Writing off Loans Made to a Business
If at the end of a year you are owed a loan amount that is no longer collectible, you might be able to realize a capital loss on that loan. Only 50% of a capital loss is allowable and is subject to certain limitations that can result in the loss being suspended (available later) or deemed to be zero. A capital loss can only be used to offset capital gains realized in the year, in the prior three years or at any point in the future.
The capital loss on a loan determined to be a bad debt is calculated as a disposition of the loan for zero proceeds. For the capital loss to be permitted for income tax purposes, the loan must have been made for the purpose of earning income from a business or property, or received as consideration for the disposition of capital property to a person with whom you were dealing at arm’s length. The loan must have been established by you to have become a bad debt (uncollectable) in the year. As well, an election needs to be filed with your tax return for that year advising the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) of the capital loss.
The election to report a loan as a bad debt and a capital loss on a tax return is simply a letter to the CRA providing details of the loan determined to have become a bad debt in the year. The letter should include information about the loan, the amount, date advanced, the borrower, the purpose of the loan, and how you determined the loan is a bad debt. If you e-file your tax return you need to mail the letter to the CRA before the filing due date of your tax return. Because the failure to file the election with the CRA can result in the CRA denying the capital loss, you might consider sending the letter by registered mail.
If the loan determined to be a bad debt in the year was to an arm’s length Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC) engaged in an “active business” at some point in the twelve months prior to becoming a bad debt, the loss may qualify as an “allowable business investment loss” (ABIL). An ABIL is a capital loss, half of which is deductible against income from other sources of taxable income. The CRA will review all ABIL claims so you need to have evidence of the amount of the loan, proof the company to which you lent the funds was a CCPC engaged in “active business” in the twelve months prior to becoming a bad debt, support the loan was made to earn income from business or property and the nature of the loss triggering event in the year.
Contact a Chartered Professional Accountant to see whether you might be able to write off a loan, and whether the resulting loss might qualify as an allowable business investment loss.