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A post explaining what Canadian dividends are and why they are tax efficient because of the dividend tax credit. What to look for in a dividend paying corporation

Do you like my camera skills?  I love the iPhone- its so easy- take a picture and send it to myself in an email and….voila! A picture for my blog is ready!  Anyway, I digress, we’re talking about dividends here.

So what are dividends?

They’re something magical.  They’re great. Win-win in terms of taxation. They’re tax efficient.

Dividends, according to Investopedia are profits from the company and they can be either reinvested into the company or paid out in the form of dividends:

“Dividends may be in the form of cash, stock or property. Most secure and stable companies offer dividends to their stockholders. Their share prices might not move much, but the dividend attempts to make up for this.”

I like the words “secure” and “stable”.  Usually only big time companies (corporations) offer dividends to their stockholders.  High growth companies reinvest their earnings into the company to make the company grow bigger and faster.  High growth companies’ share prices may move more.

Canadian Corporations Dividend Tax Credit


Canadian corporations that pay out dividends get a tax break, so you get one too.  In fact, the dividend income (which you have to report or else the tax man will be after you) that you get is tax efficient.  Dividend income from Canadian corporations are taxed at a lower rate than other forms of income.

You get a dividend tax credit (you’ll see the dividends paid out on your T5 slips) which you submit during tax season.  The formula is pretty complicated, but it pretty much sums up to you paying very little in dividend taxes.  The dividend tax credit came about because the Canadian government doesn’t want to tax you twice (it taxed the corporation already so it won’t tax you as much).

Canadian Dream Free at 45 explains the Canadian Dividend Tax Credit in Depth on his blog.

Also, sometimes you get a negative tax amount with Canadian dividends, and this can be used to reduce the taxes payable. Taxtips.ca explains in depth.

However, the Canadian government doesn’t get a hoot If you bought a foreign (e.g. US) corporation’s stock and it paid out dividends.  These dividends would be considered foreign and you won’t get a tax break.  They don’t care about taxing you twice.  You’ll pay tax on that dividend like you pay tax on a GIC (interest income) or other non-tax efficient sources of income.  Before you know it, that chunk of money will be whittled away to something much smaller.

Related: Questrade Review

So what do you need to look for in a dividend paying stock?

You want to look at the Dividend Yield.  Let’s take FTS.TO for example (it’s a gas and electricity utility company) .  It’s current dividend yield is 3.46. So if you were to buy it at its current price of $32.33, the percentage back you would get in dividends is 3.46%.  The current dividend is $0.28 quarterly.  Multiple that by four, you get $1.12.  $1.12/$32.33= 3.46%.

You can see that the dividends paid out for the past year is $1.10 ($0.28 Aug, May, Feb and $0.26 last November).

That’s another good sign.  When they have CONSISTENTLY increased their dividends over a long period of time, you know the corporation you’re investing in a stable company and your investment shouldn’t (but you never know, I suppose) hurt your portfolio.

FTS.TO went from $0.16 a share in 2006 to $0.28 a share!  That’s a 75% increase in dividends in less than five years.

Likewise goes for a company who suddenly decreases their dividends.  You know you’re in hot water if a company decreases their dividends (namely MFC.TO which I also own).  Investors will start jumping ship. If you want to check out more on dividend investing in Canada check out my post on Canadian banks dividends and Canada’s utility dividend stocks, as well as how to make your dividend spreadsheet!

What if this whole dividend thing isn’t for you?

I know – I’m a geek for this type of thing!  Counting up dividends and using ratios and percentages isn’t everyone’s idea of a Saturday afternoon well spent – I get that!  If you’re looking for a more hands-off solution, the robo advisor platforms that have risen in popularity over the last couple of years are a great option for Canadians of all ages.  It’s a much more hands-off solution than dividend investing (you obviously still get dividends through the companies that you own, you just don’t have to worry about splits, re-investing them, etc).  You can check out our Ultimate Guide to Canada’s Robo Advisors if you’re looking for more of an overall look at the industry, and if you’re looking for a recommendation on the best specific robo advisor, here’s our Wealthsimple Review that looks at our top-ranked Canadian robo advisor.  Robos like Wealthfront and Betterment have been operating for years down in the States, so it’s nice to see them come up here and claim their piece of the market!

Readers, this is a very basic explanation of dividends, is there anything else I might be missing that you want to add? What portion of your portfolio do you include Canadian dividend paying corporations?

Article comments

amam says:

i’m new to this also. i’m trying to research because i don’t want my kids to make the same mistake of not investing all these years as i did. i just turned 50 and i’m looking into possibly making an account with questrade and dividends. i also want to start something for my kids and my son will be 18 next year. i’m a single parent and i have a good job but i’ve only had gic’s all this time or money in high savings accounts. i wish my parents had more investing knowledge. i don’t think they still really do.
i think envision financial has partnership or something with questrade because i saw it on their website. i just had a frustrating experience with them because they told me i didn’t have my resp’s there when in fact i did. apparently it all is held in some central place if it’s not in mutual funds. so i was looking to jump ship but maybe i’ll stay and find out more about how to use questrade through them.
you stated that american dividends get taxed. but what if you have american dividend stocks/etfs in a tfsa?
thanks for your website and info. i’m trying to learn and hope it’s not too late for me. btw i didn’t understand anything that ana said either!

Lisa Jackson says:

First of all, good for you for wanting to take control of your finances and teach your kids financial literacy.

Questrade is a great choice for do-it-yourself investing. I certainly understand the appeal of dividend stocks, but they do come with some caveats.

U.S. dividends are subject to what’s called a foreign withholding tax inside a TFSA. 15% of the dividends paid to a Canadian investor is withheld by the IRS.

It’s not a deal-breaker, but you could choose to keep mostly Canadian stocks or ETFs inside your TFSA to avoid this withholding tax and then get your U.S. and International exposure in your RRSP where foreign dividends aren’t taxed.

BTW, I looked into Envision Financial and when you click on “invest” it takes you to a robo-advisor called VirtualWealth, which is a subsidiary of QTrade – not Questrade. Just so you’re aware of the distinction.

Lana Jones says:

Ana, I didn’t understand a thing you said. I am very new to the stock market and sorry but I found your comment to be totally useless to me.

Ana says:

Doug is right. If you buy into and shout onto 500 pages, sure 2 will be annoyed but 50 will be aaitvcted. They will buy some back in the hours following. Yet, I’m one of those two IF you buy one share and tell me about it. As many have seen, I HATE it. lol. Yet, the core of this is: your #EAv score and it’s partial effect on your divs will be great when you own shares in many stocks, and do SOME #EAv groceries a day. SOME is just perfect. I’m pretty sure the effect-difference between 1 and 20 shoutouts/interactions is bigger than the difference between 20 and 100. My #EAv score is over 50 and I do not use some buying machine gun thing. Buying shares of 500 peeps instead of 20 surely does NOT make your divs go from 0.7 to 1.0. So, please, people, stop doing 5000 actions a week on #EAv. It’s useless. And can only be unpersonal (you can never honestly engage, reply, etc. when buying hundreds a day) and, to me clearly, annoying. Wanna drive up your divs? Be active on 5 platforms a day. And, best, enable some true engagement on social networks. Have some real and nice talks. Don’t go looking for it. Just engage. I’ve been on 0.8 once and told someone I’d be at 1.1 within a week. I was. Just by driving more conversation, and being a dumb LIKE-clicker on Youtube on 10 movies a day. But, looking at my stock, a 0.7 div on a 230e share works fine. People buy me, and I truly engage. It’s just real and to me it’s just perfect as it is. Cheers!

PJ says:

i get the dividend income tax benefit, but you are still paying taxes. why not just buy dividend stocks through your tfsa? am i missing something?

Kyle says:

You absolutely could if you have room in your TFSA PJ. Also, of note, if you make a low enough salary you can actually make money on the way dividend income is treated with taxes, depending on a few variables.

Zoe says:

I agree with you guys! Me too don’t have any idea about this blog. Can anyone there give us some information? Thanks!

Alena Mitchell says:

@Joan. Like you, I having a doubt about the meaning of dividend. I learn a lot to this post. Thank you.

Pat says:

@Robin, All we can do is to spread this blog.

Joan Washington says:

Great post. I always hear the word “dividend” but i don’t know about its exact meaning. I learn from this blog.

lenny says:

Dividends its my first time to hear that kind of word.Can anyone give some information about this?

Kathleen says:

@Robin: I agree with you man because I really don’t have any idea about dividends but this article gives me a lot of information.

Alma Myers says:

@Jean Bullington,
“This idea might have a good and bad impact to others.”

I agree on you but on my own opinion, let our Leaders decide and investigate about this issue. ^_^

ErlindaDolphin says:

@Robin. Yeah I agree with you! That might be.

Robin says:

Great article! This might a big help to people who doesn’t even know about dividends.

Jean Bullington says:

Interesting Topic. “Canadian Corporations Dividend Tax Credit”. This idea might have a good and bad impact to others.

Profits from the company can be either reinvested into the company or paid out in the form of dividends. Using by this, it can be easily paid out.

Moneycone says:

I love dividend stocks! Invest in companies that have consistently raised dividends and have scope for growth. Companies with very high dividends can spell trouble (always check the company’s debt and cash flow).

Sad that Canada’s going to tax Canroys. But it was good while it lasted!

young says:

@Moneycone- Yeah I’m going to milk those suckers until Canada starts their new tax law lol.

Pat @ DNW says:

what tips would you give to the new investors that become concerned when the stock price dips after a dividend payment?

young says:

@Pat- Hello Pat 🙂 You work with Mike at The Financial Blogger too right? I think I would tell new investors to hold on to the dividend paying equity- the market fluctuates momentarily all the time, and some people like to take advantage of buying before the dividend payout and cashing out after… these are just momentary dips of the mood of mr. market.

Calling You On It says:

It is important that people understand the difference between the income and capital value of a dividend producing stock (or fund).

Think of it like a house that you own that pays you rent. The price of the house doesn’t really matter, as long as you don’t need to sell it right now, so long as you keep getting your rent payments, it’s all good.

TorontoSteve says:

“FTS.TO went from $0.16 a share in 2006 to $0.28 a share! That

young says:

@TorontoSteve- Oops thanks for noticing the typo. Oftentimes I am writing these posts late into the night so my brain doesn’t work properly sometimes. My bad! Thanks Steve.

The Rat says:

I like the favorable tax treatment with dividends in comparison to say interest income derived from GICs, etc.

Great job highlighting Fortis as an example. I bought FTS for my TFSA last year and it’s a great example of a large-cap company that just pays a consistent dividend. I almost forget to check on my position.

I think you’re not giving yourself enough credit regarding the article being very basic, because a lot of people I meet don’t realize that the tax impact of buying U.S. dividend paying stocks results in the dividends being treated as interest income.

Of course, that is the downside of investing in U.S. equities. The upside however, is hard to ignore. Given the value of the Cdn dollar and the fact that it allows the investor to gain exposure to sectors normally not available in Canada (such as JNJ, PG, CL, KO, etc.) while further diversifying with foreign plays, makes them hard to resist IMO. I have yet to dive in with some U.S. equity purchases, but I’m hoping to in the very near future.

Awesome post.

young says:

@The Rat- So happy to see you hear Rat! Hope to see you around more 🙂 FTS has really sky rocketed eh? perhaps everyone else found out how great FTS is… That’s true re: US equities. Some of them have great consistent dividends and are great companies. I think it would be good to have US equities a registered account to avoid the taxes. Guess it depends on the amount of dividend payments too in US equities. 🙂

Good post 🙂

Yes, owning all companies that consistently increase dividends is great, but they are a rare breed. If you hold stocks long enough, some simply can’t keep up. MFC increased for many years, and then ran into a small wall. I’m afraid the same will happen to Sun Life at some point. (I own that, not MFC). Oh well, I figure as long as I’m getting paid, that’s the main thing. Dividends never lie 🙂

young says:

@Financial Cents- I think Sun Life is different though, because Sun Life doesn’t have exposure in the market as much (or at all, i think) like MFC. I like how you said “Dividends Never Lie” that could be like a new personal finance movie title lol! Very catchy 🙂