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Calculating Taxes when Day Trading in Canada

Last updated: Mar. 16, 2021 

Reporting online day trading income?

A growing number of Canadians manage their own retirement portfolio and trade online every day.

When you sell a security and make a profit, you realize a capital gain. For most Canadians, the taxable capital gain is determined by multiplying the capital gain amount (profit) with the year’s inclusion rate.

If you’re a day trader that makes a living buying and selling equities, the way you calculate taxes can be a lot more confusing. Do you report transactions as business income instead of capital gains or losses?

It will make a big impact on your taxes. Not knowing how to report your day trading earnings or losses could also result in an audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Are You a Day Trader or Investor?

First, you need to determine if you’re a day trader or investor. It all comes down to how often you trade, how long you hold the equities, and the amount of time you spend trading.

If you buy and sell equities as an investment, you’re an investor and should report any profits or losses on a capital account.

If, on the other hand, you day trade like a securities dealer and buy and sell on a daily basis with the aim of making a short-term profit on small price fluctuations, any gains should be reported as business income.

Investor Income and Losses

Determining whether you’re a day trader or investor will have a big impact on how much you pay in taxes.

If you’re an investor (infrequent trades with long-term investing horizon), you’ll treat any profits as a capital gain. This means 50% of your gains are taxed at your marginal tax rate.

A capital loss can only be used to reduce or eliminate capital gains. On top of that, trading fees are not tax deductible.

Despite the obvious advantage to declaring capital gains as a non-professional trader, there are some drawbacks.

In particular, the “superficial loss rule,” or the “30-day rule.” If an investor, spouse, or company they control buys back an asset, or similar asset, within 30 days of selling it, they cannot claim the capital loss for tax purposes.

This rule ends up costing investors a lot in taxes each year.

Business Income and Losses

For day traders, any profits and losses are treated as business income, not capital.

As a result, you can’t use the 50% capital gains rate on any profits. Instead, 100% of all profits are taxed at your current tax rate.

At the same time, 100% of any losses are deductible too; that can be applied to other sources of income as well.

For example, if you report an annual trading loss of $15,000 this year and you also run a business, you can deduct your trading losses against other sources of income. This includes money made from your other business, which can significantly reduce the amount you pay in taxes.

If you’re a full-time day trader, you can also claim expenses related to your trading.

Just like with any other business, you need to have receipts for all the items you declare on your tax returns.

The CRA will not accept these kinds of deductions without receipts.

Deductions can include anything from taking stock market trading courses, to educational resources, the purchase of a computer, and your monthly internet bill.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for general reference only. FBC recommends that you consult with a firm that specializes in providing tax consultation services for day trading.  

FBC Helping Canadian Business Owners Reduce Their Tax Burden

Since 1952, FBC has been working exclusively with farmers, business owners, and self-employed contractors. For more than 65 years, we've helped tens of thousands of Members from across the country with their unique tax preparation, business planning, bookkeeping and financial planning needs.