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12 Feb

Capital Gains Explained


Posted by: Garth Chapman

So what is a Capital Gain, as defined in Canada? Well, Duhaime’s Law Dictionary defines it here as follows:

Capital gain or capital gains is an accounting term but one with substantial relevance to tax law as jurisdictions are wont to tax capital gains when the capital asset is sold or otherwise disposed of, just as tax-payers would then seek tax credit or deduction in the event that, in lieu of a capital gain, the tax payer suffered a capital losses.

Therefore, to the extent that it is not expressly defined in a tax statute, what is or is not a capital gain has become a matter of judicial interpretation, often hotly contested as the tax authority seeks to capture transactions as capital gains, and the tax payer seeks to avoid the designation. The law reports contain complex decisions on the status as capital gains of lottery winnings, royalties, business income and many creative tax avoidance transactions.

In more simple language you have a capital gain when you sell, or are considered to have sold, what the Canada Revenue Agency deems “capital property” (including securities in the form of shares and stocks as well as real estate) for more than you paid for it (the adjusted cost base) less any legitimate expenses associated with its sale.

More on all this this MoneySense article with excerpts taken from it below:

How is it taxed? Contrary to popular belief, capital gains are not taxed at your marginal tax rate. Only half (50%) of the capital gain on any given sale is taxed all at your marginal tax rate (which varies by province). On a capital gain of $50,000 for instance, only half of that, or $25,000, would be taxable. For a Canadian in a 35% tax bracket for example, a $25,000 taxable capital gain would result in $8,750 taxes owing. The remaining $41,250 is the investors’ to keep.

The CRA offers step-by-step instructions on how to calculate capital gains.

How to keep more of it for yourself

There are several ways to legally reduce, and in some cases avoid, capital gains tax. Some of the more common exceptions are detailed here:

  • Capital gains can be offset with capital losses from other investments. In the case you have no taxable capital gains however, a capital loss cannot be claimed against regular income except for some small business corporations.
  • The sale of your principal residence is not subject to capital gains tax. For more information on capital gains as it relates to income properties, vacation homes and other types of real estate, read “Can you avoid capital gains tax?
  • A donation of securities to a registered charity or private foundation does not trigger a capital gain.
  • If you sell an asset for a capital gain but do not expect to receive the money right away, you may be able to claim a reserve or defer the capital gain until a later time.

If you are a farmer or a newcomer to Canada, they are special capital gains rules for you. The specifics can be found at the CRA website.

For more specific questions and stories on this topic, see the MoneySense section on Capital Gains here