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Published: July 2, 2024

Last Updated: July 2, 2024


When a corporation resident in Canada decides to emigrate, it triggers significant tax implications under Canadian tax law. Emigration for tax purposes involves the corporation being deemed to dispose of its property and reacquire it immediately afterward. Unlike individuals, corporations do not benefit from exclusions for certain types of property in this deemed disposition process. This article explores the tax consequences of corporate emigration from Canada, strategies to mitigate tax liabilities, and practical tips for effective tax planning.

Departure Tax and Corporate Emigration Tax

Departure Tax Explained

The departure tax is a critical aspect of Canadian tax law that applies when a corporation (or an individual) ceases to be a resident of Canada for tax purposes. This tax is triggered by the deemed disposition of the corporation’s property at fair market value immediately before departure. The gains or income resulting from this deemed disposition are subject to taxation under the Income Tax Act.

The departure tax is calculated by applying the applicable corporate tax rate to the accrued gains or income at the time of emigration. Essentially, the corporation is taxed on the increase in the value of its assets up to the point of departure. The tax liability can be significant depending on the nature and value of the assets held by the corporation.

Under Canadian tax law, all property of the corporation is generally subject to the departure tax upon emigration. This includes tangible assets such as real estate and equipment, including Cryptocurrencies, as well as intangible assets such as intellectual property rights and goodwill. Certain exemptions or deferral mechanisms may apply in specific circumstances, which should be carefully assessed with the guidance of tax professionals.

Corporate Emigration Tax Overview

In addition to the departure tax, Canadian tax law imposes a separate corporate emigration tax. This tax is distinct from the departure tax and is levied at a flat rate of 25% on the difference between the fair market value of all the corporation’s property and the sum of:

  • Paid-up capital for all shares,
  • Debts or payment obligations owed by the corporation (excluding dividends owed to shareholders),
  • Amounts related to “branch tax” for prior tax years.

There is a 25% departure tax liability under section 219.1 of the Canadian income tax act. It is applicable for the tax year ended because the corporation emigrated from Canada to become a resident in a new jurisdiction.

However, under section 219.3, any additional tax on non-resident corporations that may apply to the non-resident corporation under section 219.1 is subject to possible reduction by any applicable tax treaty.

The imposition of the corporate emigration tax underscores the importance of strategic tax planning before the corporation decides to emigrate from Canada. By anticipating the tax consequences and structuring the emigration process accordingly, corporations can minimize their tax exposure and ensure compliance with Canadian tax laws.

Strategies to Minimize Tax Liability

Effective tax planning is crucial for minimizing the tax liability associated with corporate emigration from Canada. Several strategies can be employed to achieve this objective, each with its own benefits and considerations.

1. Pre-emptive Disbursement

One effective strategy is for the corporation to pre-emptively disburse its retained profits to shareholders before emigration. By converting assets into cash distributed to shareholders, the corporation minimizes the tax exposure upon emigration. However, this strategy requires careful consideration of dividend tax implications, especially any amount distributed beyond the paid-up capital.

For instance, if a Canadian corporation holds significant cash reserves and decides to distribute them to shareholders before emigration, the tax implications can vary. Amounts distributed as dividends may be subject to dividend tax, depending on the shareholders’ residency status and the specific tax treaties in place between Canada and the recipient’s country of residence.

2. Transferring Assets via Amalgamation or Rollover

Amalgamating with another corporation or utilizing rollover provisions under sections 85 to 87 of the Income Tax Act can defer tax liabilities until a later date. Amalgamation involves merging two corporations into one entity, allowing for the transfer of assets on a tax-deferred basis. This strategy is particularly beneficial when trying to preserve tax attributes like capital losses or surplus profits within the corporate structure.

When contemplating an amalgamation or rollover, it is essential to comply with the legal requirements set forth in federal or provincial business corporation legislation. These provisions ensure that the transaction qualifies for preferential tax treatment under Canadian tax law, thereby minimizing immediate tax liabilities upon emigration.

3. Share for Share Exchange

Under Section 85.1 of the Income Tax Act, a share for share exchange allows shareholders to transfer their shares in one Canadian corporation to another taxable Canadian corporation without triggering immediate tax consequences. This exchange is deemed to occur at the adjusted cost base of the shares, potentially deferring tax liabilities associated with appreciated shares until disposal in the future.

This restructuring strategy can be advantageous for shareholders holding controlling interests in one or multiple corporations. It enables them to transfer their ownership and control to another corporate entity, thereby insulating themselves from the tax implications of corporate emigration while maintaining an interest in the corporation’s value via shares in the intermediary entity.

Pro Tax Tip: Strategic Timing and Expert Guidance

Effective tax planning for corporate emigration in Canada requires meticulous timing and expert advice. Initiating tax planning well in advance allows corporations to capitalize on available deferral strategies and optimize tax outcomes. Consulting with experienced tax lawyers ensures compliance with complex tax rules and maximizes the effectiveness of chosen strategies tailored to the corporation’s unique circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a Canadian corporation avoid both departure tax and corporate emigration tax?

While it’s challenging to entirely avoid these taxes, strategic planning can defer them or minimize their impact. Employing tax-effective strategies such as pre-emptive disbursement, asset transfer via amalgamation or rollover, and share for share exchanges can help mitigate tax liabilities associated with corporate emigration.

What are the reporting obligations after emigrating a Canadian corporation?

After emigrating from Canada, corporations are required to fulfill specific reporting obligations. This includes filing final tax returns, disclosing the emigration to the Canada Revenue Agency, and ensuring compliance with all regulatory requirements. Failure to comply with these obligations can result in penalties and additional tax liabilities.

Are there any exemptions or deferrals available for departure tax and corporate emigration tax?

Certain exemptions or deferral mechanisms may apply in limited circumstances. For instance, provisions under Canadian tax law may allow for deferring the departure tax through rollover provisions or amalgamation transactions. However, eligibility for these exemptions depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each case and should be evaluated with professional tax advice.

Navigating the tax implications of corporate emigration from Canada requires careful planning and consideration of various strategies to minimize tax liabilities. By understanding the departure tax, corporate emigration tax, and employing effective tax planning strategies such as pre-emptive disbursement, asset transfer through amalgamation or rollover, and share for share exchanges, corporations can optimize their tax positions. Consulting with tax professionals can provide valuable insights and ensure compliance with Canadian tax laws throughout the emigration process.


“This article just provides broad information. It is only up to date as of the posting date. It has not been updated and may be out of date. It does not give legal advice and should not be relied on. Every tax scenario is unique to its circumstances and will differ from the instances described in the articles. If you have specific legal questions, you should seek the advice of a Canadian tax lawyer.”

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