The strength of small businesses

Your business

Investment, tax, and lifestyle perspectives from RBC Wealth Management Services While modest in size, small enterprises within Canada prove large in impact.


Recognizing the importance of Canada’s entrepreneurs with 5 year-end tax considerations for business owners.

Over recent decades, changing times and economies, advancements in technologies and transitions in population demographics have created far-reaching shifts in many businesses. Within the product and services industries, these changes include how some companies operate, the channels through which they conduct business and the types of businesses that exist. But amidst these changes, there’s one aspect that remains constant: small enterprises have a stronghold across our nation.

Small businesses are a foundational pillar within Canada, representing 1.14 million of the total 1.17 million employer businesses as of December 2015. Breaking down the three main size groupings as percentages, small enterprises account for an impressive 97.9 percent, while medium-sized ones represent 1.8 percent and large businesses account for 0.3 percent.1 To be categorized as a small business, an enterprise must employ anywhere between one and 99 individuals, but what’s amazing within the overall statistics is that of all small businesses, 73.5 percent have fewer than 10 employees.2 And while these enterprises are well-represented throughout a wide range of sectors, the top-three industries are retail trade; construction; and professional, scientific and technical services.3 Additionally, recent findings indicate female entrepreneurs are gaining ground, as one-third of all small businesses are led by women.4

From a value and impact perspective, small enterprises need to be recognized for the contributions they make to our society and economy at community, provincial and national levels. After all, these businesses provide work for 8.2 million Canadians in the private sector, which equates to 70.5 percent of private sector employment.5 From an output perspective, they collectively contribute to over 30 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP), and have consistently contributed to over one-quarter of the country’s GDP through their activities over the last 10 years.6 The annual celebration of Small Business Week in October (this year taking place the week of October 16 to 22) highlights small enterprises as a cornerstone in Canada. This year marks the 37th anniversary of Small Business Week, where over 10,000 business owners and professionals come together at over 300 events across the country.7 Beyond the awareness and appreciation through initiatives such as this, however, another key focus is helping ensure business owners have access to appropriate information and planning elements that will enable them to grow and achieve ongoing success.

businesswoman artstore

5 tax-planning considerations for business owners

For business owners, year-end marks an important time from a tax perspective. Those who own a business may want to consider the following strategies.

  1. Consider an Individual Pension Plan: As a shareholder and an employee of your business, you have the option of considering an Individual Pension Plan (IPP) as a method of saving for retirement. An IPP is a defined benefit registered pension plan that your corporation can set up for you or key employees. IPPs generally have only one plan member, except certain family members may also participate if they are also employees of your company. An IPP is ideally suited for individuals over the age of 40 whose typical employment earnings (“T4 earnings”) are at least $125,000 per year.

    In certain situations, an IPP can provide you with greater annual contribution room than an RRSP. In addition, contributions made to an IPP are deductible from your corporation’s income. So, if you are looking for both year-end corporate income tax deductions and a structured retirement savings plan for yourself and/or your family, consider establishing an IPP.
  2. Pay salaries and dividends before year-end: If you employ family members in your business, consider paying salaries to yourself and those family members before year-end. This year-end payment will give your family member earned income so they can make an RRSP contribution the following year. The payment will also give your business a tax deduction in the current year. The salary paid must be reasonable based on the services performed by your family member. A good rule of thumb is to pay your family member what you would have paid someone who isn’t related to you.

    If your incorporated business has family member shareholders in a lower tax bracket, consider paying them a dividend to income split. Depending on their province or territory of residence, adult children or spouses with no other income can receive between approximately $8,400 and $32,900 in non-eligible dividends or $18,700 and $51,500 in eligible dividends without triggering tax.
  3. Declare a bonus before year-end: If you are a business owner and require income, declare a bonus before the end of your corporation’s tax year and pay the amount within 180 days of the corporation’s year-end. Assuming your corporation’s year-end is December 31, if your corporation declares a bonus on December 31, 2016, it will get a tax deduction for 2016 and the tax you will have to pay on the bonus will be deferred if you receive it at the beginning of 2017.
  4. Repay shareholder loans: If your business loaned you money, ensure you repay the loan within one year after the end of the taxation year of your corporation. Otherwise, you must include in income the amount of the loan received from your corporation on your personal tax return. The loan cannot be a series of loans and repayments. If it is, then the loan must again be included in income on your personal tax return.
  5. Purchase assets for your business: If you intend on purchasing assets for your business – such as computers, furniture or equipment – consider making this purchase before year-end. If the asset is available for use, this year-end purchase will allow your business to claim depreciation on the asset for tax purposes (it is called “capital cost allowance” (CCA) for tax purposes). However, generally only half of the regular CCA can be claimed for tax purposes in the first year of an asset purchase.
couple plans

When business meets family

Canada is strongly represented by family-owned businesses, with approximately 80 percent of all employer enterprises having family ownership (this ranges from small-scale companies all the way to large corporations such as Bombardier Inc. and Saputo Inc.).8 The unfortunate reality, however, is that many of these businesses begin to falter when it comes time to pass them from one generation to the next. In fact, it’s estimated that 70 percent of family businesses won’t succeed through the second generation, and a more shocking 90 percent won’t make it through the third generation.9 And the reason? The majority of these failures occur due to a lack of succession planning. While statistics indicate that approximately 50 percent do have some sort of informal plan or ideas in mind, only 17 percent have actually formalized their succession plans.10

For those who own or are involved in a family business, communication around family values and intentions is such an important element in effective succession planning. Defining founding family principles as they relate to the business, and then ensuring there’s ongoing open dialogue among everyone involved, will help set the stage for putting firm plans in place. From there, seeking help from qualified professional advisors at a full-service firm may be very beneficial to align business objectives with the right planning approaches, while ensuring family values and individual priorities are upheld.

For information and resources on business succession planning in Canada, please contact your RBC advisor or Find a wealth advisor on the RBC Wealth Management site. Additionally, learn more about RBC Wealth Management’s award-winning approach to business planning by watching one of our client testimonial videos.

RBC Wealth Management is a business segment of Royal Bank of Canada. Please click the “Legal” link at the bottom of this page for further information on the entities that are member companies of RBC Wealth Management. The content in this publication is provided for general information only and is not intended to provide any advice or endorse/recommend the content contained in the publication.

® / ™ Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. Used under licence. © Royal Bank of Canada 2024. All rights reserved.

Let’s connect

We want to talk about your financial future.

Related articles

The complexities of business succession and how to promote success

Your business 16 minute read
- The complexities of business succession and how to promote success

Looking ahead for yourself and your business

Your business 11 minute read
- Looking ahead for yourself and your business

Shareholders’ agreements

Your business 8 minute read
- Shareholders’ agreements