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Can you recommend a website where I can look up historical dividend payments for a company?

The best place to start is the investor-relations section of the company’s website. Many companies provide historical dividend data going back several years or even decades, and by going directly to the source, you can be assured that the information is accurate.

Morningstar.ca is another good source of dividend data. Enter the stock symbol in the “fund/stock” box, then click on “performance” and “dividends and splits,” and you’ll get a five-year chart of the company’s annual dividend payments. This is a quick way to determine if the company’s dividend has been growing (one of the key things I look for in a stock).

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Below the five-year chart, you’ll find detailed information on each of the company’s quarterly (or monthly) dividend payments − including the declaration, ex-dividend, record and payment dates − over the past five years. (Tip: You have to click on the year to display the information).

I hold units of Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust (REF.UN) in my tax-free savings account (TFSA). What are the tax implications assuming Choice Properties REIT (CHP.UN) completes its proposed acquisition of Canadian REIT?

There would be no tax consequences for an investor who holds Canadian REIT in a TFSA (or other non-taxable account such as a registered retirement savings plan). For an investor who holds Canadian REIT in a non-registered account, the answer is a bit more complex.

Canadian REIT unitholders can elect to receive cash or Choice shares for their units. Because the amounts are subject to proration, some investors will likely get both. For the cash portion, Canadian resident unitholders “will generally be considered to have realized a capital gain or capital loss equal to the amount by which the cash consideration received … exceeds or is less than the adjusted cost base of such units,” Canadian REIT says in the management information circular for the deal.

For an investor who receives shares, the merger qualifies as a “tax-deferred rollover” for Canadian residents, meaning there would be no capital gains tax, at least not immediately. However, the adjusted cost base (ACB) of the Canadian REIT units being exchanged would become the ACB of new Choice units received, so the capital gain (if any) would be captured for tax purposes when the Choice units are ultimately sold.

The merger requires two-thirds approval of votes cast, in person or by proxy, at a special meeting of Canadian REIT unitholders on April 11 in Toronto.

I was reading a recent article of yours about Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. ) and have a question: Does the fact that the company pays dividends in U.S. dollars affect the type of account (registered vs. non-registered) in which an investor should hold the shares?

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Even though Algonquin (AQN) declares dividends in U.S. dollars, its dividends are still eligible for the Canadian dividend tax credit (DTC). So, if you’ve already maxed out your TFSA and RRSP − in which dividends are not taxed − then holding the shares in a non-registered account, where the DTC applies, will at least soften the tax blow. Several other Canadian companies pay U.S. dollar dividends that qualify for the DTC, including Magna International Inc., Constellation Software Inc. and Barrick Gold Corp. If you aren’t sure whether a particular company’s dividends qualify, check the latest dividend announcement or visit the investor-relations section of the company’s website.

You recently wrote about reinvested or “phantom” distributions“ and the need for investors to add these amounts to the adjusted cost base (ACB) of their exchange-traded funds (ETF). Don’t the “book value” or “average cost” figures provided by discount brokers already include this information?

Not necessarily. In some cases, the broker’s numbers may be accurate, but I’ve also seen instances where they are not. My broker, for example, includes return of capital (which reduces the ACB) in its “average cost” figures but doesn’t mention reinvested distributions (which increase the ACB). My broker also says on its website that “calculating average cost for the purposes of income tax is the responsibility of the client,” and that numbers it provides are “for informational purposes only.” That’s why I recommend that you look up reinvested distributions on the ETF provider’s website and calculate the ACB yourself, just to be sure you don’t pay more tax than you have to.

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