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Unlock Tax Savings: How Family-Owned Businesses Can Turn Life Insurance into a Financial Powerhouse

Imagine turning a life insurance policy into a powerful tax-saving tool for your family business. For family-owned enterprises, integrating tax accounting with life insurance can unlock significant financial benefits and provide a robust strategy for long-term success. This powerful combination not only offers protection but also serves as a sophisticated financial planning instrument.

Overview of the Importance of Integrating Tax Accounting and Life Insurance

Life insurance is more than just a safety net; it’s a strategic asset in tax planning. For family-owned enterprises, leveraging life insurance within the framework of tax accounting can result in substantial tax savings, enhanced financial security, and efficient wealth transfer. The synergy between these two elements ensures that your business remains financially robust and prepared for future challenges.

Key Benefits of Life Insurance in Tax Planning

Life insurance policies offer several tax advantages that can be pivotal for family businesses:

  1. Tax-Free Growth: The cash surrender value of life insurance policies grows tax-free, allowing for significant accumulation of wealth without immediate tax consequences.
  2. Tax-Deductible Premiums: Under certain conditions, premiums paid on life insurance policies can be tax-deductible, providing immediate tax relief.
  3. Tax-Free Distributions: Proceeds from life insurance policies can be distributed to beneficiaries tax-free, ensuring that your family retains the maximum benefit.
  4. Debt Repayment: Life insurance proceeds can be used to repay loans tax-free upon the insured’s death, preserving the financial stability of the business.

CRA Regulations and Relevant Sections of the Income Tax Act

Navigating the tax advantages of life insurance requires a solid understanding of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulations and specific sections of the Income Tax Act. Key provisions such as Subparagraph 20(1)(e.2), Subsection 89(1), and Section 308 of the Regulations outline the conditions under which life insurance premiums are deductible, the definition and use of the capital dividend account, and the calculation of the adjusted cost basis. These regulations ensure that family-owned enterprises can leverage life insurance efficiently and within the legal framework.

Maximizing the Tax Attributes of Life Insurance with Shajani CPA

At Shajani CPA, we specialize in helping family-owned enterprises navigate the complexities of tax accounting and life insurance. Our team of experts can help you maximize the tax attributes of life insurance, ensuring that you achieve significant tax savings and financial security. By working with Shajani CPA, you gain access to personalized strategies tailored to your unique business needs, ensuring that every aspect of your life insurance plan is optimized for tax efficiency.


Integrating tax accounting with life insurance is a powerful strategy for family-owned enterprises. By leveraging the tax advantages outlined by the CRA and utilizing the expertise of Shajani CPA, businesses can ensure financial stability, achieve significant tax savings, and plan for long-term success. Let Shajani CPA guide you in transforming your family business, turning life insurance into a cornerstone of your financial planning. Tell us your ambitions, and we will guide you there.


Section 1: What Is Tax Deductible and What Is Not

Understanding the tax deductibility of premiums on life insurance policies is essential for family-owned enterprises seeking to optimize their financial planning and tax strategies. While life insurance premiums are generally considered a personal expense and are not deductible, the Income Tax Act provides specific provisions under which these premiums can become deductible, primarily when the policies are used as collateral for loans. This section explains the conditions under which premiums on life insurance policies are tax-deductible, referencing Subparagraph 20(1)(e.2) and Section 308 of the Regulations, and provides practical examples to illustrate deductible and non-deductible scenarios.

Explanation of Premiums on Life Insurance Policies and Their Tax Deductibility

Typically, life insurance premiums are viewed as personal expenses and are not deductible for income tax purposes. However, under the Income Tax Act, premiums paid on a life insurance policy may be deductible if the policy is assigned as collateral for a loan. The allowable deduction is limited to the lesser of the premiums payable in the year or the net cost of pure insurance (NCPI) for that year.

Reference to Subparagraph 20(1)(e.2) and Section 308 of the Regulations

Subparagraph 20(1)(e.2) of the Income Tax Act outlines the conditions under which life insurance premiums can be deducted. This provision permits the deduction when the life insurance policy is used as collateral for borrowing from a restricted financial institution (RFI). The NCPI, defined under Section 308 of the Regulations, approximates the cost of the pure insurance coverage under the policy for the year. For the deduction to apply, the following conditions must be met:

  1. The interest on the borrowing is deductible or would be deductible if not for specific provisions of the Act.
  2. An interest in the life insurance policy is assigned to an RFI as collateral.
  3. The assignment is required by the RFI as a condition of the loan.

Conditions Under Which Life Insurance Premiums Can Be Deducted When Used as Collateral for Loans

To qualify for the deduction, the life insurance policy must be used to secure a loan from an RFI. The borrower must be the policyholder, and the loan must be used for income-generating purposes. The deductible amount is limited to the proportion of the premium that reasonably relates to the amount owing on the loan during the year. For instance, if a life insurance policy with a coverage amount of $500,000 is used to secure a loan of $200,000, only 40% of the lesser of the premiums payable or the NCPI is deductible.

Practical Examples Illustrating Deductible and Non-Deductible Scenarios

  1. Deductible Scenario: A family-owned business borrows $300,000 from a bank, using a life insurance policy with a coverage amount of $500,000 as collateral. The premiums payable for the policy are $2,000 per year, and the NCPI is $1,500. Since the loan amount is 60% of the policy’s coverage, 60% of the lesser amount ($1,500) is deductible, equating to $900.
  2. Non-Deductible Scenario: The same family-owned business has another life insurance policy with a coverage amount of $500,000 and pays $2,000 in premiums annually. However, this policy is not used as collateral for any loan. In this case, the premiums are considered personal expenses and are not deductible.
  3. Partial Deduction Scenario: Suppose the business takes a loan of $200,000 secured by a life insurance policy with a coverage amount of $500,000, with premiums of $2,000 and an NCPI of $1,500. Only 40% of the lesser of the premiums or NCPI can be deducted. Therefore, 40% of $1,500, which is $600, is deductible.

Understanding these rules and applying them correctly can lead to significant tax savings for family-owned enterprises. Proper documentation and adherence to CRA guidelines are essential to ensure that these deductions are claimed correctly. Consulting with a tax expert can provide further clarity and help businesses navigate these complexities effectively, ensuring they make the most of available tax benefits.


Section 2: How Cash Surrender Values Grow Tax-Free

Understanding the growth of cash surrender values in life insurance policies is a crucial aspect of financial planning for family-owned enterprises. These values can offer significant tax advantages, allowing businesses to accumulate wealth within the policy without immediate tax liabilities. This section provides a comprehensive overview of cash surrender values, how they grow tax-free under Canadian tax laws, the relevant tax provisions, and the benefits for family-owned enterprises.

Definition and Explanation of Cash Surrender Values in Life Insurance Policies

Cash surrender value (CSV) is the amount an insurance policyholder is entitled to receive if they decide to terminate the policy before it matures or the insured event occurs. This value represents the savings component of the policy, which accumulates over time as premiums are paid. It essentially acts as a financial asset that policyholders can access under certain conditions, providing liquidity and flexibility.

In a whole life insurance policy, for instance, a portion of each premium payment goes towards the insurance cost, while the remainder is invested by the insurance company. Over time, this investment grows, contributing to the cash surrender value of the policy. Policyholders can either withdraw this amount, take out a loan against it, or let it grow within the policy.

Detailed Overview of How These Values Grow Tax-Free Under Canadian Tax Laws

One of the significant benefits of cash surrender values in life insurance policies is their tax-free growth. Under Canadian tax laws, the growth of CSV within a life insurance policy is not subject to tax as long as it remains within the policy. This means that any investment income or capital gains earned by the savings component of the policy are not immediately taxed. This tax-deferred growth allows the value to compound more rapidly compared to taxable investment accounts.

The tax-free growth of CSV is particularly beneficial for long-term financial planning. As the CSV accumulates, policyholders can enjoy the benefits of compound interest without the drag of annual taxes on investment income. This feature makes life insurance policies an attractive option for building tax-advantaged savings.

Reference to Subsection 148(9) for the Definition of “Adjusted Cost Basis”

To fully understand the tax implications of cash surrender values, it’s essential to consider the concept of “adjusted cost basis” (ACB) as defined in Subsection 148(9) of the Income Tax Act. The ACB of a life insurance policy is essentially the sum of all premiums paid into the policy, adjusted for any withdrawals, loans, or dividends received from the policy.

When a policyholder decides to surrender the policy or withdraw from the CSV, the taxable amount is determined by subtracting the ACB from the total cash surrender value. If the CSV exceeds the ACB, the difference is considered a taxable gain. However, as long as the CSV remains within the policy, this gain is not realized, and therefore, no tax is payable.

Benefits for Family-Owned Enterprises in Terms of Financial Planning and Tax Efficiency

For family-owned enterprises, the tax-free growth of cash surrender values offers several key benefits:

  1. Tax-Deferred Growth: The ability to grow savings within a life insurance policy without immediate tax implications allows businesses to accumulate wealth more efficiently. This can provide a substantial financial cushion for future business needs or personal financial goals.
  2. Liquidity and Flexibility: The cash surrender value provides liquidity options that can be accessed through policy loans or withdrawals. This flexibility can be crucial for managing cash flow, funding business expansions, or handling unexpected expenses.
  3. Estate Planning: Life insurance policies with substantial cash surrender values can play a significant role in estate planning. The tax-deferred growth helps in building a sizeable estate, which can be passed on to heirs tax-efficiently.
  4. Financial Security: For family-owned enterprises, having a policy with a growing cash surrender value can offer financial security, ensuring that funds are available when needed without having to liquidate other assets.

In conclusion, the tax-free growth of cash surrender values in life insurance policies presents a powerful tool for family-owned enterprises. By leveraging this feature, businesses can enhance their financial planning strategies, ensure tax efficiency, and secure a robust financial future. Consulting with a tax expert can further help in optimizing these benefits and integrating them effectively into the overall financial plan.


Section 3: Borrowing Against Life Insurance Held Within a Corporation

Using life insurance policies held within a corporation as collateral for personal loans can provide a tax-efficient means of accessing funds. This strategy allows policyholders to leverage the value of their life insurance without incurring immediate tax liabilities. In this section, we will explore how life insurance can be used as collateral, explain the process and benefits, reference IT-309R2, provide practical implementation steps, and present case studies illustrating the successful use of this strategy by family-owned enterprises.

How Life Insurance Can Be Used as Collateral for Personal Loans Without Incurring Tax

Life insurance policies with substantial cash surrender values can be assigned as collateral for personal loans. When structured correctly, this arrangement allows the policyholder to access funds without triggering a taxable event. The key advantage of using life insurance as collateral is that the loan proceeds are not considered taxable income, provided the policy remains in force and the borrowed amount does not exceed the cash surrender value.

Explanation of the Process and Benefits of Using Insurance Policies Within a Corporation

For family-owned enterprises, holding life insurance policies within a corporation can offer additional benefits. When the corporation owns the policy, it can assign the policy as collateral for a loan. The process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Policy Assignment: The corporation assigns the life insurance policy to a lender as collateral for the loan. The lender must be a restricted financial institution, such as a bank or credit union.
  2. Loan Agreement: The corporation enters into a loan agreement with the lender, specifying the terms and conditions of the loan. The loan amount is usually based on a percentage of the cash surrender value of the policy.
  3. Loan Proceeds: The corporation receives the loan proceeds, which can be used for various business purposes or distributed to shareholders.
  4. Repayment and Interest: The loan is repaid over time, with interest. Importantly, as long as the loan is outstanding and the policy remains assigned as collateral, the policyholder can access funds without incurring tax on the loan amount.

Reference to IT-309R2 and Practical Steps for Implementation

IT-309R2 provides detailed guidance on the conditions under which life insurance premiums are deductible when the policy is used as collateral for a loan. To implement this strategy effectively, consider the following practical steps:

  1. Determine Eligibility: Ensure that the policy qualifies for assignment as collateral under the guidelines provided by IT-309R2. The loan must be from a restricted financial institution, and the interest on the loan must be deductible.
  2. Assess Policy Value: Evaluate the cash surrender value of the policy to determine the maximum loan amount that can be secured.
  3. Negotiate Loan Terms: Work with the lender to establish favorable loan terms, including interest rates and repayment schedules.
  4. Document Assignment: Properly document the assignment of the policy as collateral to ensure compliance with tax regulations.
  5. Monitor Loan and Policy: Regularly review the loan and policy status to ensure that the collateral remains sufficient and that the policy stays in force.

Case Studies of Family-Owned Enterprises Successfully Using This Strategy

Case Study 1: Business Expansion

A family-owned manufacturing company needed funds for a major expansion. The company owned a whole life insurance policy with a cash surrender value of $500,000. By assigning the policy as collateral, the company secured a $300,000 loan from a bank. The loan provided the necessary capital for the expansion without incurring additional tax liabilities. The business grew significantly, and the loan was repaid using profits from the expanded operations.

Case Study 2: Shareholder Distribution

A family-owned consultancy firm used its corporate-owned life insurance policy to secure a loan for a shareholder buyout. The policy had a cash surrender value of $400,000, and the firm obtained a $200,000 loan. The loan proceeds were used to buy out a retiring shareholder, ensuring business continuity without depleting operating funds. The remaining shareholders gradually repaid the loan through their dividends, maintaining financial stability.

Practical Guidance

When considering this strategy, it is essential to seek professional advice to ensure compliance with tax laws and to optimize the benefits. Consulting with a tax advisor or financial planner can help tailor the approach to your specific needs, ensuring that the assignment of life insurance as collateral aligns with your overall financial strategy.

In summary, using life insurance policies held within a corporation as collateral for loans can be a highly effective strategy for family-owned enterprises. By following the proper steps and consulting with professionals, businesses can access needed funds in a tax-efficient manner, supporting growth and financial stability.


Section 4: Repayment Upon the Insured’s Passing

The repayment of loans using life insurance proceeds upon the insured person’s passing is a vital aspect of financial planning for family-owned enterprises. This strategy can help manage liabilities efficiently while leveraging the tax advantages of life insurance. This section explores the mechanism of loan repayment using life insurance proceeds, the tax implications and benefits for both the corporation and the family, and provides examples demonstrating the tax savings and financial benefits. It also references IT-430R3 and relevant sections of the Income Tax Act, aligning with standard procedures.

Mechanism of Loan Repayment Using Life Insurance Proceeds When the Insured Person Passes Away

When a life insurance policy is assigned as collateral for a loan, the proceeds from the policy are used to repay the outstanding loan balance upon the death of the insured. Here’s how the mechanism works:

  1. Policy Payout: Upon the insured’s passing, the life insurance policy pays out the death benefit to the named beneficiary, which could be the corporation if it owns the policy.
  2. Loan Settlement: The portion of the death benefit equivalent to the outstanding loan balance is used to settle the loan with the financial institution. The lender is typically the first to receive payment as the collateral holder.
  3. Remaining Proceeds: Any remaining proceeds after loan repayment are distributed according to the policy’s terms, often to the corporation or the deceased’s estate, depending on the policy structure.

Tax Implications and Advantages for the Corporation and the Family

Using life insurance proceeds to repay loans offers several tax advantages:

  1. Tax-Free Death Benefit: The death benefit from a life insurance policy is generally received tax-free by the beneficiary. This ensures that the loan repayment does not create a taxable event, providing significant tax relief.
  2. Capital Dividend Account: For corporations, the net proceeds (the death benefit minus the adjusted cost basis of the policy) can be credited to the capital dividend account (CDA). This account allows for tax-free distribution of dividends to shareholders. Reference Subsection 89(1) of the Income Tax Act explains the CDA’s operation.
  3. Tax-Deferred Growth: The growth of the policy’s cash value is tax-deferred, and the death benefit payout can help preserve the corporation’s financial health by repaying debts without incurring tax liabilities.

Reference to IT-430R3 and Relevant Sections of the Income Tax Act

IT-430R3 provides comprehensive guidelines on the tax implications of life insurance proceeds received by a corporation upon the death of the insured. Key provisions include:

  1. Paragraph (d) of Subsection 89(1): Outlines the addition of net proceeds to the capital dividend account.
  2. Subparagraph 53(1)(e)(iii): Details the addition to the adjusted cost base of an interest in a partnership in respect of a partner’s share of the net proceeds received.
  3. Section 80: Addresses the application of proceeds used for settling commercial obligations, ensuring the proper tax treatment.

Example Scenarios Demonstrating the Tax Savings and Financial Benefits

Example 1: Corporate-Owned Policy

A family-owned enterprise has a $1,000,000 life insurance policy on the owner, who has assigned the policy as collateral for a $500,000 loan. Upon the owner’s death, the policy pays out $1,000,000. The bank receives $500,000 to settle the loan, and the remaining $500,000 is credited to the corporation’s capital dividend account. This amount can be distributed tax-free to shareholders, offering significant tax savings and liquidity.

Example 2: Estate Planning

In another scenario, a family business uses a life insurance policy to secure a $300,000 loan. When the insured family member passes away, the policy pays out $600,000. The loan is repaid, and the remaining $300,000 is used to cover estate taxes and other obligations. The family retains the business assets without selling them to cover these costs, preserving the business legacy.

Aligning with Standard Procedures

While specific guidance from the Equitable Life Insurance Guide is not being referenced directly, the principles discussed align with standard procedures for using life insurance in financial planning. Ensuring compliance with IT-430R3 and the Income Tax Act provides a robust framework for managing loan repayment upon the insured’s passing.


Leveraging life insurance proceeds for loan repayment upon the insured’s passing offers substantial tax advantages and financial benefits. By integrating these strategies into their financial planning, family-owned enterprises can manage liabilities efficiently, preserve wealth, and ensure the business’s long-term stability. Consulting with a tax advisor ensures that these strategies are implemented correctly, maximizing their potential benefits.


Section 5: Tax-Free Distribution of Life Insurance Proceeds

The tax-free distribution of life insurance proceeds is a powerful tool for family-owned enterprises, allowing for efficient wealth transfer and financial planning. Understanding the mechanisms and ensuring compliance with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulations is crucial. This section explains how life insurance proceeds are distributed tax-free to beneficiaries, the significance of the “capital dividend account” (CDA) as defined in Subsection 89(1), steps to ensure tax-free distribution within a family-owned enterprise, and the importance of proper planning and documentation.

Explanation of How Life Insurance Proceeds Are Distributed Tax-Free to Beneficiaries

Life insurance proceeds paid out upon the death of the insured are generally received tax-free by the beneficiaries. This tax-exempt status provides a significant advantage for estate planning and financial management. When a corporation is the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, the proceeds are received tax-free and can be used to meet various financial obligations, including the repayment of loans or distribution to shareholders.

Definition of “Capital Dividend Account” in Subsection 89(1) and Its Significance

The capital dividend account (CDA), as defined in Subsection 89(1) of the Income Tax Act, plays a critical role in the tax-free distribution of life insurance proceeds. The CDA is a notional account that tracks certain tax-free amounts received by a private corporation, such as the non-taxable portion of capital gains and life insurance proceeds.

When a corporation receives life insurance proceeds, the net amount (proceeds minus the policy’s adjusted cost basis) is added to the CDA. This addition enables the corporation to pay out these amounts as capital dividends, which are tax-free for Canadian resident shareholders.

Steps to Ensure Tax-Free Distribution Within a Family-Owned Enterprise

  1. Receive Proceeds: Upon the insured’s death, the life insurance policy pays out the death benefit to the corporation. This amount is generally received tax-free.
  2. Add to CDA: Calculate the net proceeds by subtracting the adjusted cost basis of the policy from the total death benefit. Add the net proceeds to the corporation’s CDA.
  3. Elect Capital Dividend: The corporation must file an election with the CRA (Form T2054) to designate the dividend as a capital dividend. This ensures that the distribution from the CDA to shareholders is tax-free.
  4. Distribute Dividends: Pay the designated capital dividends to the shareholders. These amounts are received tax-free by the shareholders, enhancing their personal financial position.
  5. Repay Loans: Shareholders can use the tax-free dividends to repay any amounts that were borrowed during the insured’s lifetime. This repayment process does not trigger any additional tax liabilities.

Importance of Proper Planning and Documentation to Comply with CRA Regulations

Proper planning and meticulous documentation are essential to comply with CRA regulations and to maximize the benefits of tax-free distributions. Key considerations include:

  • Accurate Record-Keeping: Maintain detailed records of the life insurance policy, including premium payments, adjusted cost basis, and any changes in ownership or beneficiary designations.
  • Timely Elections: Ensure that the election to pay a capital dividend is filed correctly and on time using Form T2054. Late or incorrect filings can result in penalties and tax liabilities.
  • Consultation with Experts: Work with tax advisors and financial planners to ensure all actions comply with the latest tax laws and CRA guidelines.

Insights on Ensuring Tax-Free Distributions

Ensuring tax-free distributions from life insurance proceeds involves understanding both the strategic and technical aspects of the process. Although specific insights from the Equitable Life Insurance Guide are not referenced directly, the general principles align with best practices in the industry. These include the importance of structuring policies correctly, using life insurance for both protection and financial planning, and ensuring that all actions are documented and compliant with relevant tax laws.

Proceeds Paid to a Corporation

When life insurance proceeds are paid to a corporation, they are added to the CDA and can be distributed to shareholders or the estate of a shareholder tax-free. This process allows the repayment of any amounts borrowed during the insured’s lifetime without incurring tax, preserving the financial health of the business and the beneficiaries.


The tax-free distribution of life insurance proceeds is a valuable strategy for family-owned enterprises, providing liquidity, facilitating estate planning, and ensuring efficient wealth transfer. By following the outlined steps and maintaining proper documentation, businesses can optimize the financial benefits of life insurance while ensuring compliance with CRA regulations. Consulting with tax experts can further enhance the effectiveness of these strategies, ensuring that family-owned enterprises make the most of their financial planning opportunities.



Integrating life insurance with tax accounting offers a multitude of benefits for family-owned enterprises. By strategically using life insurance policies, businesses can achieve significant tax savings, enhance financial security, and facilitate efficient wealth transfer. Key advantages include the tax-free growth of cash surrender values, tax-deductible premiums when policies are used as collateral for loans, tax-efficient borrowing against policies, and tax-free distribution of proceeds. Each of these benefits can play a critical role in improving a family business’s financial health and planning.

Final Thoughts on the Strategic Use of Life Insurance

The strategic use of life insurance within a family-owned enterprise is a powerful tool for maximizing tax efficiency and financial security. By leveraging life insurance policies, businesses can ensure liquidity, manage liabilities, and plan for the future in a tax-advantaged manner. The ability to use life insurance proceeds to repay loans without incurring additional taxes, coupled with the potential for tax-free dividends, underscores the value of incorporating life insurance into the overall financial strategy of a family business.

Encouragement for Families to Consult with a Tax Expert

Given the complexity and potential tax advantages of using life insurance in financial planning, it is essential for families to consult with a tax expert. A knowledgeable CPA can help tailor these strategies to the unique circumstances of your business, ensuring that you maximize the benefits while remaining compliant with all relevant tax laws and regulations.

Shajani CPA: Your Partner in Navigating Life Insurance Decisions

At Shajani CPA, we understand the intricacies of tax accounting and the strategic use of life insurance. Our expertise can help you plan, structure, and execute life insurance strategies to achieve maximum tax advantages in your tax filings. By working with us, you gain access to a team that is committed to understanding your unique needs and providing personalized solutions that enhance your financial planning.

Our comprehensive approach ensures that every aspect of your life insurance strategy is optimized for tax efficiency, from selecting the right policy to leveraging tax-free distributions and ensuring proper documentation. We are dedicated to helping you navigate these decisions with confidence and clarity, ensuring that your family-owned enterprise remains financially secure and positioned for future success.


Integrating life insurance with tax accounting is a sophisticated yet highly beneficial strategy for family-owned enterprises. By consulting with a tax expert and leveraging the expertise of Shajani CPA, you can ensure that your life insurance decisions are planned, structured, and executed for maximum tax advantages. Our team is here to guide you through the complexities, providing the support you need to achieve your financial ambitions. Tell us your ambitions, and we will guide you there.


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.