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A Simple Guide to Dividend Taxes in Canada

Written by Jessica Steer
If you are an active investor then you are probably aware of dividends and how they affect your taxes. Basically dividends are the earnings that are given to shareholders. The amount of the dividends are determined by the board of directors of the company. If there are any profits for shareholders, they are distributed quarterly. The dividend you receive is based on how many shares you hold as well as the company's revenue. When you receive your dividends they can be given in the form of cash or as additional stock. If you receive dividends as cash then you will be required to pay taxes on that money.
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    Dividend Income in Canada and if It’s Taxable

    In short, yes they are. Most dividends in Canada are taxable dividends. Because dividend income is already taxed by the corporation before it is given to shareholders, the tax rate on it’s lower than that of other income such as employment income, active business income or interest income but not lower than capital gains. That being said, the tax rate that you are charged on dividends depends on where the dividend is considered to be eligible or non-eligible. If the dividend is foreign, then the tax rate will vary even more. It’s important to know the average tax rate so you can calculate tax on any dividends, leaving you prepared when it comes time to file your income tax return.

    Eligible Dividends

    The definition of an eligible dividend is a taxable dividend that is paid by a Canadian corporation to an individual that is also Canadian that the corporation designated as eligible under section 89(14) of the income tax act. The majority of these types of dividends come from public corporations that don’t receive the small business deduction or corporations with a net income over the $500,000 small business deduction. Keep in mind though, that in order to receive the federal dividend tax credit to lower the tax rate, the dividend has to come from Canadian corporations and be paid to Canadian individuals, along with meeting the tax criteria.

    Since these corporations earn more income, they are taxed at a higher rate. When it comes to claiming eligible dividends, they are “grossed up” by the amount of 38% in order to reflect the corporate income that was earned. This new grossed up amount is then given an enhanced dividend tax credit. This is to account for the extra tax the corporation already paid. This is why eligible taxes are essentially taxed at a lower rate for Canadian individuals who receive them. The federal dividend tax rate on eligible dividends is 15.0198%.

    Non-Eligible Dividends

    These types of dividends are also known as regular dividends. These types of dividends generally come from private corporations that pay a lower tax rate. It is possible, though, for companies to have eligible and non-eligible dividends if they pay a lower tax rate on a portion of the income. Just like eligible dividends, non-eligible dividends are “grossed up” at a rate of 15% to reflect the pre-tax income and then you are provided with a lower dividend tax credit. The Federal tax rate of non-eligible dividends is 9.0301%. The non eligible dividend must come from a Canadian controlled private corporation or any other Canadian company in order to be eligible for the tax credits.

    Foreign Dividends

    Foreign dividends are dividends that are distributed to a Canadian shareholder from a company that isn’t Canadian. These dividends are taxed without the dividend tax credit. This is because the company that issued the dividend did not pay taxes to the Canadian government. That being said, you can get a credit for the foreign dividends taxed. This is known as a withholding tax and is normally issued at a rate of anywhere between 15% and 25%. It can vary from country to country though, depending on where your foreign dividends are from. That being said, the withholding tax isn’t available if you are holding your foreign dividends in registered accounts.

    When Dividends are Taxable

    Before corporations pay dividends, they can declare them. This means that the dividends have been authorized but not paid out yet. While a dividend being declared is important to a company's stock, it doesn’t have anything to do with the taxes. The amount being distributed though the dividend is the companies after tax profit and any dividends paid are taxed for the shareholder after they have been paid. A T5 tax form will be issued to Canadian investors by the company they received the dividend from. This form will then be included in your tax return along with your taxable income.

    When Dividends are Paid Out

    In Canada, most corporations pay dividends quarterly, whether they pay eligible dividends or non eligible dividends. REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) are a bit different though. They pay monthly dividends.

    Real Estate Investment Trusts

    While payments from REITs are technically dividends, they really are called distributions. This is because they can be made up of a number of things including capital gains, dividends, return of capital or any other form of income and, as you know, all of these things have different tax rates. This is why many choose to invest REIT earnings into registered accounts. This helps make the tax situation a little bit easier.

    While it may seem tricky to invest in REITs, many people do because they have a higher dividend yield. Unlike some other investments they can also hedge well against inflation.

    Provincial Dividend Tax Credit

    If you are claiming dividends in Canada, you can get additional dividend tax credits based on what province you reside in. It also depends on what year you received the dividend in. Here are the rates for 2023.

    Province Dividend Tax Credit
    British Columbia Eligible Dividend - 12%
    Non-Eligible - 1.96%
    Alberta Eligible Dividend - 8.12%
    Non-Eligible - 2.18%
    Saskatchewan Eligible Dividend - 11%
    Non-Eligible - 2.105%
    Manitoba Eligible Dividend - 8%
    Non-Eligible - 0.7835%
    New Brunswick Eligible Dividend - 14%
    Non-Eligible - 2.75%
    Newfoundland Eligible Dividend - 6.3%
    Non-Eligible - 3.2%
    Nova Scotia Eligible Dividend - 8.85%
    Non-Eligible - 2.99%
    Northwest Territories Eligible Dividend - 11.5%
    Non-Eligible - 6%
    Nunavut Eligible Dividend - 5.51%
    Non-Eligible - 2.61%
    Ontario Eligible Dividend - 10%
    Non-Eligible - 2.9863%
    PEI Eligible Dividend - 10.5%
    Non-Eligible - 1.3%
    Quebec Eligible Dividend - 11.7%
    Non-Eligible - 3.42%
    Yukon Eligible Dividend - 12.02%
    Non-Eligible - 0.67%

    Canadian Dividend Tax Credit

    While we did briefly mention this Canadian dividend credit above, let’s dive a little further into it and what it means. Essentially, the dividend tax credit is given to Canadian shareholders to apply against their tax liability on the grossed up part of their dividends. How it works is it applies along with provincial tax credits to any dividends received. The amounts depend on whether you have eligible dividends, non-eligible dividends or a combination of both.

    The reason that the dividend tax credit is issued is to avoid double taxation since the Canadian corporation that issued the dividend already paid taxes on the income that they received. The rates given to eligible and non-eligible tax credits is based on what the corporation would have paid in tax.

    It’s important to note that the Canadian dividend tax credit is a corporate tax credit. However, it’s only available to individual shareholders.

    Can dividends be tax free?

    In short, yes they can. However, this depends on whether dividends are your only form of income or not. If this is the case then, as a single person with no other income, you can earn up to $65,061 in eligible dividends before having to pay federal taxes. That being said, once you have $54, 403 in eligible dividend income, you need to pay an alternative minimum tax (AMT). The amount for provincial taxes varies depending.

    With non-eligible dividends, you can earn up to $31,361 before any federal taxes apply. This only applies if dividends are your only source of income. The amounts for provincial taxes vary and there are no AMTs on non-eligible dividends.

    The only other exception where you don’t have to pay any taxes on dividends are dividends that come from mutual funds or regulated investments companies that don’t pay taxes. This is because they invest in tax-exempt securities. These are known as tax advantage accounts or non taxable dividends. It’s important to know if your dividends are taxable or not for proper tax planning as well as what tax treatment they require if any.

    Difference Between Capital Gains Tax and Dividends Tax

    One important thing to remember when it comes to investment income is that it isn’t all taxed the same. GICs and savings deposit accounts are taxed at your highest marginal tax rate that is set by the Canada Revenue Agency. Dividend taxes have their own tax rates as well as tax credits at the federal as well as provincial levels. With capital gains, you are taxed on 50% of what you earn at your marginal rate.

    The main difference between dividends and capital gains is that dividends are profits as a shareholder and capital gains are gained when you sell a security. That being said, you only have a capital gain if you sell the security for more than you paid for it. While both of these have a lower tax rate than investments taxed at your highest marginal tax rate, you still pay less taxes with dividends.

    Receiving Dividends in Canada

    In Canada, dividends have the lowest tax rate of all investment income. Depending on where you invest, you could receive income every month or every few months. It all depends on where you choose to become a shareholder. It also makes a difference if dividends are your only form of income or if you have any other forms of income as well. This will greatly affect what you are required to pay in taxes.

    While there are dividends that are non taxable, many of them are in forms of mutual funds or other securities and you don’t receive the tangible value like you would with standard eligible and non eligible dividends. While both types of dividends have a lower taxation than other investments, you generally pay the lowest amount of taxes on eligible dividends.

    Like with any type of investing, it’s important to pay attention. Figure out what your tax rates are and invest in things that will benefit you long term. Keep this in mind especially if you choose to invest in foreign dividends since their tax rate will be much higher than Canadian corporation dividends.

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