UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The taxation of trust income : some inherent problems and comparative perspectives Johnson, Patricia Anne


The taxation of trust income is subject to inherent problems due to the nature of the trust itself which allows the separation of the legal and equitable interests and the creation of differing equitable interests in income arising from property held in trust. Problematic areas include questions as to whom should be taxed on trust income, when and at what rate persons should be taxed, and on what they should be taxed. Taxation of trust income under Canadian law depends on the nature of the income as currently distributable or as accumulating, and on the nature of the trust as testamentary or inter vivos. Provision is made for the taxation of the trust or of the beneficiary. Certain types of income are permitted to retain their character in the hands of the beneficiary. An attempt to devise a logical system for the taxation of trust income reveals in detail the type of problems inherent in such a system. Conceptual and practical difficulties in determining the appropriate taxpayer, rate, and timing of taxation are considered as is the nature of the beneficial interest and its significance for tax purposes. The Canadian taxation of trust income does not completely resolve these problems. The proposals of the Royal Commission and the current law in the United States and the United Kingdom are compared and contrasted with Canadian law. Differences among the rules of the various systems, reflect differences in the way they deal with the problems inherent in the taxation of trust income. The problems and their Canadian solutions are reviewed in comparison with methods adopted elsewhere. Any change to the existing rules would require a number of interrelated changes. It is not clear that improvements which might be effected are justifiable given the increased complexity attendant on their introduction.

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