Dividends vs. Salary: Paying Yourself as A Business Owner

Dividends vs. Salary: Paying Yourself as A Business Owner

Paying yourself is one of the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of being a business owner. If you’ve set up a small corporation, you can choose between dividends or wages as your main form of income or have a mix of both.

The type of remuneration you choose has significant tax consequences and can affect your ability to plan for the future. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages, and your situation will play an essential role in which one is best for you. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between a dividend income and a business salary to help choose the right one for your needs.

Table of Contents

Paying Yourself a Salary

There’s no difference between paying an employee’s salary and paying your salary as the business owner in accounting and tax terms. A salary is an employment expense, and you’ll receive a T4 tax form. Since employment expenses reduce a company’s taxable income, paying yourself a salary will reduce the corporate tax you have to pay.

However, since the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) considers a salary a form of personal income, it will affect how much you pay in personal income tax. Generally, the personal income tax rate is higher than the corporate tax rate, meaning that you’ll end up paying more out of your pocket. At the same time, this income is subject to income tax credits like childcare benefits and medical expense deductions.

An additional future benefit of paying yourself a salary is that you have to contribute to the Canada Pension Plan (CCP), which ensures that you save for the future. If your net income is more than $3,500 per year, you’ll have to pay double the CCP contributions of a regular employee as a business owner. This double payment is because you’re paying both the employee and employer contributions.

As you’re a shareholder, you’re exempt from Employment Insurance (EI) contributions, though this does mean that you won’t receive benefits if your company fails and you find yourself unemployed. Finally, receiving a salary allows you to set up a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) which is tax-deductible and an excellent way to save for the future.



Payment in Dividends

Dividends are a form of investment income, as opposed to salaries, which are personal income. The CRA treats dividend income differently from personal income and will tax them at a corporate tax rate.

Since dividends are paid out based on share ownership, they can be a less reliable form of income than a salary. It’s usually not an issue for small business owners, where they’re the only shareholder in the company. Still, the process of paying out dividends can become increasingly complex as your company grows.

Unlike salaries, dividends aren’t a form of business expense, which means that they don’t affect your company’s tax responsibilities. When you receive dividends, you have to complete a T5 tax form declaring the income along with one for every shareholder in the company.

As dividends aren’t a form of personal income, they’re not subject to CCP contributions and don’t contribute to your RRSP pool. The process of issuing dividends is also much simpler than the paperwork associated with a salary. All you need to do is transfer money from your company to your bank account, update the corporation’s minute book and have a director’s resolution for the payment.

Finally, if you struggle with payroll remittances, you may appreciate the lowered pressure of dividends. Instead of facing stiff penalties for late or missed payroll remittances when you forget to pay into your payroll, you just need to fill in an annual T5 form.



Factors to Consider When Choosing How to Pay Yourself

The Concept of Integration

Comparing Tax Implications


Income Splitting

A final option is to pay both a small salary and get supplemental dividends to shore up your budget.

A typical strategy is to pay out a salary or bonus to prevent the business from earning over $500,000 per year. Different corporations get taxed differently, and earning more than the limit changes your tax implications. Companies earning a net income under this limit have significantly more favourable corporate taxes.

If the company does less well, you can reduce your salary and pay out more dividends, saving on tax while still qualifying for the advantages of receiving a salary, such as tax credits, CCRP contributions, and paid maternity or parental leave.

Consider Your Current Situation

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, both salaries and dividends are useful ways of paying yourself as a small business owner. There are so many moving parts that providing a clear, generic answer is impossible. It all comes down to whether you appreciate the freedom and flexibility of dividends or prefer to plan for the future.

The best way to make this decision is to sit down with your accountant, financial planner, or tax lawyer. They understand your business and finances and will help you compare tax implications as well as provide advice on which one they’d recommend.

Owning your own business can be a challenge, especially when trying to reduce costs and maximizing profit. One great way of reducing costs is to look for the best group insurance benefits, especially if you decide to pay yourself a salary.

At Group Enroll, we can help you compare group insurance products, such as a Health Care Spending Account, to help you save on your taxes while covering your medical needs at the same time.

No matter what your payment plan, we can help you find the right group insurance products for your small business. Request a quote today and see how much you can save! You can also email us at hello@groupenroll.ca, or we can be contacted by mail at 10 Great Gulf Drive, Unit 5, Vaughan, ON, L4K 5W1.