Capital gains tax is a crucial aspect of the Canadian tax system that every individual and business owner needs to understand. In Canada, the capital gains tax is levied on the realized gain or profit you make from selling your investments. The tax rate varies depending on your income level and the type of investment you hold, and it can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

In this article, we'll explore the ins and outs of capital gains tax in Canada, and share some tips and strategies for minimizing your tax liability while still making the most of your investment opportunities. Whether you're a seasoned investor or just getting started, this guide will help you navigate the complex world of capital gains tax and make the most of your investment portfolio.

What are capital gains?

A capital gain is the profit you make from selling an asset or a capital property, for more than its adjusted cost base. There are various types of capital property that generate capital gains upon their sale. The most common include:

  • stocks and bonds and units of a mutual fund trust
  • land
  • building
  • equipment you use in a business
  • antiques
  • cottages

Capital gains are taxed differently from other forms of income, such as wages or salaries. Instead of being taxed at your regular income tax rate, capital gains are subject to a separate tax rate known as the capital gains tax. The tax rate you pay on your capital gains depends on your income level and the type of investment you hold.

What are capital losses and their impact on capital gains tax?

Along with capital gains, investors may also experience capital losses. Capital losses occur when an asset decreases in value and is sold for less than its original purchase price. For example, if you buy a stock for $10 and sell it for $5, your capital loss would be $5. Capital losses can offset any capital gains that you make in the same year, thus reducing your total tax liability.

It's important to note that capital losses can not be used to offset other types of income you've received. Further, If your capital losses exceed capital gains, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) permits you to carry forward the losses to future tax years. Additionally, you may apply the losses to capital gains from the previous three tax years.

What is a realized vs. unrealized capital gain or loss?

Realized gains and losses refer to profits or losses from investments that have been sold. Unrealized gains and losses refer to profits or losses from investments that have not yet been sold.

In simple terms, a capital gain that has been realized means that it has happened for real. On the other hand, an unrealized capital gain is just an estimate of the potential gains or losses. This means that your obligation to pay capital gains tax is only triggered when a realized gain has occurred via a sale transaction. Once you sell your stocks, you no longer own them and any profit you made from the sale is your realized capital gains.

When do you pay capital gains tax in Canada?

As indicated in the section above, a capital gain is generally triggered when you sell an investment that has gone up in value. In simple cases, this is when your obligation to pay capital gains tax occurs on your tax return. However, there are other circumstances where you might be required to pay capital gains when filing your tax return. To understand when this happens, one needs to remember the term "deemed disposition".

Capital gains can be triggered in a situation called a "deemed disposition." This occurs when the nature of an asset changes in the eyes of the Canadian tax authorities due to certain life events, even if the asset remains in your possession. Examples of such events include:

  • emigration
  • ceasing to be a Canadian tax resident
  • change of use of property from principal residence to income-earning property
  • death of the taxpayer

If a deemed disposition occurs, any profits are considered as if the properties were sold at the current market value and then instantly re-bought at the same value.

It's important to keep detailed records of all capital gains and losses to ensure that you can accurately report them on your tax return. Failure to report capital gains and losses can result in penalties and interest charges.

Related: Leaving Canada: Know the Tax Implications

What is the capital gains tax rate in Canada?

In Canada, capital gains are taxed at a rate of 50% of your marginal tax rate. This means that if you sell an investment, 50% of your gain is considered taxable and will be taxed at your marginal tax rate based on your income. The only exception to this is if the CRA considers you a day trader. In such cases, all of your profits will be considered business income, and you will be taxed at your current tax rate.

Your marginal tax rate is the rate at which your last dollar of income is taxed. The total tax payable varies based on several factors, such as the amount of your income and your place of residence. This means that if you have a high income, you'll pay a higher capital gains tax rate than someone with a lower income.

How to calculate capital gains and losses?

Image Of Capital Gains Tax Rate Calculation

Calculating your capital gains tax in Canada can be a complex process. To calculate your tax liability, you'll need to know the cost of your investment, the proceeds from the sale of the investment, and any expenses related to the sale. You'll also need to know your marginal tax rate and the length of time you held the investment.

To calculate capital gains or losses in Canada, you need to know the following three amounts:

1. Proceeds of disposition: this is the amount of money you received when you sold or disposed of the asset.

2. Adjusted cost base (ACB): the ACB is the original cost of the asset plus any additional costs you incurred to acquire it (like legal fees or commissions). It also includes any capital improvements you made to the asset.

3. Outlays and expenses: these include any selling costs to sell your investment such as commissions, fixing-up expenses, brokers' fees, maintenance expenses, legal fees, and finder's fees.

When you have these amounts, here’s the calculation to figure out your capital gain:

Proceeds of disposition – Adjusted Cost Base - Outlays and expenses = CAPITAL GAIN or LOSS

This will give you the capital gain or loss. If the result is positive, you have a capital gain. If it's negative, you have a capital loss.

To further calculate how much tax is payable on that capital gain, you need to follow the following steps:

1. Apply the 50% inclusion rate: In Canada, only 50% of the capital gain is subject to taxation. Multiply the capital gain by 50% to calculate the taxable capital gain.

For example, if you sold an asset with an ACB of $5,000 and Proceeds of disposition of $15,000, and zero capital outlays, your capital gain would be $10,000. The taxable capital gain based on a 50% inclusion rate is $5,000.

2. Determine your marginal tax rate: Your marginal tax rate depends on your income level. Using the same example as above, the 2023 federal and provincial brackets for someone in the highest tax bracket is 33% in federal tax and 13.16% provincially if they live in Ontario, thus making a combined marginal rate of 46.16%.

Thus, on a taxable capital gain of $5,000 with a marginal tax rate of 46.16%, the tax payable on the capital gains would be $2,308.

It's important to note that this is a simplified explanation of how to calculate capital gains and losses in Canada. The actual calculation may be more complex depending on the specific circumstances. It's always recommended to consult with a tax professional or refer to the CRA for more detailed information.

Capital gains tax exemptions and deductions

In Canada, there are several tax exemptions and deductions available that can help reduce your capital gains tax liability. The most common exemptions and deductions include the following:

1. Principal residence exemption

The principal residence exemption allows you to avoid paying capital gains tax on the sale of your primary residence. If you sell your home and it qualifies as your principal residence, you won't have to pay any tax on the capital gains you make from the sale. To qualify for the exemption, you must have lived in the property as your primary residence for the entire time you owned it.

If you've only lived in the property for part of the time you owned it, you may still be eligible for a partial exemption. The amount of the exemption will depend on the length of time you lived in the property compared to the length of time you owned it.

It's important to note that if you're selling a rental property or a vacation home, you won't be eligible for the principal residence exemption and will be subject to capital gains tax.

2. Lifetime capital gains exemption

The lifetime capital gains exemption allows you to avoid paying tax on a portion of your capital gains. The exemption applies to qualified small business corporation shares, qualified farm property, and qualified fishing property. For 2023, the lifetime capital gains exemption is $971,190. This means that you can sell qualifying assets and avoid paying tax on up to $971,190 of the capital gains you make.

To qualify for this exemption, you must have owned the shares for at least 24 months and the company must meet certain criteria.

How to avoid or minimize capital gains? tax in Canada?

Image Of Tips On How To Minimize Capital Gains

Now that you understand how capital gains tax works in Canada and the impact it can have on your investment returns, let's look at some strategies you can use to minimize your tax liability.

1. Hold investments for the long term

One of the easiest ways to minimize your capital gains tax liability is to hold your investments for the long term. If you hold an investment for more than a year, you'll be subject to the capital gains tax rate of 50% of your marginal tax rate, which is generally lower than your regular income tax rate.

2. Tax-loss harvesting

Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy that involves selling investments that have decreased in value to offset gains from other investments. This can help reduce your tax liability by offsetting your capital gains with capital losses. However, it's important to be aware of the "superficial loss" rule, which prevents you from claiming a capital loss if you buy the same investment within 30 days of selling it.

Related: Year-End Tax Planning Tips - 2022

3. Utilize tax-advantaged accounts

Contributing to tax-advantaged accounts, such as Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), can also help minimize your capital gains tax liability. These registered accounts allow you to grow your investments tax-free or defer taxes until retirement, helping to minimize your capital gains tax liability. For example, holders of a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) pay no tax of any kind whether growing or withdrawing their investment, while any investment income earned in a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is not taxed until it is withdrawn.  

Related: What is Non-Taxable Income in Canada?

4. Donating investments

Transferring investments, such as gifts of shares or units of a mutual fund is another way to reduce or eliminate your capital gains tax. Investments donated to a registered charity or other qualifying donee are not subject to capital gains tax or are required to be included as income on your tax return.

To be eligible to receive the tax rate of zero on any donated investments, it is essential that there is no advantage gained from donating the asset. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) defines an advantage as any benefit, compensation, property, service, or use that you receive as a partial expression of gratitude or consideration for the gift.

If the CRA determines that you have gained an advantage through your investment donation, only a portion of your investment will qualify for a zero capital gains tax rate. The remaining gain will be subject to a 50% tax rate, similar to a regular investment.

These are just a few strategies to consider when trying to minimize capital gains tax in Canada. It's always recommended to consult with a tax professional to fully understand the tax implications and determine the best strategy for your specific circumstances.

Common mistakes to avoid when dealing with capital gains tax

Dealing with capital gains tax can be a complicated and confusing process. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when dealing with capital gains tax:

Forgetting to include capital gains on your tax return

It's important to report all capital gains on your tax return, even if you think they may be exempt or if you only made a small profit. Failing to report your capital gains can result in penalties and interest charges.

Failing to keep accurate records

It's important to keep accurate records of all your investment transactions, including the cost of your investments, the proceeds from the sale of your investments, and any expenses related to the sale. This information will be necessary when calculating your capital gains tax liability.

Ignoring tax-advantaged accounts

Tax-advantaged accounts, such as RRSPs and TFSAs, can be a valuable tool for minimizing your capital gains tax liability. Ignoring these accounts can result in unnecessary tax payments.


Investing in the financial markets can be a great way to grow your wealth over time. However, it's important to understand the impact of capital gains tax on your investment returns. By understanding the basics of how capital gains are taxed, as well as the different exemptions, deductions, and strategies available, you can make informed decisions and maximize your returns. Whether you're a seasoned investor or a first-time seller, working with a tax professional can help ensure that you're maximizing your tax benefits while minimizing your tax liability. If you have any questions or concerns about capital gains tax, please contact us.  We are here to help!

If you want to learn more about other tax and accounting topics, explore the rest of our blog!


The information provided on this page is intended to provide general information. The information does not take into account your personal situation and is not intended to be used without consultation from accounting/tax professionals. NBG Chartered Professional Accountant Professional Corporation will not be held liable for any problems that arise from the usage of the information provided on this page.

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Written by Neena Gambhir

I'm a Chartered Professional Accountant and have been navigating the waters of public accounting for over a decade. I've had the privilege to work with all sorts of clients – from small family-owned businesses to those big names on the stock exchange, spanning various sectors. Through these experiences, I've gathered a ton of knowledge, especially when it comes to Canadian corporate and individual taxes. I've also got a solid handle on the ins and outs of partnership, trust, and estate taxes.

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