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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.


Canadians are fortunate to benefit from a publicly funded health care system, in which most costs of care ranging from routine visits to a family doctor to intensive care in a hospital setting are paid for by government-sponsored health insurance.


The Canadian tax system is a “self-assessing system” which relies heavily on the voluntary co-operation of taxpayers. Canadians are expected (in fact, in most cases, required), to complete and file a tax return each spring, reporting income from all sources, calculating the amount of tax owed, and remitting that amount to the federal government by a specified deadline.


By now, news of yet another data breach resulting in unauthorized access to personal information — especially financial information — has become so frequent as to seem almost commonplace. Notwithstanding, the recent data breach affecting Capital One was, in many ways, a singular event.


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.


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