skip to Main Content

Employment Benefits

In the world of Canadian employment, understanding the nuances of employee compensation is crucial not just for employers, but also for employees aiming to navigate their tax obligations effectively. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) delineates various forms of compensation beyond the standard salary or wages, which include benefits, allowances, and reimbursements. Each of these has distinct tax implications and requirements for both reporting and deduction. In this blog, we’ll delve into what these terms mean according to the CRA, and what employers need to do to comply with tax regulations.

What is a Benefit?

A benefit refers to any good or service that an employer provides to an employee, which is personal in nature. This can range from the free use of property owned by the employer, such as a vehicle or accommodation, to services like personal use of a company cell phone. Benefits can also extend to the employee’s relatives or individuals closely related to them, emphasizing the personal value of these compensations.

The key aspect of a benefit is that it’s provided on top of regular salary or wages, making it a form of compensation that must be evaluated for its taxable status. Employers must determine if a benefit is taxable, calculate its value, and then proceed with the necessary payroll deductions and information reporting.

Understanding Allowances and Advances

Allowances and advances represent a predetermined amount paid to employees over and above their regular income. These payments are meant to cover specific anticipated expenses related to their employment. Unlike benefits, allowances are not based on actual incurred costs and do not require employees to submit receipts for their expenditures.

Allowances could be for various purposes, such as covering the costs of travel, meals, or housing when working away from the usual place of work. The amount is usually set without the need to account for the exact expense, offering employees the flexibility to manage the funds as they see fit, within the scope of their employment-related expenses.

Reimbursements Explained

Reimbursements differ from benefits and allowances in that they are precisely linked to the expenses an employee incurs while performing their job duties. When an employer reimburses an employee, it’s for specific costs that the employee has paid out of pocket during their employment activities. To process a reimbursement, employees must provide detailed receipts or records of their expenses, ensuring transparency and accountability for these transactions.

Employer Responsibilities

For employers, the process of managing taxable employment benefits involves several critical steps, as outlined by the CRA. The primary steps include:

  1. Determining if the Benefit is Taxable: Not all benefits are taxable. The taxability depends on various factors, including the nature of the benefit and its use.
  2. Calculating the Value of the Benefit: Once determined to be taxable, the fair market value of the benefit must be calculated. This value is what will be included in the employee’s income for tax purposes.
  3. Calculating Payroll Deductions: Based on the taxable value of the benefit, employers must calculate and withhold the appropriate amounts for income tax, CPP (Canada Pension Plan) contributions, and EI (Employment Insurance) premiums.
  4. Filing an Information Return: Employers are required to report the value of taxable benefits on the appropriate tax forms, such as the T4 slip, ensuring that both the employer’s and employee’s tax records accurately reflect these compensations.

Navigating the intricacies of taxable employment benefits is vital for maintaining compliance with Canadian tax laws and ensuring fair treatment for employees. Employers must stay informed about the CRA’s regulations and guidelines to effectively manage their payroll and reporting obligations. Similarly, employees should be aware of how these benefits impact their tax situation, enabling them to make informed decisions about their compensation and financial planning.


Employment benefits are a vital component of compensation packages, offering value beyond base salaries to enhance the overall employment experience. However, these benefits often come with tax implications that both employers and employees need to understand. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) provides guidelines on how various benefits, including automobile and motor vehicle benefits, board and lodging, housing or utilities, childcare, cellular phones, education, group term life insurance, health plans, and loans, should be treated for tax purposes. Here’s a closer look at each of these benefits in relation to employment and taxation.

Automobile and Motor Vehicle Benefits

When an employer provides an employee with a company car or compensates them for the use of their personal vehicle for business purposes, this constitutes an automobile or motor vehicle benefit. This benefit is taxable and must be included in the employee’s income. The taxable amount can depend on factors like the total kilometers driven and the portion used for personal versus business purposes. Employers need to calculate the benefit accurately and include it in the employee’s T4 slip.

Board and Lodging

Board and lodging benefits are provided when an employer offers an employee free or subsidized accommodation and meals. This benefit is common in remote work locations or industries like hospitality. The CRA considers this benefit taxable unless specific exemptions apply, such as work-related travel or temporary relocation. The value of this benefit is assessed based on fair market value or a reasonable approximation thereof.

Housing or Utilities

Providing an employee with housing or covering their utility bills constitutes a taxable benefit if it’s for personal living space. The taxable value is typically based on the fair market value of the accommodation or the cost to the employer. Certain exemptions might apply, particularly if housing is provided for the employer’s convenience or as a job requirement.


Childcare benefits, whether provided on-site or through subsidies for external childcare services, are considered a taxable benefit. This means the value of the childcare provided must be included in the employee’s income. However, there are nuanced rules regarding the taxability of childcare benefits, including certain conditions under which these benefits might be exempt.

Cellular Phone

A cellular phone provided by an employer for business use is not typically considered a taxable benefit if the plan is reasonable and the personal use of the phone is incidental. However, if the plan is excessive or if personal use constitutes a significant portion of the total use, it may result in a taxable benefit.


Employers may offer education benefits such as tuition reimbursement or professional development courses. If these are directly related to the employee’s job or benefit the employer, they may not be considered taxable benefits. However, if the education is for personal interest or advancement beyond the needs of the employer, it may be taxable.

Group Term Life Insurance

Premiums paid by employers for group term life insurance policies are a taxable benefit to the employee, except for the first $50,000 of coverage, which is generally tax-exempt. The value of the taxable benefit is calculated based on CRA guidelines and must be included in the employee’s taxable income.

Health Plans

Employer contributions to health plans, including dental and extended health care, are generally not taxable benefits for the employee. These contributions are seen as a non-taxable benefit that directly contributes to the employee’s welfare.


When an employer extends a loan to an employee at a below-market interest rate, the difference between the interest paid by the employee and the CRA’s prescribed rate for interest is considered a taxable benefit. This benefit must be calculated and included in the employee’s income for tax purposes.


Parking provided by an employer to an employee can also represent a taxable benefit, depending on the circumstances under which it is offered. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has specific guidelines to determine when employer-provided parking constitutes a taxable benefit and how its value should be calculated and reported.

Taxable vs. Non-Taxable Parking Benefits

Taxable Parking Benefits: Generally, if an employer provides parking to an employee without a clear business necessity, it is considered a taxable benefit. For example, if an employer provides free or subsidized parking in a commercial lot where parking spaces are normally paid for, this would typically be considered a taxable benefit. The taxable amount is the fair market value of the parking spot, less any amount paid by the employee to access the parking.

Non-Taxable Parking Benefits: Parking is not considered a taxable benefit in certain situations, such as:

  • Safety Concerns: If parking is provided due to safety issues or is required due to the nature of the employee’s job, it may not be taxable.
  • Disability Needs: Parking provided to accommodate an employee with disabilities is not considered a taxable benefit.
  • Business Necessity: When parking is provided because there’s a clear business need—such as on-call employees who must have immediate access to a vehicle—it may not be considered a taxable benefit.

Calculating the Value of a Parking Benefit

The value of the parking benefit is typically determined by the fair market value of similar parking spots in the vicinity. This includes considering the cost of local parking facilities to ascertain a reasonable value for the benefit provided. If the employer owns the parking facility, the cost to the employer of maintaining the parking spot (including property taxes, maintenance, and other related expenses) can also be considered in determining the value of the benefit.

Reporting Parking Benefits

For taxable parking benefits, employers are required to calculate the value of the benefit annually and include it in the employee’s income. This amount should be reported on the employee’s T4 slip in the appropriate section for employment income. Employers must also ensure that the necessary payroll deductions are made for income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, and Employment Insurance (EI) premiums based on the value of the taxable benefit.


Understanding the tax implications of employment benefits is crucial for both employers and employees. Employers must accurately assess the value of these benefits, report them appropriately, and withhold the correct amount of taxes. Employees, on the other hand, should be aware of how these benefits impact on their overall compensation and tax obligations. The CRA provides comprehensive guidelines to help navigate these complexities, ensuring that all parties meet their tax responsibilities while maximizing the benefits of such compensation elements.


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.

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.