Capital Dividend Account Example: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Its Mechanics

A puzzle piece shaped like a dollar on a blue background, showcasing an example of a Capital Dividend Account.

Capital Dividend Account Example: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Its Mechanics

Sebastien Prost, CPA

A Capital Dividend Account (CDA) is a unique tax account available to private corporations in Canada. It serves as a tool for tracking tax-free surpluses accumulated over time, such as proceeds from the sale of capital assets and capital gains. These surpluses can be distributed to Canadian-resident shareholders in the form of tax-free capital dividends, providing an efficient mechanism for distributing wealth within the corporation.

To provide a clearer understanding of the Capital Dividend Account, let’s consider an example. Suppose a private corporation realizes a capital gain of $200,000 from the sale of an asset. Half of this amount, or $100,000, would be taxable income for the corporation, while the remaining $100,000 would be tax-free. This tax-free portion would be added to the CDA, allowing the corporation to distribute this amount to its shareholders without incurring any additional taxes.

This example illustrates how the Capital Dividend Account serves as a practical financial tool that benefits both the corporation and its shareholders by allowing tax-free capital to be passed on to investors. By understanding the CDA and its implications, private corporations can better navigate the complex Canadian tax landscape while maximizing the value they provide to their shareholders.

What Is a Capital Dividend Account

Origins and Legal Framework

A Capital Dividend Account (CDA) is a tax-efficient mechanism within the Canadian tax system, specifically designed for private corporations. Established by the Income Tax Act, the CDA allows Canadian private corporations to distribute tax-free capital dividends to their shareholders. This ensures that certain types of income, particularly non-taxable capital gains, can be returned to shareholders without further taxation.

Qualifying Capital Dividends

The CDA is a notional account that tracks specific types of income and capital transactions. The corporation’s CDA balance includes:

  1. Non-taxable portions of capital gains: When a corporation realizes capital gains on investments or property sales, only 50% is taxable. The non-taxable portion contributes to the CDA balance.
  2. Capital Dividends received from other corporations: If a corporation receives capital dividends from another corporation, the full amount is added to the CDA balance.
  3. Proceeds from life insurance policies: If a corporation is a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, the death benefit minus the policy’s Adjusted Cost Basis (ACB) contributes to the CDA balance.

The CDA can be accessed when paying out capital dividends to shareholders. It is crucial to note that the CDA balance must be tracked accurately to avoid possible penalties and ensure tax-efficient distribution of capital dividends. Additionally, proper documentation such as Form T2054 (Election for a Capital Dividend Under Subsection 83(2)) must be submitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for the capital dividends to be considered tax-free.

Calculating the CDA Balance

When calculating the Capital Dividend Account (CDA) balance, there are a few components that need to be considered. In this section, we will discuss the inclusions of capital gains and non-allowable deductions.

Inclusions of Capital Gains

The first component of the CDA balance consists of the non-taxable portion of capital gains. When a corporation realizes capital gains, only 50% of it gets taxed. The other 50% is non-taxable and contributes to the CDA balance. For example, if a corporation has a capital gain of $100,000, the non-taxable portion would be $50,000, which is added to the CDA balance.

Capital Losses Treatment

When calculating the CDA balance, the non-taxable portion of capital gains should be included in excess of the non-deductible portion of capital losses realized by a corporation in a given period. As such, the non-deductible portion of capital losses will reduce the non-taxable portion of capital gains that would be added to a corporation’s CDA.

Utilizing the Capital Dividend Account

Issuing a Capital Dividend to Shareholders

The Capital Dividend Account (CDA) is a tax account that allows private corporations in Canada to distribute tax-free dividends to their Canadian-resident shareholders. The CDA accumulates various tax-free surpluses, such as the non-taxable portion of capital gains realized on the sale of assets and investments. To better understand the concept, let’s consider an example:

The following list outlines the typical factors for using a Capital Dividend Account:

  1. The corporation must have a positive balance in its CDA.
  2. The shareholder receiving the dividend must be a Canadian resident.
  3. The capital dividend needs to be approved by at least the majority of the shareholders.
  4. The prescribed forms must be filed with the CRA.

CDA Election Forms and Compliance

Compliance with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules and regulations is necessary when utilizing the CDA. Corporations must complete and submit Form T2054, Election for a Capital Dividend Under Subsection 83(2), to the CRA before or at the time of issuing the capital dividend.

The following are essential elements to be included in the form:

  • Corporation Information: Legal name, business number, and tax year-end date.
  • Shareholder Details: Full name, address, and Social Insurance Number (SIN) of each shareholder receiving the dividend.
  • Dividend Information: Amount of capital dividend paid per share, total capital dividend paid, and payment date.

As part of the election, the corporation should also file Schedule 89, Request for Capital Dividend Account Balance Verification which will include a schedule showing the calculation of the CDA balance before the election.

It is crucial to submit the required CRA CDA documentation and comply with the CRA’s requirements while utilizing the CDA. Failure to complete and submit the form on time could result in significant penalties and negate the tax-free benefit of the capital dividend for the shareholders.

Understanding Subsection 83(3) and Regulation 2101(e) Provisions

Late-filing under Canadian tax law, specifically subsection 83(3) and Regulation 2101(e), provides a crucial opportunity for corporations to remain compliant while optimizing tax strategies.

Conditions for Late-Filing Capital Dividend Elections

The penalty for late filing is the lesser of $41.67 or 1/12 of 1% of the dividend amount, multiplied by the number of months or part-months from the due date to the actual filing date. Understanding this calculation is vital for corporations to assess potential penalties.

Responding to Regulatory Communications

Timely response to regulatory requests is crucial. If a corporation fails to comply with a request from the Minister to make a late election within 90 days of the request’s service date, the late filing option becomes unavailable. This underscores the importance of adhering to deadlines in regulatory compliance.

Responding to Regulatory Communications

The significance of timely responses to regulatory requests from the Minister, and the implications of non-compliance, are critical for maintaining eligibility for late-filing provisions.

Examples of CDA Transactions

In this section, we’ll explore how the Capital Dividend Account (CDA) works in practice through examples in two main categories: private corporation scenarios and estate planning.

Private Corporation Scenarios

When a private corporation experiences certain financial events, the impact on its CDA balance can be observed:

  1. Capital Gains: When the company realizes capital gains after selling assets such as stocks or fixed assets, 50% of the gain is added to the CDA. This amount can be paid out tax-free to the Canadian resident shareholders as capital dividends.
  2. Life Insurance Proceeds: If the corporation is a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, the death benefit minus the adjusted cost base (ACB) of the policy is added to the CDA. This allows the corporation to distribute the tax-free proceeds to its shareholders.
  3. Payment from the CDA: When a corporation pays an amount to a shareholder and elects to pay the amount as a capital dividend, it is subtracted from the CDA. This reduces the amount available for future capital dividend payments.

Tax Implications and Considerations

Tax-Free Benefits to Shareholders

A Capital Dividend Account (CDA) is a notional account that accumulates various tax-free surpluses of a Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC). The corporation’s CDA balance can include capital gains and losses, among other components. One of the primary advantages of a CDA is that it enables the distribution of tax-free capital dividends to Canadian-resident shareholders.

Here’s an example of how the distribution of tax-free capital dividends works:

Capital gains realized
Taxable portion of capital gains (50%)
Non-taxable portion of capital gains (50%)


In this example, the corporation realizes a capital gain of $100,000. Only 50% ($50,000) of the gain is taxable, while the remaining 50% ($50,000) is contributed to the CDA as a tax-free surplus. The corporation can then distribute the $50,000 as a tax-free capital dividend to its shareholders.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

While the CDA presents the opportunity for tax-free dividend distribution, it is essential to be cautious in order to avoid common pitfalls. The following points must be considered:

  1. Proper documentation: To distribute tax-free capital dividends, proper preparation and filing of an election form with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) are crucial. Failure to comply with these requirements may cause the dividend to be treated as taxable for shareholders.
  2. Careful calculations: It is essential to accurately calculate the CDA balance, since paying excess capital dividends beyond the account balance can result in significant tax penalties for the corporation.
  3. US shareholders considerations: Canadian capital dividends may not be tax-free for US shareholders. For example, a US shareholder who receives a capital dividend from a Canadian corporation may be subject to a withholding tax of only 5%.

By understanding the tax implications and being diligent in keeping track of the CDA balance, Canadian private corporations and their shareholders can benefit from tax-free capital dividends.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the Capital Dividend Account (CDA) balance calculated?

The CDA balance in Canada is mainly calculated based on the non-taxable portion of capital gains a corporation realizes, after accounting for the non-deductible portion of its capital losses. Other components that may impact the CDA balance include life insurance proceeds and certain types of capital property dispositions.

What are the steps to record a capital dividend payment in journal entries?

To record a capital dividend payment in journal entries, follow these steps:

  1. Debit the company’s retained earnings or paid-up capital account to indicate the reduction in shareholders’ equity due to the capital dividend payment.
  2. Credit the dividends payable account to acknowledge the outstanding payment obligation to shareholders.
  3. Once the dividend is paid, debit the dividends payable account to reduce the liability.
  4. Credit the cash or other payment method account to reflect the actual payment made to shareholders.

Can you provide an example of how a Capital Dividend Account functions in Canada?

Imagine a business owner, Sarah, who has accumulated $500,000 in various investments within her holding company, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Additionally, she owns a rental property worth $500,000. Over time, her investments generate a non-taxable portion of capital gains that accumulate within her company’s CDA.

When Sarah decides to distribute those funds as dividends, the CDA balance is utilized. The capital dividends are paid out to shareholders tax-free, unlike regular dividends, which are usually taxable.

Regarding tax planning, what considerations are involved with a Capital Dividend Account?

When dealing with a CDA for tax planning purposes, consider the following:

  1. Monitor the CDA balance regularly to ensure that it accurately reflects the non-taxable portion of capital gains and other relevant components.
  2. Keep track of any decreases to the CDA balance due to capital losses or dividend payments.
  3. Consult a tax advisor or accountant to understand the proper timing for paying out capital dividends to maximize tax benefits.
  4. Ensure compliance with the procedural requirements for capital dividend payments in Canada, including reporting and filing deadlines.

What is the process for reporting a Capital Dividend on T2 Schedule?

To report a capital dividend, follow these steps:

  1. Complete the Schedule 89 of the T2 Corporate Income Tax Return, which records the calculation of the CDA balance.
  2. File Form T2054, the Election for a Capital Dividend under subsection 83(2), with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on or before the dividend payment date.
  3. Include the amount of dividends paid from the capital dividend account on Schedule 3 of the T2 return.
  4. Keep a copy of the corporate resolution authorizing the dividend payment.

How can one verify the current balance of their Capital Dividend Account?

To verify the current balance of a CDA, review the company’s financial records and consult with the corporation’s tax accountant. This process involves assessing the net non-taxable portion of capital gains and accounting for other relevant items that affect the CDA balance. Regular monitoring of the CDA balance is essential for accurate tax planning and dividend distribution.

Sebastien Prost, CPA

Written by Sebastien Prost, CPA

Seb Prost, a CPA with over 10 years of experience in taxation and accounting, offers a unique blend of insights from his time at the CRA and his experience in public practice. Originally from QC and now based in Nelson, BC, he specializes in guiding Canadian startups, SaaS companies and other online businesses for all of their accounting and taxation needs.

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