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Capital Gains Exemption for Family-Owned Enterprises

In the intricate world of tax planning, understanding the nuances of capital gains exemptions is not just beneficial—it’s essential. For family-owned enterprises, the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) stands out as a particularly valuable tool. This exemption can significantly reduce the tax burden on the sale of qualified small business corporation shares, offering a pathway to substantial tax savings and financial optimization.

The Value of the LCGE for Family-Owned Enterprises

For entrepreneurs and business families, the LCGE isn’t merely a tax break—it’s a strategic asset. By effectively utilizing this exemption, family-owned businesses can enhance their financial legacies and strengthen their business’s position for future generations. The potential tax savings are not just substantial; they are transformative, offering enhanced liquidity and the freedom to reinvest in or expand the business.

Expert Guidance Tailored to Your Needs

As a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA) with additional qualifications as a Master in Tax Law (LL.M (Tax)), Master in Business Administration (MBA), and Trust Estate Practitioner (TEP), I specialize in navigating the complex tax landscapes that family-owned enterprises face. At Shajani CPA, we are dedicated to leveraging our deep expertise to guide your business through the intricacies of tax planning, ensuring you capitalize on opportunities like the LCGE.

Understanding and applying the LCGE can be pivotal for your business. Let us show you how this exemption could be a game-changer for your enterprise, saving you millions and securing your family’s financial future.

Section 1: Understanding Capital Gains Exemption

Defining Capital Gains and Exemptions

In the realm of taxation, a capital gain arises when you sell an asset for more than its purchase price. This can include real estate, shares, or business assets. The difference between the sale price and the original purchase price (adjusted for certain expenses and reliefs) constitutes the capital gain, a portion of which may be subject to tax.

To mitigate the tax burden on capital gains, many jurisdictions, including Canada, offer what is known as a capital gains exemption. This exemption allows taxpayers to exclude a portion of their capital gains from taxable income, thus reducing their overall tax liability. The concept of a capital gains exemption is particularly crucial for individuals and businesses as it promotes investment by making the disposal of assets more financially favorable.

Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) in Canada

The Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) is a powerful tax relief tool available to Canadian taxpayers, specifically designed to support small business owners, farmers, and fishers. As of June 25, 2024, the LCGE allows individuals to exempt up to $1,250,000 of capital gains realized from the sale of qualified small business corporation shares, and for qualified farming or fishing property.

The LCGE has undergone various changes since its inception, reflecting shifts in economic policy and tax legislation. Understanding these historical changes can provide valuable context for the exemption’s current structure and its impact on tax planning:

  • 1972 to 1987: The capital gains tax was introduced in Canada with an inclusion rate of 50%, meaning that half of the capital gain was taxable.
  • 1988 to 1989: This rate was increased to 66.67%.
  • 1990 to February 27, 2000: The rate climbed to 75%, the peak in Canadian history.
  • February 28 to October 17, 2000: A brief reduction to 66.67%.
  • Post-October 17, 2000: The rate stabilized again at 50%.

The recent proposal suggests a forthcoming increase in the inclusion rate to 66.67% after June 25, 2024 (for all capital gains sold by a corporation, or trust and for capital gains over $250,000 for individuals), indicating a significant shift towards increasing tax revenue from capital gains.

Relevance to Small Business Corporations

For family-owned enterprises and other small business corporations, the LCGE is particularly pertinent. These businesses, often structured as small business corporations, can leverage the exemption to achieve significant tax savings when transitioning ownership or restructuring. The exemption encourages the growth and sustainability of family-owned businesses by making it financially easier to pass on assets to the next generation or sell them to fund retirement or other business ventures.

Eligibility for the LCGE requires that the shares sold must be of a Qualified Small Business Corporation (QSBC), which stipulates that a certain percentage of the business’s assets are used in an active business carried on primarily in Canada. This encourages not only investment in Canadian businesses but also ensures that these businesses maintain significant operational presence in Canada.

Impact of Proposed Changes

The proposed changes to the inclusion rate are poised to affect these transactions significantly. For capital gains exceeding $250,000 at the top marginal tax rate, the average federal-provincial marginal tax rate on capital gains would effectively increase from 25.3% to 33.8%. This adjustment will necessitate more strategic planning for business owners to manage potential increases in tax liabilities effectively with an even more distinct advantage to selling shares of a QSBC.

Table: Maximum Capital Gains Exemption

Date of Disposition SBC Shares Farming/Fishing Property
2024 after Jun 24th, 2025 (1) $1,250,000 $1,250,000
2024 before Jun 25th $1,016,836 $1,016,836
2023 $971,190 $1,000,000
2022 $913,630 $1,000,000
2021 $892,218 $1,000,000
2020 $883,384 $1,000,000
2019 $866,912 $1,000,000
2018 $848,252 $1,000,000
2017 $835,716 $1,000,000
2016 $824,176 $1,000,000
2015 after Apr 20 (2) $813,600 $1,000,000
2015 before Apr 21 $813,600 $813,600
2014 $800,000 $800,000
2008 – 2013 (3) $750,000 $750,000


Let’s consider a scenario where a taxpayer in Alberta decides between selling the shares of their Qualified Small Business Corporation (QSBC) for $1,250,000 or selling the corporation’s assets for the same amount. We’ll assume that there is no adjusted cost base (ACB) involved, meaning the entire sale amount represents a gain.

Scenario 1: Sale of QSBC Shares

  • Sale Amount: $1,250,000
  • Capital Gains Exemption: Assuming the taxpayer has the full exemption available, the entire $1,250,000 can potentially be exempt from tax under the LCGE.
  • Net Receipts: $1,250,000 (entire amount received tax-free)

Scenario 2: Sale of Corporate Assets

  • Sale Amount: $1,250,000
  • Corporate Tax: We first apply the corporate income tax rates on the $833,333 (2/3 of $1,250,000, reflecting the new capital gains inclusion rate of 66.67%).


  • Tax on first $500,000: $500,000 × 11% = $55,000
  • Tax on remaining $333,333: $333,333 × 23% = $76,667
  • Total Corporate Tax Paid: $55,000 + $76,667 = $131,667
  • After-Tax Corporate Funds: $1,250,000 – $131,667 = $1,118,333

Next, the funds need to be extracted from the corporation, typically through dividends. Considering the 2024 anticipated revision to the CDA, which allows one-third of the taxable capital gain to be paid out tax-free:

  • Taxable Portion: $1,250,000 × ⅓ = $416,667 (eligible for CDA distribution)
  • Non-CDA Portion: $1,118,333 – $416,667 = $701,666

The non-CDA portion would be distributed as taxable dividends. Assuming the shareholder is at the highest tax bracket for simplicity, the tax rate on eligible dividends is 34.31% in Alberta for income over $355,845 in 2024.

  • Tax on Non-CDA Portion (Eligible Dividends): $701,666 × 34.31% = $240,838

Net Receipts to Shareholder:

  • CDA Distribution: $416,667 (tax-free)
  • After Dividend Tax Distribution: $701,666 – $240,838 = $460,828
  • Total Net Receipts to Shareholder: $416,667 + $460,828 = $877,495


  • Sale of QSBC Shares: $1,250,000 (tax-free under LCGE)
  • Sale of Corporate Assets and Distribution to Shareholder: $877,495

In this revised analysis, the sale of QSBC shares and utilizing the LCGE results in the taxpayer receiving significantly more funds ($1,250,000 vs. $877,495). This difference highlights the substantial tax advantage of utilizing the LCGE for the sale of QSBC shares, which avoids multiple layers of taxation that occur when corporate assets are sold and proceeds are distributed. This scenario clearly demonstrates the critical need for strategic tax planning, especially considering potential changes to tax rates and rules.

Section 2: Eligibility Criteria for Capital Gains Exemption

Navigating the eligibility criteria for the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) is crucial for Canadian business owners, particularly those operating family-owned enterprises. This exemption can significantly reduce the capital gains tax payable upon the sale of qualified small business corporation shares. Understanding these criteria ensures that business owners are prepared and compliant when the opportunity to utilize this exemption arises.

Understanding the LCGE

The LCGE allows individuals to exempt up to a certain amount of capital gains realized from the sale of qualifying small business corporation shares from their income. As of June 25, 2024, the exemption limit is set at $1,250,000 for small business corporation shares. This exemption is a lifetime cumulative limit, meaning that it tracks the individual’s use over time and decreases with each utilization.  However, the limit does increase each year (recommencing in 2026) at the rate of inflation.

Qualifying as a Small Business Corporation (SBC)

For a corporation to qualify as a Small Business Corporation (SBC), it must be a Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC) throughout the tax year, and more than 90% of its assets must be used in an active business conducted primarily in Canada. As the sale approaches, the threshold becomes more stringent, requiring that at least 50% of the corporation’s assets have been used principally in an active business in Canada for the 24 months preceding the sale. This requirement ensures that the corporation is genuinely operational and not merely a holding entity for passive investments.

Holding Period Requirements

The LCGE is not just about what you sell but also about how long you’ve held what you’re selling. There are specific holding period requirements that must be met to qualify for the exemption. Shares must have been owned by the individual, their spouse, or a partnership in which they are a member for at least 24 months before the disposition. This rule is designed to encourage long-term investment in small businesses rather than short-term speculative activity.

Active Business vs. Passive Investment Considerations

One of the most critical aspects of qualifying for the LCGE involves the nature of the business activities conducted by the corporation. The income from active business operations qualifies for the exemption, whereas income derived from passive investment activities does not. Active business income generally includes any income earned by the corporation from a business where there is a significant amount of employee activity or capital investment. Conversely, passive income might include earnings from rental properties, dividends, or interests that do not qualify under the active business requirement.

Case Examples of Typical Family-Owned Business Scenarios

Example 1: The Tech Startup A family-owned tech startup developed innovative software solutions and held onto their shares for over five years. As a CCPC, they reinvested most profits back into the business, maintaining compliance with the active business requirement. When they wanted to sell a division, Shajani CPA facilitated a butterfly transaction to extract the asset of the retained business into another company. This strategic move allowed them to sell the shares of the existing company and utilize their LCGE, thereby exempting a significant portion of the capital gains from taxation.

Example 2: The Farming Business Consider a family that has been running a farming business through a corporation for decades. The land and equipment, crucial for their operations, ensure that the majority of the corporation’s assets are active in the primary business in Canada. When they decided to sell, it was clear that the LCGE would not shield the entire gain. However, Shajani CPA noted that the owners had a principal residence on the property. They understood the situation and advised on the sale agreement to allow for a portion of the farm sale to maximize the advantage of the capital gains exemption for farm property, with the balance being at the fair market value of the principal residence. This nuanced approach ensured optimal tax benefits.

Example 3: The Real Estate Investment Firm. A family owns a corporation that primarily deals with real estate investments, including rental properties. Initially, the corporation’s income primarily came from passive sources, which did not meet the active business criteria necessary for the LCGE. However, Shajani CPA was able to reorganize the corporate structure and advised delaying the sale to meet the active business criteria. This strategic restructuring allowed the corporation to qualify for the LCGE upon the eventual sale of its shares, transforming a non-eligible entity into a qualifying one through careful planning and timing.

These examples illustrate how strategic financial guidance, particularly from experienced professionals like Shajani CPA, can dramatically influence the tax implications of business decisions. By leveraging specific transaction structures and understanding the intricate details of tax regulations, businesses can significantly enhance their financial outcomes under the LCGE framework.

Section 3: Maximizing Your Exemption

For family-owned enterprises and small business owners in Canada, effectively leveraging the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) can result in substantial tax savings. Maximizing this exemption requires strategic planning, a thorough understanding of the qualifying conditions, and precise timing. Here, we delve into strategies that enhance the benefits of the LCGE, focusing on succession planning, professional valuations, and optimal business structuring.

Strategies for Maximizing the LCGE

Maximizing the LCGE begins with proactive tax planning. This involves continuous monitoring and management of the business’s assets to ensure that they meet the criteria set out for small business corporations (SBCs). Keeping the business’s active business income above the passive income is crucial. Business owners should also consider the timing of the sale and the nature of the assets being sold, as these factors directly impact the eligibility for the LCGE.

Succession Planning and Timing of Asset Sales

Succession planning plays a vital role in maximizing the LCGE. For many family-owned businesses, transitioning the business to the next generation or preparing for a sale involves detailed planning to ensure that the business remains qualified as an SBC throughout the ownership period. Timing the sale of the business or its assets is critical. Ideally, sales should occur when the business is performing well and when market conditions are favorable, ensuring that the business valuation is maximized and aligns with LCGE limits.

Business owners should consider holding their shares for at least two years to meet the holding period requirement. Additionally, if there is a plan to sell the business upon retirement, it’s advantageous to start planning several years in advance. This allows for strategic adjustments in the business’s operations and structure to meet the necessary active business criteria.

The Role of Professional Valuations in Supporting Exemption Claims

Professional valuations are indispensable in the process of claiming the LCGE. These valuations provide a credible and unbiased estimate of the value of the business, which is crucial for several reasons:

  • Establishing Eligibility: Valuations help prove that the assets being sold meet the necessary criteria for the LCGE.
  • Supporting Documentation: In case of audits or reviews by tax authorities, having a professional valuation can provide the needed evidence to support the exemption claim.
  • Informing Sale Price: A professional valuation ensures that the business is neither undervalued nor overvalued at the time of sale, which can affect the tax benefits under the LCGE.

Engaging with a qualified valuator early in the planning stage can also provide insights into how different business decisions might impact the overall valuation and eligibility for the LCGE.

Tips on Structuring the Business to Qualify and Claim the LCGE

Structuring the business appropriately is essential to qualify for and claim the LCGE. The following tips can help:

  • Asset Management: Regularly review and manage the business’s asset portfolio to ensure that more than 90% of the assets are used in active business operations, especially leading up to the sale.
  • Corporate Structure Adjustments: Consider restructuring the business, if necessary, to meet the definition of an SBC. This might include spinning off passive assets into a separate entity or selling non-essential passive assets.
  • Documentation and Record-Keeping: Maintain meticulous records that demonstrate compliance with all LCGE requirements, including the use of assets and the nature of business activities.
  • Use of Trusts and Estates: Incorporating trusts or transitioning business ownership through family estates can be a strategy to spread the capital gains among family members, potentially allowing multiple family members to utilize their individual LCGE.

Finally, consulting with experienced tax professionals like those at Shajani CPA can provide tailored advice and strategies that align with both business goals and tax optimization objectives. Their expertise can be particularly beneficial in navigating complex scenarios and ensuring that every possible tax advantage is secured through the LCGE.

In conclusion, maximizing the LCGE is not just about meeting eligibility criteria but also about strategic planning and structuring. By understanding and implementing these strategies, business owners can significantly enhance their financial outcomes while ensuring compliance with Canadian tax laws.

Section 4: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

The Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) offers a significant tax relief for small business owners in Canada, particularly those operating family-owned enterprises. However, navigating the eligibility criteria and optimizing the exemption’s benefits can be fraught with challenges. Many businesses inadvertently miss out on these benefits due to common pitfalls. Here, we discuss some of these mistakes and offer strategies to avoid them, ensuring that businesses can fully leverage the LCGE.

Common Mistakes in Utilizing the LCGE

Inadequate Record Keeping

One of the most prevalent issues is inadequate record-keeping. Effective documentation is crucial not only for regular business operations but also for substantiating claims under the LCGE. Poorly maintained records can lead to difficulties in proving that the assets were used primarily in active business, a key criterion for the exemption. Without proper documentation, businesses risk losing the opportunity to claim the exemption during audits.

Strategy: Implement a robust system for tracking and documenting all business transactions and asset usage. Regular audits by internal or external auditors can help ensure that the records are compliant with tax requirements.

Misunderstanding Eligibility of Assets

Another common pitfall is the misunderstanding regarding which assets are eligible for the LCGE. Some business owners mistakenly believe that all assets held by a corporation qualify for the exemption, which is not the case. Only assets used actively in the business qualify, and passive investment assets typically do not.

Strategy: Regularly review the asset portfolio of the business to ensure compliance with the active use requirement. Consult with tax professionals to clearly distinguish between active and passive assets and restructure if necessary to optimize eligibility.

Legal and Financial Strategies to Mitigate Risks

Legal Restructuring

Legal restructuring of the business can be an effective strategy to avoid pitfalls associated with the LCGE. This might involve separating active business assets from passive investment assets into different legal entities, thereby clarifying the structure and ensuring that the business qualifies for the exemption.

Strategy: Engage with legal advisors who specialize in corporate law to examine the current structure of the business and suggest necessary modifications. This may include creating holding companies or restructuring share classes.

Proactive Financial Planning

Proactive financial planning is crucial to avoid last-minute scrambles and misunderstandings about asset eligibility. Planning should involve detailed forecasts and scenarios that take into account the future directions of the business and potential changes in tax legislation.

Strategy: Work with financial planners to develop a long-term strategy that aligns with both business goals and tax optimization. This includes timing the sale of the business or its assets to coincide with optimal tax conditions and ensuring that all prerequisites for the LCGE are met well in advance.

Regular Consultations with Tax Experts

Regular consultations with tax experts are essential to navigate the complex rules surrounding the LCGE and to stay updated on any changes in tax legislation that might affect eligibility.

Strategy: Schedule regular meetings with tax professionals like those at Shajani CPA, who can provide up-to-date information and strategic advice on how to maximize tax benefits while remaining compliant with Canadian tax laws.

By being aware of these common pitfalls and implementing strategic measures to counter them, family-owned businesses can significantly enhance their chances of benefiting from the LCGE. These strategies not only help in avoiding costly errors but also ensure that the business is positioned for financial success and tax efficiency.

Section 5: The Role of Professional Guidance

Navigating the complexities of tax laws and capital gains exemptions in Canada, especially for family-owned enterprises, requires not only keen understanding but also strategic foresight. The role of a professional tax advisor cannot be overstated in this context. Consulting with a seasoned tax professional not only optimizes tax savings but also ensures compliance with evolving tax regulations. Here, we explore the crucial role professional guidance plays and how Shajani CPA, with its deep expertise and proven track record, can significantly benefit family enterprises in their financial planning.

Importance of Consulting with a Tax Professional

The Canadian tax landscape, particularly concerning capital gains and business exemptions like the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE), is complex and frequently subject to changes. Navigating these waters without expert guidance can lead to missed opportunities and potential non-compliance with tax laws, which can incur severe penalties and undermine business integrity.

Professional tax advisors provide critical insights into tax planning, helping businesses to:

  • Understand intricate tax regulations and their implications on business assets.
  • Strategically plan business transactions to align with tax advantages.
  • Ensure meticulous record-keeping that stands up to scrutiny from tax authorities.

Optimizing Tax Savings and Ensuring Compliance

Professional tax advice is invaluable in optimizing tax savings. This is achieved through:

  • Strategic Tax Planning: Tailoring strategies that fit the specific needs of the business while maximizing available tax exemptions and deductions.
  • Compliance Assurance: Keeping the business on the right side of tax laws, thus avoiding costly penalties associated with non-compliance.

Tax professionals help in structuring transactions, timing asset sales, and planning succession to ensure that every action taken is optimal both financially and legally.

Shajani CPA: Guiding Family Enterprises to Financial Success

At Shajani CPA, we specialize in providing tailored tax and financial advice to family-owned enterprises. Our approach is grounded in a deep understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities faced by family businesses, especially those looking to utilize the LCGE. Our services have saved our clients millions of dollars through:

  • Strategic Planning and Consultations: We analyze each client’s specific situation to develop customized strategies that maximize tax efficiencies.
  • Tax Reorganizations: Our expertise in structuring and restructuring corporate entities ensures that our clients’ businesses are optimized for tax purposes and aligned with their long-term goals.
  • Meticulous Record Keeping: We assist in establishing and maintaining impeccable financial records that not only facilitate smooth business operations but also support robust defense in any tax audits.
  • Understanding Corporate Transactions: Our team’s proficiency in complex corporate transactions ensures that clients receive knowledgeable guidance that can make a significant financial difference.

Our proven track record of enabling substantial tax savings and enhancing business growth speaks to our commitment to excellence and client satisfaction. For family enterprises aiming to navigate the complexities of tax planning and capital gains exemptions, partnering with Shajani CPA means securing a path toward successful financial planning and robust tax compliance.

The value of professional tax advice cannot be underestimated in today’s complex financial and tax environment. Engaging with experts like Shajani CPA not only secures compliance and optimization of tax liabilities but also empowers businesses with strategic insights that pave the way for sustained financial health and growth.


Understanding and effectively utilizing the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) represents a significant opportunity for family-owned enterprises in Canada. By leveraging this exemption, businesses can significantly reduce their tax burden, enhancing financial outcomes and ensuring the sustainability and growth of the enterprise. The exemption not only shields a considerable portion of capital gains from taxes but also facilitates smoother succession planning and asset transition.

The Value of Professional Guidance

Navigating the complexities of tax laws like the LCGE requires a strategic approach and meticulous compliance. Professional guidance from seasoned tax advisors is indispensable in this realm. With expert advice, businesses can avoid common pitfalls such as inadequate record-keeping or misinterpretation of eligibility criteria, ensuring they fully capitalize on available tax benefits.

At Shajani CPA, we specialize in decoding the intricacies of tax regulations to empower your business. Our proven expertise in strategic planning, tax reorganizations, and diligent compliance supports our clients in securing substantial financial advantages.

Let Us Guide You

If you’re contemplating how best to apply the LCGE within your family business, or simply looking to optimize your tax strategy, we invite you to reach out. Our commitment, as reflected in our tagline, ‘Tell us your ambitions and we will guide you there,’ is to provide tailored, actionable guidance that aligns with your business objectives and financial aspirations.

Call to Action

We encourage you to schedule a consultation with Shajani CPA for a personalized assessment of your business’s eligibility for the LCGE. Our team is ready to assist you in navigating the tax landscape and maximizing your financial opportunities.

Empower your family-owned enterprise with strategic tax planning and expert advice. Let Shajani CPA guide you to achieve your ambitions and ensure your financial success. Schedule your consultation today and take the first step towards optimizing your business’s potential.

This information is for discussion purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. There is no guarantee or warrant of information on this site and it should be noted that rules and laws change regularly. You should consult a professional before considering implementing or taking any action based on information on this site. Call our team for a consultation before taking any action. ©2024 Shajani CPA.

Shajani CPA is a CPA Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer firm and provides Accountant, Bookkeeping, Tax Advice and Tax Planning service.

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Nizam Shajani, Partner, LLM, CPA, CA, TEP, MBA

I enjoy formulating plans that help my clients meet their objectives. It's this sense of pride in service that facilitates client success which forms the culture of Shajani CPA.

Shajani Professional Accountants has offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. We’re here to support you in all of your personal and business tax and other accounting needs.