Shareholder-Employees: TRAVEL EXPENSES

For an employee to deduct travel or motor vehicle expenses against employment income, the employee must be normally required to work away from the employer’s place of business, be required to pay the travel expense under the contract of employment, and have a signed and completed T2200. Also, the employee cannot receive an allowance excluded from income.

In 2017, CRA began denying travel expenses claimed on the personal tax return of many employees who were also shareholders of the employer or related to a shareholder. After receiving concerns from stakeholders regarding this new assessing practice, CRA reversed their assessments, indicating that “clear guidelines for taxpayers and their representatives” were important to the Canadian self-assessment system and that additional consultation and guidance was needed in this area.

In September of 2019 CRA released the promised guidance. It noted that the following conditions had to be met for employment expenses incurred by shareholder-employees to be deductible:

  1. The expenses were incurred as part of the employment duties and not as a shareholder.
  2. The worker was required to pay for the expenses personally as part of their employment

When the employee is also a shareholder, the written contract may not be adequate, and the implied requirements may be more difficult to demonstrate. However, CRA noted that both of these conditions may be satisfied if the shareholder-employee can establish that the expenses are comparable to expenses incurred by employees (who are not shareholders or related to a shareholder) with similar duties at the company or at other businesses similar in size, industry and services provided.

ACTION ITEM: Instead of deducting amounts against employment income, consider whether it would be better for the company to reimburse expenses of shareholder-employees, or perhaps, pay a tax-free travel allowance. If amounts will continue to be paid personally, retain support that shows how the travel expenditures are reasonable as compared to those of other similar arm’s length workers.

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