Know Your ACB & Save Tax Dollars

by Tax Guy - Burlington Accountant on March 28, 2011 Print This Post Print This Post

When you buy an investment or other taxable property, you may have a capital gain or loss when you eventually sell. The Gain or loss is the difference between what you received from the sale and what you paid for it.

Knowing what is included in the cost, can help reduce your tax bill. Particularly when it comes to dividend reinvestment programs (DRIP) common to mutual funds and some stocks, as well as vacation or rental properties.

Adjusted Cost Base: The Basics

The Income Tax Act allows for certain adjustments to the purchase price for income tax purposes, hence the term adjusted. These adjustments may increase your cost base for tax purposes and reduce your future capital gains.

The starting point is either the value of the property on December 31, 1971, of course if you owned it on that date, or the purchase price paid for the asset.

Adjustments, or additions to the cost for tax purposes may include other incidental costs such as commissions, transfer taxes, sales taxes, legal or accounting fees. Some investments such as REIT’s or certain mutual funds may pay a return of capital which can lower your ACB.

Real Estate & ACB

If you own a vacation property such as a cottage or you have a rental property, keeping track of the cost is important to keep your tax bill down.

The cost of your investment in real estate includes not only the price paid, plus real estate agent commissions, legal fees and land transfer taxes. The cost may also include, improvement costs including renovations and certain maintenance costs.

Failing to keep track of these costs can cost you. Consider a $50,000 addition on a rental property or vacation property. Failing to include the renovation cost may cost you $12,000 in extra taxes.

Mutual Funds & Stocks

Mutual funds distribute the interest and dividends the fund received to its unitholders and many unitholders agree to allow the fund to reinvest these back into the fund. The fund uses the distribution to buy new units of the fund at the current fund price. Example:

You invested $50,000 into XYZ fund. You received 3,390 units. Three months later, the fund distributed $150 of income when the unit price was $15.25 per unit. The ACB is:

The original ACB is $50,000, plus the $150 re-invested in the fun, or $50,150. The number of units owned are 3,399.836.

The reinvested funds are simply added to the cost.

Also note that the ACB is the cumulative total cost and has little to do with the number of units. The only time the number of units comes into play is at the time of sale, when you divide the total cost by the number of units and multiply the result by the number of units sold. This amount is the ACB of the sale and reduces the gross ACB.

Stocks work very much the same way, although if you have DRIP on your stocks, any commission would also be added to the ACB.

About The Tax Guy...

Dean Paley CGA CFP is a Burlington accountant and financial planner who services individuals and business owners locally, nationally and internationally. Dean has appeared in the National Post, Toronto Star and Metro News.

To find out more, visit Dean's website Dean Paley CGA CFP or connect via Twitter @DeanPaleyCGACFP.

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{ 2 comments } March 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm is an online tool I developed specifically for Canadian investors to track and calculate ACB and capital gains. It supports buy and sell transactions as well as more complex transactions such as return of capital, options trading, splits, foreign currency transactions, and capital gains distributions. Tax events are reported based on CRA requirements and all your data can be exported to a spreadsheet program. is free for anyone to use and may be accessed here:

Registering is very simple and does not require you to enter any personal information.

Tax Guy March 28, 2011 at 12:11 pm

It is a good tool.

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