Q: I have five rental properties in my name. Should I switch them to a numbered company?
A: Hi, Travis. Incorporating a holding company to own rental properties has some advantages and disadvantages depending on the objectives you have in mind in both the short and long term. However, you should first speak with a tax accountant about any tax ramifications both personally and corporately to ensure as perfect an integration of the two systems as possible. Then speak with a legal advisor to draft up the appropriate corporate structure before making the transfer.
From a tax point of view, there are two things to consider. While the transfer of real property held personally should qualify for a Section 85 election to rollover the properties at their cost base, you will want to be sure the CRA will not consider your properties to be held as “inventory”; that is property, held primarily for resale rather than rental. If so, they will not qualify for a tax-free rollover or capital gains treatment. Therefore, the transfer could trigger unexpected tax consequences. Your history of receiving rental income from the property will help you avoid this.
Second, you’ll also want to understand the difference in taxation rates both inside and outside of the corporation. Recent tax changes may have made it less desirable to own passive investments inside a corporation, depending on where you live in Canada.
Some advantages of incorporation include limited liability and creditor protection. However, if you are holding mortgages, most financial institutions will still require personal guarantees. Corporate directors and officers can also be held liable on default, so proper insurance protections for these instances is critical.
From a retirement planning point of view, incorporation may provide more flexibility as to when income is taken as dividends. It could help you to avoid personal taxes or spikes into the next tax bracket, and benefit from the recovery of refundable taxes in the corporation.
Consider also that there will be costs for setting up and annual reporting of the holding company. Transferring the properties from the taxpayer to a holding company may have tax consequences, other than income taxes. If your province has a land transfer tax (or equivalent), you may have to pay the land transfer tax when the properties are transferred.
The bottom line is this: you’ll want to be thoughtful about the transfer, and you’ll want to match your investment objectives and desired tax outcomes as closely as possible