3 factors to consider before incorporating your farm

  • 2.5 min read

Are you thinking about making your farm a corporation? Lance Stockbrugger, a chartered accountant who also farms with his siblings in Saskatchewan, says the move has pros and cons.

Here are three business factors to consider when determining whether going corporate is the right move for you.

1. Think long-term

Take a big picture look at your operation, and consider the impact of incorporation down the road and into transition.

Think about what incorporation will mean to the farm business when it comes time to sell, transition or rent the land – and work those answers into the decision-making process now. And, he adds, while it’s easy to put land into a corporation, it’s a hard and a long process to get it out, so taking the extra steps now to consider the big picture is a smart and cautious move.

2. Consider capital gains exemption

Corporations don’t have a capital gains exemption, so if you’re incorporated, there will be more taxes when it comes time to sell.

Stockbrugger says that means every dollar the land appreciates will be taxed. With personal land, the owner will pay little to no tax on the appreciation.

He adds that if a corporation rents a piece of land, it will be taxed at a rate of around 50%, but if the land is personally owned, that rate drops to close to 40%.

3. Analyze the impact on transition

There are multiple areas to consider with incorporated versus unincorporated land in the transition process, Stockbrugger says.

If you’re the landowner of an unincorporated farm, when it comes time to transition, you can give pieces of land individually to the next generation without any tax implications.

Stockbrugger says owners of unincorporated farms have special rules available to them, not available to many other industries. Farmers can buy at the adjusted cost base but need to pass that information along because that now becomes the adjusted cost base for the next generation when they want to sell it.

On the other hand, the whole corporation must go to the individuals involved in the transition before the farm can be passed on.

Land title navigation

If you want a piece of land to go to a specific child, put their name on the title. Avoid having all the kids on each piece of land for probate or estate purposes.

Stockbrugger says all the names on all the pieces of land can cause complications if there are divorces, bankruptcies or if someone wants to borrow against that piece of land. For example, if one of your children wants to borrow against a piece of land, everyone who has their name on that piece of land must sign off on the loan.

3 factors to consider when thinking of incorporating

  1. Don’t just look at whether incorporating the farm right now makes sense. How is incorporation going to impact all your future decisions on the farm? It can complicate the future more than it can simplify it.
  2. Understand the tax implications of selling, renting and transitioning incorporated and unincorporated land.
  3. Know before incorporation what future costs might be when putting names on land titles of an incorporated farm.