Filing Your Return -> Stocks, Bonds etc. -> Capital Gains and Losses -> Capital Losses
Income Tax Act s. 3(b), 111(1)(b), 111(2)
Capital losses can normally only be used to reduce or eliminate capital gains. They cannot be used to reduce other income. If you have capital losses that exceed capital gains in the current year, you can (but don't have to) carry back the losses to any of the 3 preceding taxation years to be deducted against capital gains in those years. Capital losses can also be carried forward indefinitely. The only time they can be used to reduce other income is in the year of a taxpayer's death, or the immediately preceding year. At this time, 1/2 (50%) of the capital loss would be used to reduce other income. For more on this topic, see the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) interpretation bulletin IT232R3 - Losses - Their Deductibility in the Loss Year or Other Years (Archived) paragraph 30.
A loss on shares or debt may be considered a business investment loss instead of a capital loss, in certain circumstances. See our link below to the article on business investment losses.
Some capital losses may be considered superficial losses, and disallowed. Also, losses on transfers of shares to an RRSP, TFSA, DPSP or RDSP are not deductible.
Capital Losses on the Tax Return
Your capital gains and losses must be recorded on the tax return for the year in which the losses occurred. This applies even when the losses exceed the gains, and cannot be used in the current year. These losses will then be available to use in a future tax year.
Current year capital gains and losses are reported on Schedule 3 when filing your tax return. When allowable capital losses exceed taxable capital gains in a year, the difference is the net capital loss for the year.
To carry back your current year net capital losses to prior years, you would file form T1A - Request for loss carryback with your tax return.
If you want to revise a previous year's return in which you should have reported capital losses, you would file form T1Adj. See our article on changing your tax return.
Capital Losses Carried Forward Complications
Be aware that when capital losses carried forward are used to reduce capital gains in a subsequent year, the capital gains may still cause an increase in tax. This is because there are tax credits, such as the medical expense tax credit and age amount tax credit, as well as clawbacks of Old Age Security benefits and employment insurance benefits, that are based on:
Some income-tested benefits, such as the GST/HST tax credit, and the Child Tax Benefit, are also calculated based on line 23600.
See our article on how to calculate Total Income For Tax Purposes, Net Income For Tax Purposes, and Taxable Income. If possible, it may be best to dispose of some investments with capital gains to offset those capital losses so they don't have to be carried forward.
See Capital Gains Can Increase Your OAS Clawback - even if you have capital losses carried forward that will completely eliminate the capital gains.
Capital Losses on the Notice of Assessment
If you have unused net capital losses from previous years, the amount will be shown on your latest assessment notice from CRA. The amount shown on the assessment notice is the net capital loss, which in recent years has been 1/2 (inclusion rate) of the capital loss. In order to use some or all of these losses on the current year tax return, you would claim the amount of the net capital loss on line 25300 of your tax return. This amount claimed cannot exceed the amount of taxable capital gains that you are showing on line 12700 of your return.
An allowable capital loss is the capital loss times the inclusion rate for the year in which the loss occurred. The inclusion rates for capital gains and losses have changed over the years. When an inclusion rate change is announced by the federal government, the new rate would usually be effective on or after the day after the announcement. The following table shows the inclusion rates for each period:
Your assessment notice should indicate if your inclusion rate differs from the current inclusion rate of 1/2. For 2000, where there were 3 different rates, your assessment notice should show a combined inclusion rate for all net capital losses of that year.
If the inclusion rate from your net capital losses from previous years is different from the current year inclusion rate, you will have to adjust the amounts to the current year inclusion rate of 1/2. The formula for converting prior net capital losses is
Prior net capital loss ÷ Prior IR x Current IR
For instance, if your net capital loss with a 2/3 inclusion rate was $2,000, and you are using this to offset taxable capital gains with an inclusion rate of 1/2, the adjusted net capital loss to use would be
$2,000 ÷ 2/3 x 1/2 = $1,500
The $1,500 would be entered on line 253 of your tax return, as long as your taxable capital gains on line 127 are at least $1,500.
If you have net capital losses carried forward from 1985 and earlier years, special rules apply. The CRA guide T4037 Capital Gains has a section regarding how to apply your net capital losses of other years to the current tax year, which includes information on pre-1986 losses.
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Tax Tip: It may be better for tax purposes to offset your capital losses with capital gains instead of carrying them forward, if possible! That is, if you have loss investments, sell some to offset the gains.
Revised: July 28, 2021
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