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New tax rules in Canada for Transfer of Family Businesses 2024

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transfer of business in Canada

Two tax rules are being introduced in Budget 2023 to consider when owners transfer their businesses to their families and employees. Learn how these measures might impact business succession in 2024 and beyond.

For many years, Canada’s tax treatment of business sales and succession has been a hot topic. Business owners wanting to pass on their businesses to future generations faced tax problems that did not arise on commercial sales to non-family members. Further, unlike many other countries, Canada had no tax framework in place to help owners wishing to pass the business to their employees.

Budget 2023 affects both issues. For interfamily transfers, the budget announced proposals that would add new conditions and correct flaws in legislation stemming from a private member’s bill that had attempted to resolve the inequity between family and non-family business transfers. For transfers to employees, the budget introduces specific tax rules to govern the use of employee ownership trusts intending to increase employee buyouts. Both sets of rules are scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2024.

In this blog, we summarize the main features of these rules and some issues with the proposals as they are currently drafted.


Background: Bill C-208

Bill C-208, An act to amend the Income Tax Act (transfer of small business or family farm or fishing corporation) is a private member’s bill, enacted on June 29, 2021, targeting the tax inequity for non-arms length intergenerational transfers of a business.

When selling a corporation to another arm’s-length corporation, as long as the shares qualify, the sale generally triggers a capital gain eligible for the capital gains exemption. The buyer is permitted to make the purchase using a corporation they own, so they can use the after-tax corporate income to help finance the purchase. If an individual buys the shares directly, they must use after-tax personal cash.

However, under the rules in place before Bill C-208’s enactment, if the same shares were sold to a non-arms-length corporation for non-share consideration under similar conditions, the gain would generally be a deemed dividend under Section 84.1 of the Income Tax Act. If another family member bought the shares personally, then a capital gain would arise that would be eligible for the capital gains exemption (if the usual conditions were met). However, the need to use after-tax cash at the personal level created a significant inequity for business transfers within a family and a tax bias favoring arm’s-length sales.

To eliminate this inequity, Bill C-208 altered the rules that apply to non-arm’s-length sales so that deemed dividend treatment would not apply in certain conditions. As Parliament debated the bill in 2021, the Department of Finance Canada (“Finance”) raised concerns that the bill’s changes could open opportunities for inappropriate surplus stripping. Finance committed to amending the rules to facilitate genuine intergenerational share transfers while preventing tax avoidance and improving tax fairness.

What is a “genuine” intergenerational business transfer?

Almost two years later, these amendments were announced in Budget 2023, which states that the tax treatment introduced in Bill C-208 would “apply only where a genuine intergenerational business transfer takes place.” 

The budget then sets several conditions that must be met. These include general conditions that would apply to all transfers and specific conditions that would apply in two scenarios:

  • immediate transfers” made within 36 months
  • gradual transfers” made over 5 to 10 years

Where the conditions are met and an election is made, the business transfer would be excluded from Section 84.1’s deemed dividend rules.

Also in the budget are announcements that would:

  • eliminate the requirement to provide the Canada Revenue Agency with an independent assessment of the fair market value of the shares sold and an affidavit signed by the vendor and a third party attesting to the share sale;
  • eliminate the grind on capital gains exemption claims where the corporation sold (or associated group) has taxable capital employed in Canada exceeding $10 million; 
  • enhance the capital gain reserve rules by allowing a reserve over 10 years for sales that qualify as immediate or gradual transfers; 
  • increase the normal reassessment period by 3 years for immediate transfers and 10 years for gradual transfers; and
  • add joint and several liabilities for payment of tax under certain conditions.
  • Note that Budget 2023 does not affect Bill C-208’s amendments to Section 55.

If enacted, the budget proposals would apply to dispositions on or after January 1, 2024.


Canada’s existing rules have several barriers to the creation of Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs) and have been the topic of consultations for several years. If enacted, the EOT rules could offer another succession planning option for Canadian business owners.  

With an EOT, a business can be sold to employees through a trust that holds that corporation’s shares for their employees’ benefit without requiring employees to pay for shares directly. When many employees are participating in a buyout, using a trust can make it easier to deal with the legal and administrative details than if each employee-owned their shares directly. 

How do Employee Ownership Trusts work?

An EOT generally would be set up as follows:

  1. The EOT is formed, and the employees of the target business are made beneficiaries of the trust.
  2. The trustees of the trust negotiate terms and conditions for the purchase of the target business’s shares. Debt financing is arranged to allow the EOT to purchase the shares, which the business itself might provide.
  3. The EOT repays the debt over time using the earnings distributed to it from the business.

The existing ITA rules have several barriers to the creation of EOTs. After several years of consultation and examining these barriers, Budget 2023 introduced new rules that, if enacted, would allow for the creation of EOTs and introduce an additional succession planning option for Canadian business owners. Unlike some other countries, however, the proposed rules seem to focus on removing tax barriers as opposed to creating additional tax benefits to promote employee ownership and the use of EOTs, as we discuss later in this blog.

Canada’s New EOT Rules

An EOT is generally a Canadian resident trust that has two purposes:

  • to hold shares of a qualifying business for the benefit of the trust’s employee beneficiaries; and
  • to make distributions to employee beneficiaries under a distribution formula that can only consider any combination of an employee’s length of service, remuneration and hours worked (and otherwise treats all its beneficiaries similarly). 
  • The EOT’s share acquisition must be a qualifying business transfer, which would occur when a taxpayer disposes of shares of a qualifying business to an EOT (or a corporation wholly owned by the EOT) and both these conditions are met: 
  • the proceeds received by the vendor do not exceed fair market value; and 
  • the trust qualifies as an EOT immediately after the sale, and the EOT has a controlling interest in the qualifying business immediately after the transfer.

Additional conditions for qualifying as an EOT include: 

  • The trust holds a controlling interest in the shares of one or more qualifying businesses. A qualifying business is a Canadian-controlled private corporation where all or substantially all of the fair market value of its assets are attributable to assets (other than an interest in a partnership) used in an active business carried on in Canada. All or substantially all of the EOT’s assets must be shares of qualifying businesses.
  • The EOT’s beneficiaries are comprised of qualifying employees only. Qualifying employees generally include all individuals employed by qualifying businesses controlled by the trust (other than new employees on probation and certain employees who own a significant investment in the qualifying business’s shares). 
  • Distributions of trust property are restricted. EOTs cannot distribute shares of qualifying businesses to individual beneficiaries.
  • Specific rules apply for appointing trustees. All trustees of the EOT generally must be Canadian residents. Trust beneficiaries elect the trustees at least once every five years. Individuals and their related persons who held a significant economic interest in the business before a sale to the EOT cannot comprise more than 40 percent of the EOT’s trustees, directors of a corporate trustee’s board, or directors of any qualifying business of the EOT. 

An EOT is a taxable trust, so it is generally subject to the same tax rules as other personal trusts. Undistributed trust income is taxable at the highest personal marginal rate, and trust income that is distributed to beneficiaries is taxed at the level of the beneficiary and not the EOT.

Tax benefits of EOTs

In addition to providing a new business succession alternative, the proposed EOT rules carry the following tax benefits:

  • No 21-year deemed disposition rule — As EOTs are intended to exist indefinitely for the benefit of employees, EOTs would not be subject to the 21-year deemed disposition rule (which deems a trust to dispose of its capital property every 21 years).
  • Extended shareholder loan repayment period — The repayment period to avoid an income inclusion under the shareholder loan rules would be extended to 15 years (from one year) for amounts loaned to an EOT from a qualifying business to purchase shares in a qualifying business. The shareholder loan rules would otherwise present a significant tax barrier.
  • Extension of capital gains reserve — On a sale of a qualifying corporation to an EOT, the existing capital gains reserve would be extended to up to 10 years (from 5 years) so that a vendor could defer recognizing part of the capital gain for up to 10 years, based on the number of unpaid proceeds at the end of a tax year. Under these rules, the vendor would have to bring at least 10 percent of the gain into income each year for 10 years. This makes the treatment of share transfers to an EOT consistent with other transfers. 


If enacted, the EOT rules would apply as of January 1, 2024. Budget 2023 invites stakeholder feedback on how best to enhance the rights of employees and their participation in the governance of EOTs. 

We will continue to follow the progress of the proposals for business transfers to family members and employees as they make their way to law, and we will update you as more information is made available or if either set of proposals is changed significantly. 

We are here to assist you to make the process of transfer of family business a seamless and, easy process where we move with you step by step through the transfer process. We need more information about your business and its existing setup to guide you in more detail. If you need any further information our experienced and professional team at Filing Taxes is here to set you on the right path considering your personal business situation. Feel free to reach out to Filing Taxes at 416-479-8532. Schedule an NTR engagement appointment with us and take the first step toward proper management of your finances.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is intended to provide general information. The information does not consider your personal situation and is not intended to be used without consultation from accounting firms and financial professionals. Salman Randhawa and Filing Taxes will not be held liable for any problems that arise from the usage of the information provided on this page.

Salman Rundhawa
Salman Rundhawa
Salman Rundhawa is the founder of Filing Taxes. Salman provides valuable tax planning, accounting, and income tax preparation services in Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, and Hamilton.

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