Archived - Employee Life and Health Trust – Explanatory Notes

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6(1)(a)

Paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Income Tax Act (the Act) provides for the inclusion in computing the income of a taxpayer from an office or employment of the value of employment benefits received or enjoyed by the taxpayer in respect of or in the course of employment, subject to a number of specified exceptions in subparagraphs 6(1)(a)(i) to (v).

Subparagraph 6(1)(a)(i) describes benefits that are derived from an employer’s contribution to various types of plans for employees.  Subparagraph 6(1)(a)(i) is amended, consequential on the introduction of the employee life and health trust (ELHT) rules, to add a reference to an employer’s contributions to an ELHT.  Generally, therefore, benefits derived from such contributions are not taxable in the hands of employees.

Note that employee coverage under a group term life insurance policy is a taxable benefit because of subsection 6(4) of the Act.

For more information on the ELHT rules, please refer to the commentary to new section 144.1.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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6(1)(g)

Paragraph 6(1)(g) requires the inclusion in the computation of a taxpayer’s income from an office or employment of amounts received from an employee benefit plan (or from the disposition of an interest in an employee benefit plan), subject to the exceptions listed in subparagraphs (i) to (iii). Paragraph 6(1)(g) is amended to add a new exception, new subparagraph (iv), for payments of "designated employee benefits" as defined in new subsection 144.1(1). 

The introduction of this rule will prevent payments of designated employee benefits by a "tainted" employee life and health trust that meets the definition "employee benefit plan" from being taxable to employees.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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18(1)(o.3) and 20(1)(s)

Section 18 prohibits the deduction of certain outlays or expenses in computing a taxpayer’s income from a business or property. New paragraph 18(1)(o.3) specifies that contributions to an employee life and health trust are not deductible, except to the extent specified in new paragraph 20(1)(s).  New paragraph 20(1)(s) in turn permits deductibility of contributions to an employee life and health trust to the extent specified in new subsections 144.1(3) to (5).  For more detail, please refer to the commentary on new section 144.1.

These amendments apply after 2009.

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56(1)(z.2)

Section 56 provides a list of amounts that are required to be included in computing the income of a taxpayer.  New paragraph 56(1)(z.2) creates a cross-reference to the income inclusion in new subsection 144.1(8).  In effect, it requires a taxpayer to include in income an amount that is received from a current or former employee life and health trust (ELHT) to the extent that the amount received is not a payment of a "designated employee benefit". "Designated employee benefit" is defined in new subsection 144.1(1). In most cases, taxable amounts under new paragraph 56(1)(z.2) will be amounts received on the wind-up of an ELHT because most payments to individual beneficiaries of employee life and health trusts will be payments of designated employee benefits.  The majority of these designated employee benefits are tax-exempt because of existing rules on employment benefits. New paragraph 56(1)(z.2) could also apply if a former ELHT makes a payment to a beneficiary (for example, the employer) who is not a beneficiary permitted under new paragraph 144.1(2)(e). For more detail, please refer to the commentary on new section 144.1.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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75(3)(b)

Subsection 75(3) exempts a number of trusts from the attribution rule in subsection 75(2), under which any income or loss from trust property held by certain reversionary trusts can be attributed for tax purposes to the persons from whom the property was received. 

Paragraph 75(3)(b) is amended to exclude employee life and health trusts from the application of subsection 75(2).  For more detail, please refer to the commentary on new section 144.1.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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104(6)

Subsection 104(6) generally permits a trust to deduct, in computing its income for a taxation year, any income payable in the year to a beneficiary under the trust. Paragraphs 104(6)(a) to (a.3) apply to various special kinds of trusts. New paragraph 104(6)(a.4) permits an employee life and health trust to deduct amounts that became payable by it in the year as "designated employee benefits". For more information regarding employee life and health trusts, please refer to the commentary on new section 144.1.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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107.1

Section 107.1 provides rules to deal with a distribution to a taxpayer of property by an employee trust or a trust governed by an employee benefit plan under which the taxpayer is a beneficiary. Section 107.1 is amended to add a reference to an employee life and health trust (ELHT) in the preamble and in paragraph 107.1(a).  As a result, in the unusual circumstance that property other than money is distributed by an ELHT, the ELHT will be treated as having disposed of the property at fair market value immediately before the distribution so that any gain may be recognized in the trust. The beneficiary is considered to acquire the property at fair market value.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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107.4(1)(j)

Under subsection 107.4(3), a qualifying disposition of property to a trust generally qualifies for a tax-deferred rollover. For this purpose, subsection 107.4(1) defines "qualifying disposition" to be a disposition of property to a trust that does not result in any change in the beneficial ownership of the property and that otherwise meets the conditions set out in that subsection. Paragraph 107.4(1)(j), which applies where the transferor is a trust governed by a registered education savings plan (RESP) or certain other special purpose trusts, requires the transferor trust to be the same type of trust as the transferee trust. For example, if the transferor trust is an RESP trust, the transferee trust must also be an RESP trust for the disposition to be a qualifying disposition.

Paragraph 107.4(1)(j) is amended so that it also applies to transfers between ELHTs.  

This amendment applies after 2009.

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108(1)

"trust"

Section 108 of the Act sets out certain definitions and rules that apply for the purposes of subdivision k, which deals with the taxation of trusts and their beneficiaries.

For the purposes of the 21-year deemed disposition rule and other specified measures, subsection 108(1) defines "trust" to exclude certain trusts.  Under paragraph (a), trusts governed by RRSPs and a number of other special income plans are among the excluded trusts for these purposes.

Paragraph (a) is amended to add to the list of exclusions an employee life and health trust. For more information regarding employee life and health trusts, please refer to the commentary on new section 144.1.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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111(7.3) to (7.5)

Under the amended definition "non-capital loss" in subsection 111(8), employee life and health trusts will be able to create or increase a non-capital loss with payments of "designated employee benefits" (as defined in new subsection 144.1(1)).

This mechanism is being introduced in recognition that the income of an ELHT for a year will not always reflect its obligations to provide designated employee benefits for the year. 

However, the effect of this amendment to the definition "non-capital loss" will also be to enable such a trust to create a loss in relation to a distribution of the capital of the trust. Consequently, a shorter carry-forward period is provided, which it is anticipated will be sufficient to allow employee life and health trusts to avoid paying income tax in most situations where they have not been overfunded.

New subsection 111(7.3) provides that the normal loss carryover rules in paragraph 111(1)(a) do not apply to an ELHT.

New subsection 111(7.4) establishes a three-year carryforward and three-year carryback period for non-capital losses of an ELHT.

New subsection 111(7.5) prevents a "tainted" employee life and health trust (i.e. a trust that was an employee life and health trust but which does not meet the conditions in new subsection 144.1(2) for a particular year) from deducting any amount, in respect of its non-capital losses from years in which it was an ELHT, while it is "tainted".  ELHT status is a year-by-year determination.

These amendments apply after 2009.

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111(8)

Subsection 111(8) contains definitions that apply for the purpose of loss carryovers.

Variable E in the definition "non-capital loss" is amended to allow an employment life and health trust to include, in calculating its non-capital loss for a year, amounts payable in the year as "designated employee benefits". A non-capital loss of an employee life and health trust or a former employee life and health trust is subject to special rules under new subsections 111 (7.3) to (7.5).  For more information, please refer to the commentary on those provisions.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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127.55(f)

Section 127.55 of the Act limits the application of the alternative minimum tax set out in section 127.5. Paragraph 127.55(f) is amended to add a reference to an employee life and health trust.  As a result, employee life and health trusts are not subject to alternative minimum tax.

For more information regarding employee life and health trusts, please refer to the commentary on new section 144.1.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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128.1(10)

"excluded right or interest"

Subsection 128.1(10) defines the expression "excluded right or interest" for the purposes of the taxpayer migration rules in section 128.1. This definition is primarily relevant for paragraphs 128.1(1)(b) and (4)(b), which treat individuals as having disposed of (and immediately reacquired) most of their property on immigrating to or emigrating from Canada. Generally, excluded rights or interests are exempted from these deemed disposition rules. Paragraph (a) of the definition refers to rights under, or an interest in, a trust governed by certain deferred income plans.

Paragraph (a) of the definition is amended to add a reference to employee life and health trusts. This will ensure that a beneficiary under an employee life and health trust who immigrates to or emigrates from Canada will not be treated as having disposed of their rights under the trust.

For more information regarding employee life and health trusts, please refer to the commentary on new section 144.1.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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144.1

Division G of Part I of the Act deals with Deferred and Special Income Arrangements.  Division G is amended to introduce a new section, section 144.1, dealing with employee life and health trusts (ELHTs), a new type of taxable inter vivos trust. These amendments apply to trusts established after 2009.

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144.1(1)

New subsection 144.1(1) provides definitions that apply for the purposes of new section 144.1.

"designated employee benefits"

"Designated employee benefits" are a subset of the benefits listed in subparagraph 6(1)(a)(i) of the Act and may be described generally as health and insurance benefits.  Pursuant to subsection 144.1(2), an ELHT is required to have as its only object (other than on wind-up) the provision of designated employee benefits for employees.   For this purpose, the investment and management of funds and administration of arrangements for benefit payments would be considered to be activities performed in furtherance of the object of providing designated employee benefits, provided that the investment, management and administration were reasonably related to the provision of the benefits.

"employee"

"Employee" is defined to include both current and former employees. The inclusion of former employees is intended to accommodate the provision of benefits to retirees, as well as to past employees (for example, in the context of business divestitures). The definition also includes individuals for whom an employer has assumed the responsibility of providing designated employee benefits as a result of a business acquisition.  This could be relevant, for example, if a retired individual’s employer has been acquired by a new corporation and the new corporation has assumed responsibility for the payment of designated employee benefits for retirees of the acquired employer.

"key employee"

"Key employee" means an employee who is either a "specified employee" (as defined in subsection 248(1) of the Act) or a high-income employee.  For this purpose, a high-income employee is an employee whose earnings for any two of the five preceding years exceeded five times the year’s maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) for Canada Pension Plan purposes.   YMPE for 2009 was $46,300 and for 2010 is $47,200. 

A trust which includes key employees as beneficiaries must ensure that it satisfies the conditions in paragraphs 144.1(2)(d) and (e) in order to retain its status as an employee life and health trust.  For more detail, please refer to the commentary on those paragraphs.

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144.1(2)

New subsection 144.1(2) sets out the conditions that must be met throughout a taxation year in order for a trust to qualify as an ELHT.  Because these conditions must be met throughout the year, a trust which fails to satisfy one or more of the conditions at any time during the year will lose its employee life and health trust status for that taxation year.   This loss of status could have consequences both for the trust itself and for employers who have contributed to the trust.

Paragraph (a) requires that the trust’s objects be limited to the provision of designated employee benefits and to dealing with any remaining funds in the trust on wind-up.  In this regard, it is intended that all activities that are reasonably related to providing designated employee benefits, such as managing investments, administering payments, and similar supporting activities, be considered to be activities that further the trust’s object of providing designated employee benefits.  

Paragraph (b) requires that the trust be resident in Canada, under ordinary principles of tax residency for trusts.

Paragraph (c) generally requires that each beneficiary of the trust be an employee, a person related to an employee or another employee life and health trust.

Paragraph (d) requires, in general terms, that the trust be maintained primarily for the benefit of beneficiaries who are not key employees.

Paragraph (e) requires, in general terms, that key employees who are beneficiaries of an ELHT be treated the same way as a significant proportion of the non-key employee beneficiaries under the ELHT, but allows a trust to have different classes of beneficiaries with potentially different entitlements. In particular, key employees of an employer are required to have the same rights as are provided to a class of beneficiaries, which class represents at least 25% of all of the beneficiaries of the ELHT in respect of the employer.  In addition, at least 75% of the members of the class must be non-key employees of the employer. As well, the rights of each member of the class are required to be identical.

It is possible to comply with this rule either by including key employees in a broader class that meets the conditions in subparagraphs (e)(i) to (iii), or by establishing a separate class for key employees which has the same (or less advantageous) rights as another class that meets the conditions in subparagraphs (e)(i) to (iii).

Paragraph (f) generally provides that the trust must not provide any rights to an employer (or to a person not dealing at arm’s length with the employer).  An exception is provided for the provision of designated employee benefits to a person not dealing at arm’s length with the employer.  For example, this exception would permit the controlling shareholder of an employer who is also an employee of the employer, or her spouse, to receive designated employee benefits under the trust.

Paragraph (g) requires that the trust be administered in accordance with its terms. So, for example, if the trustees of a trust that complied with paragraph (f) described above breached the terms of the trust by making a distribution to the employer (not as a designated employee benefit), the trust would not meet the condition in paragraph (g) and would lose its ELHT status for the year.

Paragraphs (h) and (i) are intended to ensure that the trust operates independently from the employer. Given that employer contributions to the trust are, subject to the provisions of subsections 144.1(3) to (5), deductible by the employer, it is important that the related employer liability be a legally enforceable one, with the trust able to enforce payment of contributions in the event of default. Paragraph (i) requires that employer representatives not form a majority of the trustees of the trust.

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144.1(3)

New subsection 144.1(3) prohibits an employer from claiming a deduction in respect of its contributions to an ELHT, except to the extent that the contribution relates to designated employee benefits that are payable in the same year as the contribution. In other words, subsection 144.1(3) specifies that employer contributions that relate to liabilities to make employee benefit payments in future years are not deductible in the year the contributions are made.

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144.1(4)

New subsection 144.1(4) provides that otherwise-deductible amounts, that are not deductible because of subsection (3) and paragraph 18(9)(a), are deductible in the later year to which they reasonably relate.

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144.1(5)

New subsection 144.1(5) generally provides that the total amount deducted by an employer in all taxation years in respect of contributions made to an ELHT may not exceed the total amount contributed by the employer to the ELHT.  This rule is intended to prevent an employer from attempting to claim a deduction in the later years of a pre-funded ELHT in respect of amounts related to inflation, income earned by the trust or to higher than anticipated benefit payments which are facilitated by strong investment performance within the trust.

Example:

An employer contributes $50 million to an ELHT.  The trust assumes responsibility for health plan benefits payments for all employees who commenced employment before 1990. Actuarial projections indicate that the trust expects to pay out $50 million in benefits within the first 13 years of its operations, although the life of the trust is expected to be at least 35 years.  The benefit payments in later years will be possible because the trust will have been earning investment income throughout its life. Even though the trust is still making benefit payments in those later years, no amount is deductible by the employer once its original contribution of $50 million has been claimed over the years.

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144.1(6)

New subsection 144.1(6) deals with the special situation of an employer who issues promissory notes to an ELHT in relation to the employer’s obligation to make contributions to the ELHT. Interest payable by the employer on such notes would not normally be deductible under paragraph 20(1)(c) of the Act, because the interest is not payable on "borrowed money".

Moreover, treating the notes as an investment asset of the trust would cause interest payable to be treated as trust income and, depending on the structure of the notes, could cause the trust to be liable for income tax, under the interest accrual rules in section 12 of the Act, before it had received any payments on the notes.

The new rules in subsection 144.1(6) provide relief from these results by deeming the payments on the notes, whether payments of interest or principal, to be contributions to the trust, the tax treatment of which is governed by section 144.1 (and therefore not by paragraph 20(1)(c) or the interest accrual rules).

Example:  

Acme Corporation and the union that represents most of its employees decide to restructure Acme’s employee health benefit obligations by establishing an ELHT.  The parties calculate that the present value of Acme’s health benefit obligations is $10 million.  Acme agrees to contribution $3 million in year 1, and to provide the trust with a promissory note bearing 6% simple interest in relation to the remaining $7 million obligation. Interest will accrue annually but no amount is payable on the note in respect of principal or interest until after the end of year 3. The note matures in year 5.  Acme’s payment schedule is approximately as follows:

Year Acme Payment to Trust   Acme Deduction
1 $3 million – first trust contribution $750,000
2 0 $750,000
3 0 $750,000
4 $3.26 million (representing 3 years’ interest plus a $2 million principal repayment in respect of promissory note)  $750,000
5 $5.6 million (retiring the note with the remaining interest and principal outstanding) $750,000

The parties have also projected that the trust’s benefit payments will be approximately $750,000 per year for each of these years.  Because of the application of new subsection 144.1(3), Acme’s deduction in year 1 is limited to $750,000. Subsection 144.1(4) will apply to allow Acme a $750,000 deduction in each of years 2 and 3, leaving $750,000 of the original $3 million contribution undeducted after the end of year 3.  In year 4, Acme deducts another $750,000, leaving $3.26 million in undeducted trust contributions to be deducted in future years.  In year 5, again $750,000 is deductible for Acme, with the remaining contributions, plus the undeducted balance from year 4, deductible in later years. 

The trust will receive all of the payments as capital contributions to the trust.

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144.1(7)

New subsection 144.1(7) provides a method of looking through the trust in respect of employee contributions, to the extent that the contributions could receive particular tax treatment (for example, eligibility for the medical expense tax credit) if made directly for a particular benefit rather than through the trust. For this purpose, the trust must identify the contributions as contributions in respect of a particular designated employee benefit at the time they are made.  It is anticipated that this will be achieved in most cases by the trust notifying the employer and the employer reporting the contributions on the employee’s pay stub.

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144.1(8)

New subsection 144.1(8) requires that any amount received from a trust that is or was an ELHT be included in income, unless the amount was received as the payment of a "designated employee benefit". It is anticipated that this income inclusion would most frequently apply on the wind-up of an ELHT to a distribution of residual surplus, or to a payment to a non-qualifying beneficiary of a former ELHT, such as an employer.

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144.1(9)

New subsection 144.1(9) allows an ELHT that administers employee benefits on behalf of employees of more than one employer to elect to be treated for income tax purposes as two or more separate trusts provided that it satisfies the conditions in paragraphs (a) and (b).  Paragraph (a) requires that the trust designate the property being held on behalf of each group of employees in an election filed by its filing-due date for the first taxation year of what will be the deemed separate trust.  Paragraph (b) requires that the trust terms stipulate that contributions to the trust from one employer accrue only to the benefit of that employer’s employees.

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144.1(10)

New subsections 144.1(10) provides that non-capital losses of ELHTs are only deductible to the extent provided by new subsections 111(7.3) to (7.5). For more information, see the commentary on those provisions.

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153(1)(s)

Subsection 153(1) of the Act requires the withholding of tax from certain payments described in paragraphs 153(1)(a) to (t).  The person making the payment is required to remit the amount withheld to the Receiver General on behalf of the payee. Paragraph 153(1)(s) is amended to add a reference to amounts described in new paragraph 56(1)(z.2).

New paragraph 56(1)(z.2) effectively requires a taxpayer to include in income an amount that is received from a current or former employee life and health trust to the extent that the amount received is not a payment of a "designated employee benefit". "Designated employee benefit" is defined in new subsection 144.1(1).  For more information, see the commentary on those provisions.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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210.1

Part XII.2 of the Act imposes a special tax on the designated income (as defined by subsection 210.2(2) of the Act) of certain Canadian resident trusts with respect to distributions to non-residents and other designated beneficiaries. Section 210.1 provides a list of types of trusts that are excluded from the application of Part XII.2.  Section 210.1 is amended to add a reference to an employee life and health trust (at new paragraph (f)) thereby excluding employee life and health trusts from the application of Part XII.2.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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212(1)(w)

Subsection 212(1) imposes an income tax at the rate of 25% on certain payments to non-residents.  In many cases, the 25% rate is reduced by tax treaty. New paragraph 212(1)(w) provides that payments out of an ELHT made to non-residents are subject to tax under subsection 212(1), except to the extent that they are payments of designated employee benefits.

This amendment applies after 2009.

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248(1)

"employee life and health trust"

The definition "employee life and health trust" is added to subsection 248(1) to create a cross-reference to new subsection 144.1(2), which contains the conditions which must be met for a trust to be treated as an employee life and health trust.

"employee benefit plan"

"retirement compensation arrangement"

"salary deferral arrangement"

The definitions "employee benefit plan", "retirement compensation arrangement" and "salary deferral arrangement" are amended to exclude employee life and health trusts from the ambit of each definition. A trust that is a valid employee life and health trust will therefore not be an employee benefit plan, a retirement compensation arrangement, or a salary deferral arrangement.

These amendments apply after 2009.