Corporate-Owned Life Insurance (COLI) is one strategy that has gained significant attention in financial planning and wealth management. SmartWealth Financial Incorporated stands out as a provider offering tailored corporate-owned life insurance solutions to meet the specific financial needs of Canadian businesses.

In this comprehensive review, we will review corporate life insurance and explore its benefits, tax advantages, and its role in various aspects of business planning.

Why Choose Corporate-Owned Life Insurance?

Corporate-owned life insurance provides a unique avenue for businesses in Canada to protect key individuals, grow assets, supplement retirement cash flow, and leave a higher net estate to heirs.

The ability to pay premiums through the corporation unleashes the power of tax-advantaged dollars. As corporations enjoy lower tax rates, life insurance becomes a cost-effective solution compared to individual purchases.

Protect Your Business

One of the primary purposes of COLI is to safeguard your business against the financial implications of losing a key employee, shareholder, or manager-owner due to premature death.

The death benefit paid to the corporation can be utilized to recruit and train a replacement, ensuring the continuity of business operations.

Grow Your Assets


Corporate-owned life insurance provides tax-advantaged asset growth, allowing the funds within participating whole life and universal life policies to grow tax-deferred. This presents an opportunity for businesses to build wealth within the policy while enjoying exemptions from passive investment rules.

Supplement Your Retirement Cash Flow

Wealth accumulated within a corporate-owned cash-value life insurance policy can be accessed tax-free, offering a valuable resource for supplementing retirement income.

The flexibility to make direct withdrawals or leverage the policy for tax-free loans provides strategic options for businesses to enhance their corporate retirement strategy.

Maximize Tax Benefits

Premiums are paid with pre-tax corporate dollars, making COLI more cost-effective than individual policies. Corporations also enjoy lower tax rates. COLI death benefits are income tax-free to the corporation. This allows the full face value to be put to more profitable uses.

Understanding Corporate-Owned Life Insurance: What Is Corporate-Owned Life Insurance?

Corporate-owned life insurance is a policy owned and paid for by a privately-held corporation, insuring the life of a key employee, director, or shareholder. This strategy is particularly beneficial for professionals operating through a corporate entity, such as:

  • Owners of Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPC).

The death benefits, paid tax-free to the corporation, can be utilized for various purposes, including:

  • funding key-person replacements
  • buy-sell agreements
  • paying off corporate debts
  • providing survivor benefits through the Capital Dividend Account.

Tax Advantages of Corporate-Owned Life Insurance


Contributing corporate after-tax dollars to fund life insurance policies results in substantial tax savings over time. While these contributions are not tax-deductible, the death benefit payout remains tax-free, making it a tax-efficient strategy for businesses.

Corporate-Owned Life Insurance vs. Passive Investments

While corporate life insurance is commonly recognized for its tax-efficient estate planning benefits, it also serves as an excellent vehicle for building wealth within a privately held Canadian corporation.

In contrast to changes in rules for corporate passive investment income, corporate-owned life insurance remains exempt from new passive income regulations.

Tax-Advantaged Wealth Building

Cash values within a corporate-owned life insurance policy do not impact the corporation’s small business deduction, providing a crucial advantage over corporate passive investments.

This exemption makes corporate-owned life insurance an attractive option for businesses seeking tax-advantaged and tax-deferred wealth accumulation.

The Corporate Retirement Strategy

A distinguishing feature of corporate-owned life insurance is its role in corporate retirement planning. The accumulated wealth within the policy can be leveraged in two primary ways:

Direct Withdrawals from Cash Values

Corporations can withdraw funds from the policy tax-free up to the adjusted cost base, offering a potential source of tax-free income. However, withdrawals beyond the adjusted cost base are subject to taxation.

Pledged as Security for Tax-Free Loans


By pledging the policy as security, corporations can secure tax-free loans. This strategy allows the funds and death benefit of the life insurance policy to continue growing, while the borrowed funds support the shareholder’s retirement. Careful consideration of tax implications and structuring is essential to optimize this strategy.

Corporate Life Insurance Types

Corporate-owned life insurance can take various forms, including term life insurance, whole life insurance, universal life insurance, or term to 100.

To maximize benefits, it is recommended to structure the policy as participating whole life or universal life insurance, both allowing tax-advantaged wealth accumulation without triggering passive income rules.

Corporate-Owned Life Insurance Purposes

Corporate-owned life insurance serves multiple purposes, making it a valuable asset for businesses. Some key purposes include:

Funding Buy-Sell Agreements

COLI can fund buy-out agreements between partners/shareholders, ensuring a smooth transition in case of a partner’s death.

Key-Person Insurance

Protecting against the loss of a key employee, key-person insurance provides financial support to recruit and train a replacement.

Estate/Succession Planning

Designed to benefit business owner’s heirs, this type of insurance facilitates the smooth transfer of benefits to the next generation.

Corporate Retirement Strategy


An excellent tool for building tax-free wealth within a corporation, COLI supports retirement planning through direct withdrawals or leveraging for tax-free loans.

Fund Taxes at Death

COLI can be used to pay off tax liabilities, ensuring that assets are secure from liquidation to settle outstanding taxes at the business owner’s death.

Estate Equalization

In situations where not all children are involved in the business, COLI can provide funds to equalize the business owner’s legacy among heirs.

Leave a Legacy

For businesses facing liquidation or sale after the owner’s death, COLI provides funds to leave a lasting legacy to the next generation.

Final Thoughts

SmartWealth Financial Incorporated offers a comprehensive suite of corporate-owned life insurance solutions, aligning with the diverse needs of Canadian businesses. As evidenced by the numerous benefits and strategic applications discussed, corporate-owned life insurance is a versatile and powerful tool for businesses looking to secure their future, protect key individuals, and build tax-advantaged wealth.

By understanding the nuances of COLI and its varied applications, businesses can make informed decisions to optimize their financial strategies. To explore further and implement corporate-owned life insurance tailored to your specific needs, contact SmartWealth Financial.