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Holding Company Strategy in Canada as a Tax Planning Opportunity

by | Jan 15, 2024 | Tax Planning

Introduction to Holding Company

In the realm of financial strategy and business structuring, the holding company strategy in Canada stands as a beacon of opportunity, particularly in the arena of tax planning.

With the right approach, a holding company can offer substantial tax advantages to business owners and investors.

This in-depth guide explores the myriad of tax planning opportunities available through holding companies, shedding light on a complex yet rewarding aspect of Canadian corporate finance.

What Is a Holding Company?

Before delving into the tax benefits, it’s crucial to understand what a holding company is. In Canada, a holding company is an entity, typically a corporation, created to own shares or assets of other companies.

It’s a strategic tool for managing investments, protecting assets, and optimizing tax strategies. Here is a simplistic visual:

The Tax Advantages of Holding Companies

Holding companies provide several tax planning advantages:

1. Tax Deferral

  • Profits retained in the holding company are taxed at the corporate rate, which is often lower than personal income tax rates, allowing for tax deferral.
  • Excess cash and investments can be flown up to the holding company as a dividend without attracting any tax.
  • This deferral becomes a tool for managing cash flow and reinvestment strategies.

2. Income Splitting and Dividend Sprinkling

  • Shareholders of holding companies can optimize tax liability through income splitting.
  • You can distribute dividends to family members who are in lower tax brackets, reducing the overall tax burden.

3. Capital Gains Exemption

  • Holding companies can be structured to take advantage of the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) on qualified small business corporation shares.
  • This allows for significant tax savings on the sale of shares.

Tax Planning Strategies Using Holding Companies

Delving deeper, there are specific strategies that can be employed:

1. Estate Freeze

  • This involves freezing the value of an individual’s estate to lock in the capital gains exemption, while future growth accrues to the benefit of heirs or successors.
  • A holding company can play a pivotal role in implementing an estate freeze effectively.

2. Utilizing the Refundable Dividend Tax On Hand (RDTOH)

  • RDTOH is a mechanism in the Canadian tax system that provides a refundable tax credit to corporations.
  • You can utilize a holding company to utilize this to recover taxes paid on investment income when dividends are paid out.

3. Purification for Small Business Deduction

  • The strategy focuses on maintaining the ‘active business income’ status.

Holding Company Tax Planning in Action

Real-world examples bring these strategies to life, illustrating how Canadian businesses have successfully utilized holding companies for tax planning.

Here is an example of a ‘before’ and ‘after’ implementing a tax restructuring project, including incorporating a holding company into the mix.

Challenges and Considerations

While the benefits are significant, there are challenges:

  • Complex Regulatory Landscape: Navigating the Canadian tax code and corporate law can be daunting.
  • Professional Guidance is Key: Due to the complexity, professional advice from tax experts is crucial.

The Future of Tax Planning with Holding Companies

The landscape of tax planning and corporate structuring is ever-evolving. We explore upcoming trends, potential legislative changes, and how they might impact the use of holding companies for tax planning.


A holding company offers a versatile and powerful tool for tax planning in Canada. Understanding and leveraging these entities can lead to significant tax savings and strategic financial advantages.

Whether it’s through income splitting, capital gains management, or estate planning, the opportunities are vast but require careful navigation and expert advice.

FAQ Section

Q1: What is a Holding Company?

A holding company is a type of corporation established to own shares and manage investments in other companies. It doesn’t engage in business operations like manufacturing or sales but focuses on overseeing its investments.

Q2: How Does a Holding Company Offer Tax Advantages?

Holding companies can provide tax advantages through strategies like tax deferral (where income is taxed at a lower corporate rate), income splitting (distributing income among family members in lower tax brackets), and utilizing capital gains exemptions.

Q3: What is an Estate Freeze and How Does it Relate to Holding Companies?

An estate freeze is a tax planning strategy where a business owner locks in the current value of their estate to minimize future taxes on capital gains. Holding companies can facilitate this process by holding new shares that accrue future growth, benefiting the next generation or heirs.

Q4: Can Holding Companies Help in Income Splitting?

Yes, holding companies can be an effective tool for income splitting. By distributing dividends to family members who are shareholders and in lower tax brackets, you can reduce the overall family tax liability.

Q5: Are There Specific Tax Benefits for Small Business Owners Using Holding Companies?

Small business owners can benefit from holding companies by qualifying for the Small Business Deduction, which offers a lower tax rate on active business income. This requires careful structuring to ensure the holding company meets the necessary criteria.

Q6: What Are the Challenges in Using Holding Companies for Tax Planning?

The main challenges include navigating complex tax laws and regulations, ensuring compliance, and managing the administrative aspects of holding companies. It’s advisable to consult with tax professionals to navigate these challenges effectively.

Q7: How Does the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) Work with Holding Companies?

Holding companies can be structured to take advantage of the LCGE, allowing shareholders to realize tax-free capital gains up to a certain limit. This is particularly beneficial when selling shares of a qualified small business.

Q8: Is Professional Advice Necessary for Setting Up a Holding Company?

Given the complexities and legal implications, we recommend you seek professional advice for setting up and managing a holding company. This ensures compliance and optimal use of tax planning strategies.

Q9: Can I use Holding Companies for International Investments?

Yes, you can use holding companies for international investments. However, this involves additional considerations like foreign tax laws, double taxation agreements, and international business regulations.

Q10: How Can Think Accounting Help with My Holding Company?

Think Accounting offers specialized services in setting up and managing holding companies, tailored tax planning advice, and strategies to optimize your financial and tax position.

Our expertise ensures that your holding company structure is efficient, compliant, and aligned with your financial goals.

Next Steps

Navigating the intricacies of tax planning with holding companies requires expertise and experience. At Think Accounting, we specialize in providing comprehensive tax and financial strategies tailored to your unique needs. Contact us to explore how we can optimize your financial future with smart holding company structures.

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