It’s just about tax time, so I thought I would briefly discuss the taxation of executor compensation.

The basic premise is that executor compensation is taxable in the hands of the recipient. It is either income from an office or employment (if the executor is not in the business of being an executor) or income from a business (if the executor is in the business of being an executor, or if such a function is in the executor’s usual course of business). Various consequences flow from the distinction, such as allowable deductions, and withholding requirements for EI and CPP.

CRA takes this obligation to report executor compensation quite seriously. An example of the lengths to which CRA will go is found in the decision of Oolup v. The Queen. There, Ms. Oolup, the executor held a joint account with her grandmother, the deceased. She was advised by her lawyer that upon the death of the deceased, the joint account became hers, by right of survivorship. However, for “reasons of family harmony”, she decided to keep only $10,000 from the joint account, and divided the rest with the deceased’s next of kin.

CRA took the position that the $10,000 was executor compensation, and was therefore taxable, and they assessed Ms. Oolup accordingly. To get to this point, they argued that the joint account was held on a resulting trust for the estate. The CRA argued that the presumption of resulting trust applied, and was not rebutted. Accordingly, they asserted that Ms. Oolup received the $10,000 from the estate, as executor compensation.

Luckily for Ms. Oolup, she was able to rebut the presumption, and the court found that the joint account funds became her property upon the death of the deceased. She received the money by right of survivorship. Therefore, her keeping $10,000 was not receipt of compensation by her, and was not to be included in her income.

Thank you for reading,

Paul Trudelle