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Tax-Saving Strategies for Family Businesses: A Step-by-Step Guide

small family business

How to elevate your entrepreneurial efforts the smart way

Small family-owned businesses play a crucial role in the Canadian economy, driving job creation, economic growth, and innovation. Despite their significant contributions, these businesses often face distinct financial challenges, such as managing cash flow and reducing tax liability. 

In this article, we are going to offer an in-depth guide on tax-efficient strategies that Canadian small family businesses can adopt to save money and enhance their financial well-being.

By taking a proactive approach and employing these tactics, small family-owned businesses can lower their tax obligations and redirect their savings towards growth and expansion opportunities.

Choosing the Right Business Structure for Small Family-Owned Canadian Businesses

One of the initial decisions that Canadian family business owners face is selecting the appropriate business structure. The choice of business structure can significantly impact tax liability, making it crucial to weigh the options thoughtfully. 

The most common business structures in Canada are sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations, each with its benefits and drawbacks for family-owned enterprises.

Sole Proprietorship

In a sole proprietorship, the business owner is personally responsible for all debts and obligations. While this structure offers simplicity and ease of management, it may not be the most tax-efficient choice for those with high personal income, especially if the business owner wishes to involve other family members in the company’s operations.


A partnership consists of two or more individuals who agree to share the profits and losses of a business. This structure is particularly suitable for family-owned businesses involving multiple family members as partners. The partnership itself doesn’t pay taxes, but each partner reports their share of the business income on their personal tax return. However, partnerships may not provide the same tax benefits as corporations and could expose partners to personal liability for business debts and obligations.


Incorporating a small, family-owned business can offer significant tax advantages, as corporations enjoy a lower tax rate on business income and can access various tax credits and deductions unavailable to sole proprietors or partnerships. This structure also provides limited liability protection, ensuring that shareholders are not personally responsible for the company’s debts. 

Incorporating a family business enables income splitting through dividends, potentially lowering the overall tax burden on the family. It is important to note, however, that corporations require more extensive record-keeping and may have higher administrative costs than other structures.

When choosing a business structure for a small family-owned Canadian business, it is essential to consider the unique needs and goals of the company, as well as the tax implications of each structure. Consulting with a legal or financial advisor can provide valuable guidance in determining the most appropriate structure for the business.

Maximize Deductions and Write-offs for Small Family-Owned Canadian Businesses

Small family-owned businesses in Canada can save money on taxes by maximizing their deductions and write-offs. Some common deductions for these businesses include:

Home office expenses: If you operate your family-owned business from home, you can deduct a portion of your housing expenses, such as mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities, and maintenance costs. This deduction can be particularly beneficial for small family businesses with limited commercial space requirements.

Vehicle expenses: If you use a vehicle for business purposes within your family-owned business, you can deduct a percentage of the operating costs, including fuel, maintenance, insurance, and depreciation. This is particularly useful for businesses that require frequent travel or the transportation of goods.

Business travel expenses: Family-owned businesses can deduct travel expenses incurred for business purposes, such as airfare, accommodations, and meals. This deduction can help offset the costs of attending industry conferences, trade shows, or meetings with clients and suppliers.

Capital Cost Allowance (CCA): Small family-owned businesses can claim a portion of the cost of depreciable property, such as equipment, machinery, and computers, as a tax deduction over several years. This allows businesses to recover the costs of investments made in assets that contribute to their growth and success.

Salaries and wages: Family-owned businesses can deduct salaries and wages paid to employees, including family members, as long as the compensation is reasonable for the work performed. In addition to the base salary, businesses can also deduct any associated payroll taxes and benefits.

Advertising and promotion: Expenses related to advertising and promoting your family-owned business are deductible, including online ads, print materials, and sponsorships. This deduction helps businesses to grow their customer base and increase brand awareness while minimizing the financial impact of marketing efforts.

By taking advantage of these deductions and write-offs, small family-owned Canadian businesses can reduce their tax burden and reinvest the savings into their growth and expansion. It is essential to maintain accurate records of all expenses and consult with a tax professional to ensure compliance with tax regulations and maximize potential deductions.

Income Splitting for Family-Owned Canadian Small Businesses

Income splitting is an effective tax-saving strategy for family-owned small businesses in Canada. By distributing the business income among family members, it’s possible to take advantage of lower tax rates and reduce the overall tax burden. Here are a few methods for implementing income splitting in a family-owned small business:

Employing Family Members

Hiring family members as employees of the business can be a strategic way to split income. Family members who are employed by the business can receive a reasonable salary or wage for the work they perform. This income will be taxed at their personal income tax rate, which is typically lower than the business owner’s rate. It’s important to ensure that the wages paid to family members are justifiable, based on their skills, experience, and the services they provide to the business. To support this claim, maintain accurate records of their job responsibilities, hours worked, and payment details.

Paying Dividends to Family Members

Another income-splitting method for family-owned small businesses involves paying dividends to family members who are shareholders in the corporation. By issuing shares to family members, you can distribute corporate profits as dividends, which are often taxed at a lower rate than employment income. This strategy works best if the family members receiving dividends have lower personal income tax rates than the business owner. Keep in mind that there are certain tax rules, such as the Tax on Split Income (TOSI), that may apply to dividend payments to family members. It’s essential to consult with a tax professional to ensure compliance with these rules.

Establishing a Family Trust

Setting up a family trust can provide additional opportunities for income splitting in a family-owned small business. A family trust is a legal arrangement where assets, such as shares in a family business, are held and managed for the benefit of beneficiaries, who are typically family members. The trust can allocate income, such as dividends from the business, to beneficiaries in lower tax brackets, reducing the overall tax liability. Trusts can also offer other benefits, such as asset protection and estate planning advantages.

Contributing to Spousal RRSPs

Another income-splitting strategy involves contributing to a spouse’s Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). By contributing to a lower-income spouse’s RRSP, the higher-income spouse can claim the tax deduction, while the funds will be taxed at the lower-income spouse’s rate upon withdrawal. This can be an effective way to redistribute income for tax purposes while saving for retirement.

Maximizing Tax Credits for Canadian Small Family-Owned Businesses

Taking advantage of available tax credits is a key strategy for Canadian small family-owned businesses to reduce their tax liability and improve their financial health. Tax credits can offset the cost of investments, hiring, and business development, providing much-needed financial relief. Here are some ways to maximize tax credits for small family-owned businesses in Canada:

Research and Development Tax Credits

The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Credit is a valuable incentive for businesses that invest in research and development (R&D) activities. Family-owned businesses can claim up to 35% of eligible R&D expenditures as a refundable tax credit. To maximize this credit, businesses should maintain detailed records of their R&D projects, including objectives, timelines, expenses, and results. Collaborating with universities, research institutions, or industry partners can also help small businesses access additional funding and resources for their R&D initiatives.

Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit

The Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit encourages small family-owned businesses to hire and train apprentices in certain skilled trades. Employers can claim a non-refundable tax credit of up to 10% of eligible salaries and wages, to a maximum of $2,000 per apprentice per year. To make the most of this credit, businesses should consider hiring apprentices for positions that align with their long-term growth and succession plans. In addition, it’s essential to keep accurate records of the apprentice’s training, hours worked, and wage payments.

Investment Tax Credits

Investment tax credits (ITCs) are designed to stimulate investment in specific industries, such as manufacturing and processing, clean energy, and mining. Eligible small family-owned businesses can claim a percentage of the cost of qualifying property as a tax credit. To maximize ITCs, businesses should strategically plan their investments to align with the eligibility requirements and claim periods for each credit. Consulting with industry experts, financial advisors, or tax professionals can help identify investment opportunities that qualify for ITCs.

Hiring Tax Credits

Various federal and provincial hiring tax credits can help offset the cost of hiring new employees for small family-owned businesses. For example, the Canada Employment Amount provides a non-refundable tax credit to employees, including family members, to offset the cost of work-related expenses. 

Small businesses should stay informed about available hiring tax credits and ensure they meet the eligibility requirements to claim them. This may involve adjusting their hiring practices, such as targeting specific demographic groups or offering internships and co-op placements.

In conclusion, small family-owned Canadian businesses can greatly benefit from implementing tax-efficient strategies to save money, improve their financial health, and promote growth. It is essential to stay informed about the ever-changing tax landscape and take advantage of available deductions, credits, and tax planning opportunities. As a business owner, consider partnering with a Chartered Professional Accountant firm to help navigate the complexities of tax planning and compliance. 

Our expertise and guidance will ensure that your business maximizes its tax savings, allowing you to focus on the continued success of your family-owned enterprise. Don’t leave your financial future to chance—contact us today and secure the financial health of your business for generations to come.