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click here to access Norm's Tips and Traps 4Q 2019 saveutax.com


click here to access Norm's 3Q Tips and Traps

saveutax.com


 Please click here to see the SaveUTax.com 2018 Federal Budget Commentary


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The past 18 months have been characterized by a steady stream of mostly bad news, relating to the pandemic and its harmful consequences. The human cost of the pandemic, in terms of illness and death, is paramount. But the reality is also that much economic and financial harm resulted, at an individual, community, and national level, as businesses closed and individuals lost jobs or saw their hours — and consequently their income — reduced.


Getting a post-secondary education, especially where that education includes graduate school or professional training, is an expensive undertaking. According to Statistics Canada, the average undergraduate tuition cost for the 2020-21 academic year was $6,580. Costs for graduate programs, particularly professional training, can go much higher, reaching as much as $50,000 per year. And those costs don’t factor in necessary expenditures on textbooks and other ancillary costs, to say nothing of general living expenses, like rent, transportation, and food.


There are a number of income sources available to Canadians in retirement. Those who participated in the work force during their adult life will have contributed to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and will be able to receive CPP retirement benefits as early as age 60. Earning employment or self-employment income will also have entitled those individuals to contribute to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP). A shrinking minority of Canadians will be able to look forward to receiving benefits from an employer-sponsored pension plan.


To win elections, politicians need votes. And to run the election campaigns needed to garner those votes, they need an organization, volunteers, and money — a lot of money. To wage the current federal election, the major political parties will need to raise and spend millions of dollars. Their task of raising that money is undoubtedly made somewhat easier by the fact that Canadian taxpayers who donate money to political parties or candidates can obtain some tax benefit from doing so.


Although it’s doubtful that anyone does so with any great degree of enthusiasm, each spring millions of Canadians sit down to complete their annual tax return for the previous calendar year (or, more often, they pay someone else to do it for them).


Canadian drivers are used to seeing gas prices rise each spring as the weather gets warmer and more people take to the road for day trips, weekends at the cottage, and annual holidays. This year, that trend is accelerated for several reasons. The first, of course, is that as pandemic restrictions ease and the economy opens up, there are more and more reasons to be on the road. As well, employees who have worked from home for the past 16 months are starting to return to the daily commute, either part-time or full-time.


By the time August arrives, nearly all Canadians have filed their income tax returns for the previous year, received a Notice of Assessment from the tax authorities with respect to that return, and either spent their refund or, more grudgingly, paid any balance of tax owing.


One or two generations ago, retirement was an event. Typically, an individual would leave the work force completely at age 65, and begin collecting Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits along with, in many cases, a pension from an employer-sponsored registered pension plan.


Two quarterly newsletters have been added—one dealing with personal issues, and one dealing with corporate issues.


There’s a lot that is still unknown about the upcoming 2021-22 academic year for post-secondary students. It may be that such students will be back on campus, living in residence and once again attending classes in lecture halls. Less optimistically, they may (again!) be learning online and living off campus, or still at home with their parents. Most likely, they will be experiencing some combination of the two.


As Canada begins to (slowly) transition back to a pre-pandemic way of life, one of the many opportunities which did not exist last summer is once again a possibility — that of sending the kids to summer camp. In most cases, Canadian children of school age have not had the opportunity to interact with their peers on a regular basis for nearly a year and a half. At the same time, parents across Canada have been coping with a situation in which they must work from home while simultaneously helping the kids with online learning. For both kids and parents, the possibility of going to summer camp must be particularly welcome this year.


Between February 8 and June 21 of this year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) received and processed just under 29 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2020 tax year. The sheer volume of returns and the processing turnaround timelines mean that the CRA does not (and cannot possibly) do a manual review of the information provided in a return prior to issuing the Notice of Assessment. Rather, all returns are scanned by the Agency’s computer system and a Notice of Assessment is then issued.


According to Statistics Canada there were, as of July 2020, just under 7 million Canadians over the age of 65. While the age at which an individual retires can vary a lot (from “Freedom 55” to those who are still working in their 70s), it’s reasonable to assume that a significant percentage of those 7 million Canadians is fully or partially retired. It’s also a reasonable assumption that retirement looks a lot different for them than it did for their parents.


In this year’s Budget, the federal government announced the creation of a program — the First-time Home Buyers’ Incentive, or FTHBI, to provide assistance to individuals seeking to enter the housing market. Under that FTHBI, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) (an agency of the federal government) will add a specified amount to the down payment made on a home purchase by a qualifying buyer, with the effect of reducing the amount of the monthly mortgage payment required of the new home owner.


Raising children is expensive and, in recognition of that fact, the federal government has, for more than half a century, provided financial assistance to parents to help with those costs. That assistance has ranged from monthly Family Allowance payments received by families during the 1960s to its current iteration, the Canada Child Benefit.


An increasing number of Canada’s baby boomers are moving into retirement with each passing year and, for most of those baby boomers, retirement looks a lot different than it did for their parents. First of all, as life expectancy continues to increase, baby boomers can expect to spend a greater proportion of their life in retirement than their parents did. Second, the financial picture for baby boomers is likely to be different. Many of their parents benefitted, in retirement, from an employer sponsored pension plan, which ensured a monthly payment of income for the remainder of their lives. Now, such pension plans and the dependable monthly income they provide are, especially for boomers who spent their working lives in the private sector, more the exception than the rule. Where, however, baby boomers have the “advantage” over their parents in retirement, it’s in the value of their homes. Increases in residential property values over the past quarter century in nearly every market in Canada have meant that for many Canadians who are retired or approaching retirement, their homes – or more specifically, the equity they have built up in those homes – represents their single most valuable asset.


Most taxpayers sit down to do their annual tax return, or wait to hear from their tax return preparer, with some degree of trepidation. In most cases taxpayers don’t know, until their return is completed, what the “bottom line” will be, and it’s usually a case of hoping for the best and fearing the worst.


The Old Age Security program is the only aspect of Canada’s retirement income system which does not require a direct contribution from recipients of program benefits. Rather, the OAS program is funded through general tax revenues, and eligibility to receive OAS is based solely on Canadian residency. Anyone who is 65 years of age or older and has lived in Canada for at least 40 years after the age of 18 is eligible to receive the maximum benefit. For the first quarter of 2019 (January to March 2019), that maximum monthly benefit is $601.45. 


Two quarterly newsletters have been added—one dealing with personal issues, and one dealing with corporate issues.


The fact that debt levels of Canadian households have been increasing over the past decade and a half can’t really be called news anymore. In particular, the ratio of debt-to-household-income, which stood at 93% in 2005, has risen steadily since then and, as of the third quarter of 2018, reached (another) new record of 177.5%. In other words, the average Canadian household owed $1.78 for every dollar of disposable (after-tax) income. (The Statistics Canada publication reporting those findings can be found on the StatsCan website at https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/181214/dq181214a-eng.htm.)


The Canada Pension Plan contribution rate for 2019 is increased to 5.1% of pensionable earnings for the year.


Dollar amounts on which individual non-refundable federal tax credits for 2019 are based, and the actual tax credit claimable, will be as follows.


The indexing factor for federal tax credits and brackets for 2018 is 2.2%. The following federal tax rates and brackets will be in effect for individuals for the 2019 tax year.


Each new tax year brings with it a listing of tax payment and filing deadlines, as well as some changes with respect to tax planning strategies. Some of the more significant dates and changes for individual taxpayers for 2019 are listed below.


The following tax changes are in effect January 1, 2019.


The holiday season is usually costly, but few Canadians are aware that those costs can include increased income tax liability resulting from holiday gifts and celebrations. It doesn’t seem entirely in the spirit of the season to have to consider possible tax consequences when attending holiday celebrations and receiving gifts; however, our tax system extends its reach into most areas of the lives of Canadians, and the holidays are no exception. Fortunately, the possible negative tax consequences are confined to a minority of fact situations and relationships, usually involving employers and employees, and are entirely avoidable with a little advance planning.


Two quarterly newsletters have been added—one dealing with personal issues, and one dealing with corporate issues.


Getting a post-secondary education – or professional training – isn’t inexpensive. Tuition costs can range from as little as $5,000 per year for undergraduate studies to as much as $40,000 in tuition for a year of professional education. And those costs don’t factor in necessary expenditures on textbooks and other ancillary costs, to say nothing of general living expenses, like rent, transportation and food.


Most Canadians deal with our tax system only once a year, when preparing the annual tax return. And, while that return – the T1 Individual Income Tax Return – may be only four pages long, the information on those four pages is supported by 13 supplementary federal schedules, dealing with everything from the calculation of the tax-free gain on the sale of a principal residence to the determination of required Canada Pension Plan contributions by self-employed taxpayers.


Anyone who has ever tried to reduce their overall personal or household debt knows that doing so, no matter how disciplined one’s approach, can seem like a one step forward, two steps back proposition. It sometimes seems that, just as measurable progress is achieved in one area (an extra payment is made on the mortgage), unexpected costs in another area (a significant car repair bill) push up the level of debt elsewhere (e.g., credit card debt).


As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, many Canadians start thinking about spending a few days or weeks (or even longer) of the upcoming winter somewhere warmer. For some, that means going south for the holidays, while for others a January or February escape from winter has more appeal. And some Canadians, generally “snowbird” seniors who have retired, will spend most of the winter in a warmer climate.


The daily commute to and from work is, generally, everybody’s least favourite part of the work day. In recent years that commute has gotten longer and longer as many Canadians, especially those working in large urban centers, have moved further and further away from their workplaces in search of affordable family housing.


Tax scams have been around, probably, for about as long as Canada has had a tax system. They also have a tendency to proliferate at certain times of the year — often during tax return filing and assessment season, when it wouldn’t necessarily strike taxpayers as unusual to receive a communication purporting to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), with a message regarding that person’s taxes — whether in relation to a tax refund or an amount of tax owing.


For all but a very fortunate few, buying a home means having to obtain financing for the portion of the purchase price not covered by a down payment. For most buyers, especially first-time buyers, that means taking out a conventional mortgage from a financial institution.


By the middle of May 2018, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had processed just over 26 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2017 tax year. Just over 14 million of those returns resulted in a refund to the taxpayer, while about 5.5 million returns filed and processed required payment of a tax balance by the taxpayer. Finally, about 4.4 million returns were what are called “nil” returns — returns where no tax is owing and no refund claimed, but the taxpayer is filing in order to provide income information which will be used to determine his or her eligibility for tax credit payments (like the federal Canada Child Benefit or the HST credit )


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