When it’s time to file taxes, fishermen have two choices for reporting their income for reporting fishing income:

Reporting Fishing Income: Important Considerations for Tax Filing

When it comes to tax time, fishermen have two options for reporting their income:

the cash method and the accrual method. Under the cash method, income is reported in the year it is received. On the other hand, the accrual method requires reporting income in the year it is earned, along with taking inventory of fish, fish by-products, and supplies at year-end. Switching between these methods requires proper documentation and approval from the CRA.

Reporting Fishing Income

T-Slips and Other Documents

While you may receive a T4 slip for certain types of income, it’s crucial to report all fishing income, regardless of whether you have a slip or not. This includes income from direct sales of fish to the public, retailers, or restaurants, as well as sales on the high seas. Additionally, income from Irish moss, seaweed, kelp sales, and services such as boat repairs, trucking fish, and selling fishing gear and bait must be included. Any bonuses from boat owners and buyers are also considered taxable income. If you receive designated employer income for EI purposes, it will be reported on T4 slips like any other occupation.

Reporting Dividends, Grants, and Subsidies

If you’re a member of a co-operative store and receive dividends based on your spending, personal shopping dividends are not taxable. However, if the dividends are related to your fishing business, they should be included in your business income. Grants, subsidies, and rebates follow the same reporting guidelines.

Claiming Capital Property

When it comes to capital property, such as purchasing a new boat, the money spent should be deducted from the capital cost of the property rather than being included in income. For instance, rebates on boat construction or engine purchases reduce the capital cost of the boat. Rebates for supplies, fuel, and insurance can either be deducted from corresponding expenses or included in income.

Allowable Expenses

As a fisherman, you can deduct reasonable expenses incurred to earn income. Avoid duplicating expense claims, as each expense can only be deducted once, even if there are multiple ways to claim it. While most expense claims are straightforward, some have special rules. For example, offshore fishermen can deduct crew food expenses, while inshore fishermen can only claim food purchased for employees if they were at sea for over 36 hours or if the meals are considered taxable benefits. Gear like knives, small supplies, and fishing clothing can be claimed, but personal clothing and gear are not deductible expenses.

Prepaid expenses have specific rules.

Cash-basis fishermen cannot reduce their income for a particular taxation year if the expenses are related to future years. However, prepaid expenses for the current and subsequent years can be deducted accordingly. Renewing annual licenses is an expense, while buying a license is considered an eligible capital expenditure that can be amortized over time. Nets and traps fall under capital property, allowing for a Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) claim or the use of the inventory method.

Reporting Fishing Income

Using Investment Tax Credits

Fishermen in Atlantic Canada may be eligible for an investment tax credit of 10% for new capital assets primarily purchased for their fishing business, including vessels, nets, traps, and buildings on owned or leased land. The credit can be used to reduce current-year federal tax, carried forward for up to three years, and any remaining balance can be requested as a 40% refund. Unused credits can also be carried forward for up to 20 years. It’s important to note that claiming investment tax credits will reduce the capital cost of the property, and this adjustment should be made before calculating the capital cost allowance for the following year.

Also read: Tax Planning Strategies for Canadian Individuals and Families

Navigating the Waters: Reporting Fishing Income Made Easy

Fishing can be both a passion and a livelihood for many individuals, but when it comes to reporting fishing income, things can get a bit murky. Whether you’re a commercial fisherman or an avid angler who occasionally sells your catch, understanding how to report fishing income is crucial for staying compliant with tax regulations. In this guide, we’ll dive into the ins and outs of reporting fishing income, providing clarity and peace of mind for anglers of all stripes.

  1. Understanding Types of Fishing Income:

    • Commercial fishing income: Exploring income generated from selling fish commercially.
    • Recreational fishing income: Income earned from tournaments, guide services, or selling excess catch.
  2. Keeping Accurate Records:

    • Importance of maintaining detailed records of fishing activities, including sales receipts, invoices, and expenses.
    • Utilizing accounting software or spreadsheets to track income and expenses throughout the year.
  3. Reporting Commercial Fishing Income:

    • Forms required for reporting commercial fishing income, such as Schedule C (Form 1040) for sole proprietors.
    • Deductible expenses: Identifying eligible business expenses, such as fuel, gear, maintenance, and boat depreciation.
  4. Reporting Recreational Fishing Income:

    • Determining if recreational fishing income constitutes a hobby or a business for tax purposes.
    • Reporting income from fishing tournaments, guide services, or selling fish caught recreationally.
  5. Tax Considerations for Fishing Income:

    • Understanding self-employment tax obligations for commercial fishermen.
    • Exploring tax deductions and credits available to fishermen, such as the commercial fishing tax credit or fuel tax credits.
  6. State-Specific Regulations:

    • Researching state-specific regulations and reporting requirements for fishing income.
    • Consulting with a tax professional familiar with local fishing industry practices and tax laws.
  7. Quarterly Estimated Taxes:

    • Exploring requirements for making quarterly estimated tax payments for fishing income.
    • Calculating estimated tax payments based on projected annual income and tax liabilities.
  8. Compliance and Audit Preparedness:

    • Tips for staying organized and prepared for tax audits related to fishing income.
    • Keeping documentation and records organized and readily accessible in case of an audit.


Reporting fishing income doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With proper record-keeping, understanding of tax regulations, and compliance with reporting requirements, anglers can navigate the waters of tax season with confidence. By following this guide and seeking assistance from tax professionals when needed, fishermen can ensure that their financial affairs are in shipshape order, allowing them to focus on what they do best—casting lines and reeling in the catch of the day.