Fishing Income



There are very few differences between the way a fisherman would claim his fishing income and the way that a businessperson would claim his income. For tax purposes most fishermen are considered to be self-employed even though they are issued a form T4F as a statement of fishing earnings.

The T4F is really a statement of an individual's portion of the crew share. For unemployment insurance purposes, unlike other self-employed persons, a fisherman pays premiums and is entitled to draw unemployment insurance benefits with certain qualifying factors.

In preparing his statement of fishing income and expenses, a fisherman will use the form T2042. (See example.) The income and expense categories on this form are all quite self-explanatory. Crew shares on the expense side of the statement are, of course, the shares which a skipper pays
to his crew and claims as an expense on his own return. The cost of food consumed by a fisherman while at sea would qualify as a deduction from gross income since the ocean would be considered a remote work site.

The one element that does deserve special mention is the section relating to the loss of nets and traps. There are two ways in which this can be treated. The first way is to treat the purchase of new nets and traps as a capital expense subject to capital cost allowances in class 8 at 20%. The alternative is to treat the year's purchases in this area as an acquisition of replacement property in the manner described at the bottom of the form T2042. The reasoning in this technique is that if you take the value of your nets and traps at the beginning
of the year and add to this the amounts you spent in the year buying more, the result should be how much you have on hand at the end. If what you really have is less than this, the difference between what you have and what you should have is the amount which you will claim on your return as a loss of nets and traps.


You will also note that the section for this calculation has a line for proceeds from sale and insurance of nets and traps; if you include an amount on this line, it should not be included again in the income section of the statement.

It is very important here to beware of claiming Capital Cost Allowance in years with little or no income. I recently had to review a fishing return where large amounts of `depreciation' had been claimed in 1979, 1980, and 1981. Claiming this depreciation had increased losses which were not usable against other income. Because of ill health, the fisherman
has not been fishing in the last two years and will now be selling his boat. He will have over $50,000 extra tax to pay because he is now `recapturing' the depreciation claimed on the boat in 1979, 80 and 81. There is nothing he or anyone else can do in this situation.

It was a wrong "guess" at the future.

Another problem which needs real clarification is the tax treatment of the sale of fishing licences. It is our policy to treat these as pure capital gains, but where someone is almost buying and selling them for a living, it is clear that any profits would be straight income. An interesting wrinkle in 1989 was that DNR has tried to reassess one fisherman by turning down the sale of his licence as eligible for the $100,000 capital gains tax free treatment. Stay tuned to find
out the answer.


I have finally found a reason for incorporating a "fishing" business. If the business is incorporated and if the boat and nets and licences are of sufficient worth that there is a possibility of a capital gain in excess of $100,000, then the fisherman should consider incorporating the business. As a Canadian Controlled "PRIVATE" Corporation (CCPC)
the shares can be sold and any profit will fall within the $500,000 Capital Gains tax free which remained for Farmers, and the shares of a CCPC. (To be eligible the seller has to have owned the shares for at least 24 months.)


You CANNOT find a buyer, go down and incorporate, and then sell the shares tax free.

Fish Farming is causing great consternation in the fishing industry. The courts are treating them as farmers rather than fishermen as the following case shows.

TAXCASE - In 1989, Paul and Maureen Durst won their right to deduct their losses from a fish farming operation in Ontario. However, Judge Taylor of the Tax Court of Canada ruled that they were limited to the losses allowed by section 31(1) of the Income Tax Act and restricted the amounts to $5,000 each per year.

TAXCASE - In 1988 Angelo Travica  lost his attempt to make his wife a partner in his fishing business. Judge Brule of the Tax Court ruled that the business was that of the husband and not a partnership. He was unable to refute the fact that the ship's registry showed the boat was his only. (It could possibly be her boat for tax purposes if she had put up half the money to buy it and the money had come from outside sources (see income splitting). Profits were never divided, cheques were always made out to the husband only and there was no partnership agreement.

NEW FOR 1988 and 1989 and 1990

There are new provisions for automobile expenses, office in the home, and investment tax credits for 1988 and 1989 and 1990. See the start of the Farmers section for these changes.


Next: Farming Income

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