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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.


While most Canadians turn their mind to taxes only in the spring when the annual return must be filed (and then only reluctantly), taxes are a year-round business for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA is busy processing and issuing Notices of Assessment for individual tax returns during the February to June filing season - this year the Agency had, by the third week of July, received and processed just under 30 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2018 tax year.


As the summer starts to wind down, both students returning to their colleges and universities and those just starting their post-secondary education must focus on the details of the upcoming school year – finding a place to live, choosing courses, and perhaps most important, arranging payment of tuition and other education-related bills.


Sometime during the month of July several thousand Canadians will receive an unexpected, unfamiliar, and probably unwelcome piece of correspondence from the Canada Revenue Agency. That correspondence will be an Instalment Reminder advising the recipient of tax payments to be made in September and December of this year.


A generation 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.


The most recent estimate issued by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) is that close to half a million homes will be sold in Canada during 2019. Since that number doesn’t include moves from one rental accommodation to another, or the twice-a-year post-secondary student migration from home to school (and back again), it’s safe to say that well over a half a million Canadians and Canadian families will be faced with the need to plan, organize and pay for some kind of move at least once this year.


In this year’s Budget, the federal government introduced a new program – the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI), to help qualifying first-time home buyers get into the housing market. Under that program 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.


Most Canadians have now filed their individual income tax return for the 2018 tax year and received a Notice of Assessment outlining their tax position for that year. Those who receive a refund will celebrate that fact or, less happily, those who receive a tax bill will pay up the tax amount owed. Both groups of taxpayers are then likely to forget about taxes until it’s tax filing time again in the spring of 2020. The fact is, however, that mid-year is very good time to assess one’s tax position for the current year and is particularly a good idea for taxpayers who have received a large refund or a bill for tax owing.


It’s the financial “achievement” no one wants to have, but Canadians keep setting new records when it comes to the size of their household debt. And, as of the last quarter of 2018, they did so again.

The most recent release of “Mortgage and Consumer Credit Trends” issued by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows that the debt-to-income ratio of Canadians reached 178.5% as of the fourth quarter of 2018. In other words, Canadian households were carrying, on average, $1.78 in debt for every $1 of household income. Just fifteen years previously, in 2005, Canadians held less than $1 of debt for every dollar of household income — the debt to household income ratio was then 93%.


It would be entirely reasonable for Canadians seeking to buy their first home to feel that the odds are very much against them, for a number of reasons. Many of them, especially those in their twenties and thirties, must put together an income from short-term contracts and/or multiple part-time jobs, making it almost impossible to have any certainty of income, over either the short or the long term. Mortgage lenders are understandably reluctant to lend to those who don’t know what their income will be for the current year, much less for future years. As well, increases in home prices over the last decade mean that the average home price in Canada is now $470,000, meaning that a minimum 5% downpayment is just under $25,000, and those who can put together such a down payment will be carrying a mortgage of just under $450,000. The interest rate levied on that mortgage has steadily increased over the past 18 months, with changes in the bank rate. Finally, as of April 2018, the federal government imposed a new mortgage “stress test”, which requires prospective borrowers to qualify for a mortgage at rates in excess of current rates. All in all, there is a “perfect storm” of factors in place which keep younger Canadians from attaining that elusive first step on the property ladder.


By May 20, 2019, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had processed just over 27 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2018 tax year. Just under 17 million of those returns resulted in a refund to the taxpayer, while about 5.5 million resulted in the required payment of a tax balance by the taxpayer.


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


Although virtually no one looks forward to the task, the vast majority of Canadians do file their tax returns, and pay any taxes owed, by the applicable tax payment and filing deadlines each spring. There is, however, a significant minority of Canadians who do not file or pay on a timely basis and, for some, that’s a situation which can go on for years.


As every Canadian driver knows, gas prices seem to rise every spring, seemingly in lockstep with the warmer weather. This year, that annual trend has been given an extra push by the implementation of federal and provincial carbon taxes. As of the end of April, gas prices ranged from $1.19 to $1.56 per litre, depending on the province, and most forecasts call for those prices to increase over the summer.


The deadline for payment of all individual income taxes owed for the 2018 tax year was April 30, 2019. For all individuals except the self-employed and their spouses, that date was also the filing deadline for tax returns for the 2018 tax year. (The self-employed and their spouses have until June 17, 2019 to file.)


For the majority of Canadians, the due date for filing of an individual tax return for the 2018 tax year was Tuesday April 30, 2019. (Self-employed Canadians and their spouses have until Monday June 17, 2019 to get their return filed.) In the best of all possible worlds, the taxpayer, or his or her representative, will have prepared a return that is complete and correct, and filed it on time, and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will issue a Notice of Assessment indicating that the return is “assessed as filed”, meaning that the CRA agrees with the information filed and tax result obtained by the taxpayer. While that’s the outcome everyone is hoping for, it’s a result which can go “off the rails” in any number of ways.


Both changes in the job market and increases in real estate prices over at least the past decade have made the goal of home ownership an elusive or even impossible one for many Canadians, especially younger Canadians.


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.


Our tax system is, for the most part, a mystery to individual Canadians. The rules surrounding income tax are complicated and it can seem that for every rule there is an equal number of exceptions or qualifications. There is, however, one rule which applies to every individual taxpayer in Canada, regardless of location, income, or circumstances, and of which most Canadians are aware. That rule is that income tax owed for a year must be paid, in full, on or before April 30 of the following year. This year, that means that individual income taxes owed for 2018 must be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on or before Tuesday, April 30, 2019 — no exceptions and, absent extraordinary circumstances, no extensions.


By the time most Canadians sit down to organize their various tax slips and receipts and undertake to complete their tax return for 2018, the most significant opportunities to minimize the tax bill for the year are no longer available. Most such tax planning or saving strategies, in order to be effective for 2018, must have been implemented by the end of that calendar year. The major exception to that is, of course, the making of registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions, but even that had to be done on or before March 1, 2019 in order to be deducted on the return for 2018.


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. 


Each year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) publishes a statistical summary of the tax filing patterns of Canadians during the previous filing season. Those statistics for the 2018 show that the vast majority of Canadian individual income tax returns — nearly 87%, or almost 26 million returns — were filed online, using one or the other of the CRA’s web-based filing methods. The remaining 13% of returns were, for the most part, paper-filed, and a very small percentage (0.1%) were filed using the File My Return service, in which returns are filed by telephone.


For many years now, there has been a persistent tax scam operating in Canada in which Canadians are contacted, usually by phone, by someone who falsely identifies himself or herself as being a representative of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The taxpayer is told that money — sometimes a substantial amount of money — is owed to the government. The identifier for this particular scam is that the caller insists that the money owed must be paid immediately (usually by wire transfer or pre-paid credit card) and, if payment is not made right away, significant negative consequences will follow, including immediate arrest or seizure of assets, confiscation of the taxpayer’s Canadian passport, or deportation.


While Canadian taxpayers must prepare and file the same form – the T1 Income Tax and Benefit Return – every spring, that return form is never the same from one year to the next. The one constant in tax is change, and every year taxpayers sit down to face a different tax return form than they dealt with the previous year.


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.)


Sometime during the month of February, millions of Canadians will receive mail from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). That mail, a “Tax Instalment Reminder”, will set out the amount of instalment payments of income tax to be paid by the recipient taxpayer by March 15 and June 17 of this year.


For most taxpayers, the annual deadline for making an RRSP contribution comes at a very inconvenient time. At the end of February, many Canadians are still trying to pay off the bills from holiday spending, the first income tax instalment payment is due two weeks later on March 15 and the need to pay any tax balance for the year just ended comes just 6 weeks after that, on April 30. And, while the best advice on how to avoid such a cash flow crunch is to make RRSP contributions on a regular basis throughout the year, that’s more of a goal than a reality for the majority of Canadians.


Income tax is a big-ticket item for most retired Canadians. Especially for those who are no longer paying a mortgage, the annual tax bill may be the single biggest expenditure they are required to make each year. Fortunately, the Canadian tax system provides a number of tax deductions and credits available only to those over the age of 65 (like the age credit) or only to those receiving the kinds of income usually received by retirees (like the pension income credit), in order to help minimize that tax burden. And, in most cases, the availability of those credits is flagged, either on the income tax form which must be completed each spring or on the accompanying income tax guide.


The Employment Insurance premium rate for 2019 is decreased to 1.62%.


The Quebec Pension Plan contribution rate for employees and employers for 2019 is 5.55%, and maximum pensionable earnings are $57,400. The basic exemption is $3,500.


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.


While there weren’t a great number of tax measures included in the 2018 Fall Economic Statement brought down by the Minister of Finance on November 21, 2018, the tax changes that were announced represented good news for Canadian businesses.


Most Canadians know that the deadline for making contributions to one’s registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) comes after the end of the calendar year, around the end of February. There are, however, some instances an RRSP contribution must be (or should be) made by December 31st, in order to achieve the desired tax result, as follows.


For individual Canadian taxpayers, the tax year ends at the same time as the calendar year. And what that means for individual Canadians is that any steps taken to reduce their tax payable for 2018 must be completed by December 31, 2018. (For individual taxpayers, the only significant exception to that rule is registered retirement savings plan contributions, which can be made any time up to and including March 1, 2019, and claimed on the return for 2018.)


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.


As the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) notes on its website, new tax scams are devised every single day of the week. And, despite the cautionary tales which appear frequently in the media and the warnings posted by the CRA on its website, Canadians continue, with regularity, to fall victim to each new (and old) tax scam and tax fraud.


The variety of amounts and kinds of income, deductions taken, and credits claimed on individual income tax returns filed by Canadians each spring is almost limitless. Each of those returns, however, has one thing in common, and that is that each will be assessed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which will then issue a Notice of Assessment summarizing the Agency’s conclusions with respect to the information filed by the taxpayer. Most important, from the taxpayer’s point of view, the CRA will communicate the amount of federal and provincial tax it believes the taxpayer is required to pay for the tax year just passed.


By now, halfway through the 2017 tax year, almost all Canadian individual taxpayers will have filed their income tax return for 2016, and most will have received the Notice of Assessment which summarizes their tax situation for that year – income, deductions, credits, and tax payable.


For many years, post-secondary students have financed their educations in part through private savings and often in part through government student loans, which are generally interest-free while the student is in school. As well, the bulk of costs incurred to attend post-secondary education (or to finance it) have been eligible for a tax deduction or credit, at both the federal and provincial/territorial levels. Beginning in 2017, however, changes to that regime at both the federal level and in some provinces will mean changes to the way students (and their parents) pay for post-secondary education.  


Older taxpayers who have recently completed and filed their tax returns for 2016 may face an unpleasant surprise when that return is assessed. The unpleasant surprise may come in the form of a notification that they are subject to the Old Age Security “recovery tax” – known much more familiarly to Canadians as the OAS clawback.


The budgetary cycle of the federal government follows a regular schedule. The Budget for the upcoming fiscal year (which runs from April 1 to March 31) is brought down by the Minister of Finance in late winter or early spring. About six months later, or half way through the fiscal year, the revenue, expenditure, and deficit/surplus numbers announced and projected in the budget (for both the current and future fiscal years) are updated by the Minister in the Fall Fiscal and Economic Update. On occasion, the federal government will use the Fiscal and Economic Update to announce new taxation and expenditure measures.


Changes in technology and the Canadian workplace over the past quarter century have made the option of working from one’s home, at least on an occasional or part-time basis, almost the norm among Canadian employees. For most, the opportunity to take a break from sitting in traffic gridlock or rushing to catch the commuter train is a valued employment perk.


Once daily weather reports begin to include wind chill factors or frost warnings, the thoughts of many Canadian turn to the idea of spending part of the Canadian winter somewhere much warmer – most often, in one of the southern U.S. states. And, while the anemic state of the Canadian dollar has required Canadians to downsize some of those plans, it is still the case that thousands of Canadian “snowbirds” fly south every winter.


During the financial crisis that took place in 2008 and 2009, the Canadian mortgage and real estate market didn’t experience the kind of meltdown which occurred south of the border. That result was attributable, in many respects, to the fact that Canadian lending practices, and the rules governing those practices, were much more conservative and stringent than the corresponding rules in place in the United States.


Canada Pension Plan (CPP) retirement benefits are available to virtually any Canadian who has participated in the work force and made contributions to the CPP and for most retirees, that monthly CPP benefit represents a substantial percentage of their income. Consequently, knowing what to expect in the way of CPP retirement benefits is crucial to an individual’s retirement income planning.


The start of fall marks a lot of things, among them a number of runs, walks, and other similar events held to raise money for a broad range of Canadian charities. And, in a few months, as the holiday season approaches, charities will launch their year-end marketing campaigns.


It has become something of a dreary chorus over the past decade, as financial advisers, central bankers and even Ministers of Finance remind, warn, and even scold Canadians about the risks associated with their ever-increasing levels of household debt.

That chorus was renewed this month, as statistics issued for the second quarter (April to June) of 2016 showed that the amount of household debt held by Canadians, expressed as a percentage of disposable income, had set yet another record. At the end of that quarter, as reported by Statistics Canada, Canadians households held $1.68 in credit market debt for every dollar of disposable income.


At the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), taxes are a year-round business. During the spring and early summer, the CRA is busy processing the millions of individual tax returns filed by Canadians for the previous tax year. The volume of returns filed and the Agency’s self-imposed processing turnaround goals mean that the CRA cannot possibly do an in-depth review of each return filed. Once the season of processing and assessing tax returns is for the most part complete, however, the CRA moves to the next phase of its activities – specifically, the start of its annual post-assessment tax return review process.


Having access to mobile communication is useful and practical for any number of reasons and Canadians who don’t have a cell or smart phone are likely now the exception rather than the rule. It’s also the case, however, that cell phone rates payable by Canadians are among the highest in the world, and so having an employer provide that cell phone (and pay the associated costs) is consequently a valued employment benefit. That said, Canadians who enjoy such an employment benefit should be aware that, while they may not have to pay a monthly cell phone bill, there still can be a cost in the form of a taxable benefit which must be reported on the annual return. 


When it comes to questions around personal finance, two issues tend to dominate current discussions. The first is whether and to what extent Canadians are financially prepared for retirement, and the second is the seemingly inexorable increase in the value of residential real estate. For many retired Canadians, those two issues are very much interlinked.


For most of the year, taxpayers live quite happily without any contact with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). During and just following tax filing season, however, such contact is routine – tax returns must be filed, Notices of Assessment are received from the CRA and, on occasion, the CRA will contact a taxpayer seeking clarification of income amounts reported or documentation of  deductions or credits claimed on the annual return. Consequently, it wouldn’t necessarily strike taxpayers as unusual to be contacted by the CRA with a message that a tax amount is owed or, more happily, that the taxpayer is owed a refund by the Agency. Consequently, it’s the perfect time for scam artists posing as representatives of the CRA to seize the opportunity to defraud taxpayers.


By the end of June all individual taxpayers have filed their 2015 income tax returns and most will have received a Notice of Assessment outlining the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA’s) conclusions with respect to that taxpayer’s income and tax position for the year. In most cases, the Notice of Assessment won’t vary a great deal from the information provided by the taxpayer in his or her return. Where it does, and the change is to the taxpayer’s detriment, taxable income assessed is greater than the amount reported by the taxpayer, or a deduction or credit is denied, then the taxpayer has to decide whether to dispute the CRA’s assessment.


There has been much discussion in recent years about whether Canadians are adequately prepared for retirement and, more specifically, whether Canadians are saving enough to ensure a retirement free of undue financial stress. While the financial health of current and soon-to-be-retirees (essentially, the baby boomers) is a concern, the focus is more on the question of whether our current system is such that younger Canadians can expect to have some degree of financial security in retirement. The workplace has altered dramatically in the past quarter century and many of the retirement income options which were relied upon by previous generations – especially an employer-sponsored defined benefit pension plan – are all but unknown to private sector workers under the age of 30 or even 40.


The forest fires affecting Northern Alberta and the Canada’s Revenue Agency’s (CRA’s) offer of administrative tax relief to those affected by the fires and the resulting evacuations has highlighted a federal government program of which few taxpayers are aware – the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief Program. In a nutshell, that program offers relief from interest charges, penalties, and collection actions for those who are unable, due to circumstances outside their control, from fulfilling their tax filing and/or payment obligations.


As the end of the school year draws closer, and with it the start of two months of summer holidays, families who don’t have a stay-at-home parent (and likely some who do) must start thinking about how to keep the kids supervised and busy throughout the summer months. There is no shortage of options — at this time of year, advertisements for summer activities and summer camps abound — but nearly all the available options have one thing in common, and that’s a price tag. Some choices, like day camps provided by the local recreation authority can be relatively inexpensive, while the cost of others, like summer-long residential camps or elite level sports or arts camps, can run to the thousands of dollars.


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