourself a salary, you can declare a dividend or you can borrow money from the corporation. When you borrow money from your own corporation the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has put into place strict rules as to when you have to repay the Loan to ensure that the owner-manager does not avoid paying taxes indefinitely.
shareholder loan balances
The basic rule for shareholders loans is that they must be paid in the fiscal year following the year in which the loan was taken. For example, if your fiscal year end is December 31 and you borrow money in 2019, then it must be repaid before December 31, 2020. Failure to repay will result in the loan amounts being included in the shareholder’s income in the year in which the loan was taken, which in this case would be 2019. The loan must also not be considered to be a series of loans and repayments eg. Repaying an amount at the end of 2019 only to borrow again in early 2020. The best way to clear out a Shareholder loan balance is to pay a salary, bonus or dividend. Since this gives rise to taxable income and eliminates the shareholder loan for the previous year, it is not considered to be a series of loans and repayments.
exceptions for shareholder loans for specific purposes
There are exceptions which allow shareholders’ to take out loans for longer periods:
If a loan is made in the ordinary course of the corporation’s business eg. they are a financial institution that makes loans as part of their business and as long as the terms of the loan are similar to an unrelated borrower
Purchase of a dwelling (a house, condo, cottage, mobile home and even a houseboat J). The dwelling does not have to be located in Canada nor does it have to be a principal residence as long as the shareholder dwells in it i.e. rental properties are not eligible nor is the portion of a duplex which is not inhabited by the shareholder. Repairs and improvements to an existing dwelling do not qualify for the exception.
Purchase of shares in the corporation or a related corporation (this does not apply to unrelated corporations)
Purchase of a motor vehicle for use in the employee’s job
Trade debts i.e. amounts sold by a corporation in the normal course of its business as long as it is on the same terms as other customers. Usually these are settled within 12 months.
CRA discussion on debt of shareholders which explains each provision in detail
Keep in mind that, with respect to loans made to shareholders for the above purposes, a taxable benefit may arise for the shareholder if market rates of interest are not charged on the loans or one of the conditions is not met.
Accounting for Shareholder Loans
A shareholder loan account should be created as a current liability on the balance sheet. All withdrawals that are personal in nature should be allocated to this account including cash withdrawals and purchases of a personal nature made through the corporation. For example the portion of airline tickets that may have been purchased for a spouse accompanying you on a business trip or the personal portion of telephone expenses would be reflected in this account. This can be offset (reduced) by repayments by the shareholder in cash, or expenses paid personally by the shareholder that relate to the business including gas, repairs, business portion of dues and subscriptions, travel expenses, home office expenses etc. The total in the shareholder loan account at the year end previous to the current year end, once all transactions have been entered and adjustments reflected, should then be cleared out by declaration of a dividend or by payment of a bonus or a salary. Note that the net amount of the bonus or salary should be sufficient to cover the shareholder loan balance.
It is important for small business owners to understand that, although they may borrow funds from the corporation, they must repay these amounts by the end of the following fiscal year either via a direct repayment or via salaries or dividends. If not, the amount of the loan will be included in your income for the year in which the loan was taken, which can result in significant taxes payable as well as interest and penalties.
Ronika Khanna is a Montreal accountant who helps small businesses achieve their financial goals. To receive regular updates of articles pertaining to small business, accounting, tax and other topics of interest to business owners you can sign up here. You can also follow her on Facebook or Twitter.