Benefits and allowances

Your employee is considered to receive a benefit if you pay for or give something that is personal in nature:

  • directly to your employee; or
  • to a person who does not deal at arm’s length with the employee (such as the employee’s spouse, child, or sibling).

A benefit is a good or service you give, or arrange for a third party to give, to your employee such as free use of property that you own. A benefit includes an allowance or a reimbursement of an employee’s personal expense.

An allowance is a limited amount decided in advance that you pay to your employee on top of salary or wages, to help the employee pay for certain anticipated expenses without having him or her support the expenses. An allowance can be calculated based on distance or time or on some other basis such as motor vehicle allowance using the distance driven or a meal allowance using the type and number of meals per day.

A reimbursement is an amount you pay to your employee to repay actual expenses he or she incurred while carrying out the duties of employment. The employee has to keep proper records to support the expenses and give them to the employer.

There are many types of benefits and allowances that you may have to include in an employee's income. Whether or not they are taxable depends on the type of benefit or allowance and the reason an employee receives it.

To determine if the benefit is taxable, see Chapters 2 to 4 of Guide T4130, Employers’ Guide – Taxable Benefits and Allowances.

The benefit may be paid in cash (such as a meal allowance or reimbursement of personal cellular phone charges), or provided in a manner other than cash, such as a parking space or a gift certificate. For more information and examples, go to Pensionable and Insurable Earnings.

The manner in which you pay or provide the benefit to your employee will affect the payroll deductions you have to withhold.

Calculate the value of the benefit

Once you determine that the benefit is taxable, you need to calculate the value of the specific benefit.

The value of a benefit is generally its fair market value (FMV). This is the price that can be obtained in an open market between two individuals dealing at arm's length. The cost to you for the particular property, good, or service may be used if it reflects the FMV of the item or service.

You must be able to support the value if you are asked.

Add the taxable benefits and allowances to the employee's income each pay period to determine the total amount that is subject to source deductions. The benefits and allowances may be subject to CPP contributions, EI premiums, and income tax deductions.

Types of benefits and allowances

To find out if benefits and allowances are taxable and how they are declared on T4 or T4A slips, see the Benefits and allowances alphabetical index.

Forms and publications

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