Business losses can have a significant impact on a company's financial situation and taxation. Learn how to maximize your tax savings by utilizing business losses strategically in this guide written by the T2inc business tax experts.

We'll walk you through the conditions and strategies for taking advantage of the two types of business losses: deductible business losses and allowable business investment losses (ABIL). Learn the practical difference between each type of business loss.

Deductible business losses and taxation

A business loss occurs when expenses and charges exceed revenues received by a company. This may be due to any number of factors, including economic fluctuations, unsuccessful investments or unforeseen expenses. A deductible business loss is a financial loss incurred by a company over a given period that can be deducted from its taxable income.

Deductible business losses offer companies an opportunity to reduce their taxable income and benefit from tax savings. This can be particularly beneficial for companies going through financial difficulties, since they will be able to offset past losses against future profits.

How to make a business loss tax-deductible

For a business loss to be tax-deductible, certain conditions must be met. These conditions vary among tax jurisdictions, but here are some general points to keep in mind:

  • Commercial activity: The loss must result from a legitimate business or commercial activity. Losses from illegal or non-commercial activities are generally not deductible.
  • Proof of loss: A business must provide adequate documentation to prove the existence and amount of the loss. This can include financial statements, accounting records, invoices and other relevant documents.
  • Time limits: Business losses must generally be reported within a specified period after the end of the fiscal year in which the loss was incurred.

Applicable limitations and restrictions

Although business losses offer tax advantages, there are also limits and restrictions to using them in this way. These limits are designed to prevent abuse. Here are a few examples:

  • Carry-forward limits: In certain cases, business losses can be carried forward and used against future profits for a limited period. There may be limits on the number of carry-forward years allowed: loss against past years (3 years carry-back) and infinite carry-forward years are two examples.
  • Deduction ceilings: Some countries impose ceilings or maximum percentages for the deduction of business losses against taxable income. This means that a business cannot necessarily deduct the entire loss within a single year.
  • Specific activities: Certain types of activities or businesses may be subject to specific rules regarding the deductibility of losses. It is important to consult the tax laws specific to your sector of activity to understand any restrictions that may apply.

Allowable business investment losses (ABIL)

If you own shares in a small business that goes bankrupt or becomes insolvent, you could claim a deductible business investment loss. This means that the value of your shares or debt is considered to be nil and can be reported as a loss on your personal tax return.

You can declare this loss with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), or contact a tax accountant to help you optimize your tax deductions.

Allowable business investment losses: the details

The rules governing the deductibility of business investment losses can vary from one tax jurisdiction to another. Here are some general guidelines on deducting business investment losses:

  • Proper valuation: Business investment losses must be properly valued according to the market value of the investments at the time of the liquidation or sale of the business.
  • Use against capital gains: Business investment losses can be used to offset capital gains realized by the company on other investments. However, specific rules may apply regarding the carry-forward period, and there may also be other limitations.
  • Shares and receivables: ABIL can also be applied to company shares and receivables. Specific criteria will apply.
  • Expert advice: Given the complexity of tax rules and the variability of legal provisions, we recommend consulting a tax advisor for personalized advice.

Strategies for optimizing the use of company losses

Having presented business losses in more detail, let’s look at some practical strategies for optimizing their use.

1. Offset future revenues

Using business losses to offset future income is a common strategy for minimizing their tax impact. When your business incurs a loss, you can carry the loss forward and use it to reduce future profits.

2. Reduce corporate taxes

Another strategy involves using business losses to reduce your business taxes. Depending on the tax rules in your jurisdiction, you may be able to claim a carry-back of business losses and reduce taxes paid in previous years. You could recover some of the taxes already paid and improve your company's current financial situation.

3. Set up a tax plan

Good tax planning is crucial to taking full advantage of business losses. By working with a business accounting professional, you can develop a tax strategy that maximizes the use of business losses to reduce your income taxes.

Optimize your tax position with T2inc

Optimal use of business losses is essential to minimizing tax impact and maximizing tax savings for your company. By working with corporate accounting and taxation experts like T2inc, you can benefit from personalized professional guidance and implement effective business tax management strategies.

T2inc accountants understand the complexities of the Quebec and Canadian tax systems and the regulations specific to your jurisdiction. They can develop customized tax plans that optimize the use of business losses within your business tax strategy. Contact us today to learn more!

Frédéric Roy-Gobeil


As President of T2inc.ca and an entrepreneur at heart, I have founded many start-ups such as delve Labs and T2inc.ca. A former tax specialist at Ernst & Young, I am also a member of the Ordre des comptables professionnels agréés CPA and have a master's degree in taxation from the Université de Sherbrooke. With a passion for the world of entrepreneurship and the growth mindset, I have authored numerous articles and videos on the industry and the business world, as well as on accounting, taxation, financial statements and financial independence.

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