Monthly Archives: May 2016

June’s Pick

To be honest, we had a hard time settling on a stock pick this month. There was a couple of companies at the top but a couple of really tempting, slightly more risky options, too. If you’re looking for something with a little greater reward we still like Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (TSE: POT) and you could also think about Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB). Beware though, with greater reward comes greater risk. Potash Corp did cut their dividend in April but they’re still paying an attractive 5.9%. Add to that the fact that we think the world will need fertilizer again in the future and this stock has room for growth. Since we started talking about them a few months ago, Williams Companies has risen from $11 to $21, an increase of about 90%. Not bad if we do say so ourselves. As the uncertainty caused by low oil prices levels out, their share price will continue to rise and they’re paying a juicy 12% dividend in the meantime. Remember that means even if the price was flat for a year you could sell it and walk away with a 12% return.

But enough avoiding the issue. The idea is to recommend a single stock each month, so let’s get to it. There’s something inherently uncomfortable about repeatedly recommending the same stock but one strength of our scoring system is its ability to remove subjective biases like that. That said, we’re suggesting General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) – again.

After we assigned the scores this month there was a three-way tie between General Motors, IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD). Although it scored high in other categories, GILD offers a dividend of only 1.9% which is well below our threshold of 3.5% so we eliminated it right away. If this feels a little like deja vu it’s because we had a tie between GM and IBM last month too. Our reasons for choosing GM again are going to read just like last month as well. The 4.7 P/E for GM is significantly better than IBM’s 11.5 which puts GM at a better price even though IBM produces more income per share with an EPS of 13.3 versus GM’s 6.7. The dividend return for GM is still nearly a full percentage point higher than for IBM (4.9% and 3.7%, respectively). Remember, this blog is still about dividend income so GM gets the nod once again.

Like we said last month, you can’t go wrong with either of these. Buy whichever you want – or both – and sleep at night.

The Scoop on Dividend Taxes

Dividends are a great way to build passive income for a few reasons, one of which is the preferential tax treatment they get. Just knowing they enjoy this benefit is enough for some people, but others like to dig into how things work. If you’re a bit of a tax nerd, this post is for you!

dividends_taxRemember that a dividend is a portion of the earnings of a corporation that it pays to its shareholders. Corporations have already paid tax on the earnings they distribute as dividends so governments in Canada and the U.S. give shareholders a tax break on dividend income to avoid it being taxed twice. In Canada, dividends are grossed-up and qualify for a tax credit to “credit” you for the tax already paid by the company. In the U.S., dividends are taxed at a considerably lower rate than regular income to reflect the tax already paid by the corporation.

Here’s how it works in Canada. You have to convert the amount of your dividend to what it was worth before the corporation paid tax on it. This is done by grossing it up by 38% (i.e., multiplying it by 1.38). Next, you figure out how much tax you would expect to pay on that grossed-up amount, based on your marginal tax rate. Last, you subtract the dividend tax credit, which represents the tax already paid by the corporation. The net result is the tax you actually have to pay. For 2015, the federal tax credit in Canada is 15.02% of your taxable amount of dividends while the provincial credits vary by province (find them here). Note that we’re only discussing “eligible dividends;” that is, those paid by public corporations in Canada.

Let’s look at an example for Josh, who lives in Ontario. In 2015, Josh received $3,500 in eligible dividends. His grossed up amount is 3,500 x 1.38 = $4,830. Josh has to report this amount on Line 120 of his tax return. Because of Josh’s employment income, his dividends are taxed at the 22% marginal rate and his provincial tax rate in Ontario is 9.15%. Josh’s federal and provincial tax payable would be $1,062.60 and $441.95, respectively, for a total of $1,504.55. Now he subtracts his federal tax credit of $725.47 (4830 x 15.02%) and his provincial credit of $483 (4830 x 10% – the Ontario rate) to find his actual tax liability is only $296.08. This is an effective rate of 8.4%!!! (296/3500)

The math looks like this:

Dividends $3,500.00 (A)
Grossed up amount (A x 1.38) $4,830.00 (B)
Federal tax (B x 0.22) $1,062.60 (D)
Provincial tax (B x 0.0915) $441.95 (E)
Federal dividend tax credit (B x 0.1502) $725.47 (F)
Provincial dividend tax credit (B x 0.10) $483.00 (G)
Tax payable (D + E – F – G) $296.08

In the U.S. the situation is a little different in that there is a period of time (called the holding period) that you must own the stock before you have to pay tax on dividends you receive. Because we tend to hold shares for the long term we’ll ignore this restriction. Other than that, the calculation is actually easier than is the case in Canada. Dividends are tax-free for amounts in the 10% and 15% brackets, taxed at 15% for those in the 25% up to 35% tax brackets and taxed at a 20% rate for people above the 35% tax bracket.

Here’s an example: Rebecca’s salary puts her in the 25% tax bracket and she collected $4300 in dividends in 2015. While her other income is taxed at 25%, her dividends would be taxed at only 15%.

I should point out that if your shares are held inside a tax-free investment vehicle (like a RSP or TFSA in Canada or an IRA in the U.S.) the tax-preferred status is irrelevant because your dividends are sheltered from tax anyway. The bottom line is that dividends enjoy preferential tax treatment and paying less tax is a great way to build wealth!

May’s Pick

It’s time to announce the results of our stock analysis for May and there won’t be any surprises this month. We actually had a tie between two stocks we previously recommended: General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) and International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM). After assigning all the points, both earned a final score of 13. If you’re the type of person that wants a little investment advice but also likes some choice, you’ll be happy with our post this month. In fact, there were some other companies that also scored very well but we like to minimize risk so we’re not recommending those ones. Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (TSE: POT) also scored 13 and is currently trading 46% off their 52-week high while paying an attractive 5.8% dividend. If you don’t mind a little short term uncertainty, buying or increasing a position in POT would be a good move.

Every month we try to simplify things as much as possible so we feel compelled to actually choose a winner in the tie this month. We’re going with GM and here’s why. GM is 17.4% off their 52-week high and IBM is 17.1% off theirs so nothing notable there. We do see a difference in the P/E ratio, however. GM is at 4.8 while IBM is at 11 so, while they’re both similarly depressed from the 52-week high, GM is at a much better price overall, considering the P/E. In other words, their 52-week high should be higher so, technically, they’re on sale at a better price right now. IBM is more profitable on an EPS basis (13 versus 7 for GM) but we’re more interested in looking for a good price on a good company than current profitability. Finally, this is a blog about dividend income so the dividend difference between the two was the most important factor in our decision. The dividend for GM is currently 4.7% while that from IBM is 3.8 – almost a full percentage point difference!

To be honest, we feel both of these are great choices. If you previously bought IBM when we recommended them, it makes sense to buy more shares of that company to increase your DRIP (or compounding) potential. The same could be said for GM if you previously bought them. If you’d like to increase the diversity in your portfolio, buy the one you don’t already own. It’s really a no lose situation so whichever you choose you can sleep at night.