Steve Manias, CPA, CA
Newsletters
Tax Alerts

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 fearing the worst while hoping for the best.


The Canadian tax system provides individual taxpayers with a tax credit for out-of-pocket medical and para-medical expenses incurred during the year. Given that such expenses must be incurred at some time by virtually every Canadian, that credit is among the most frequently claimed on the annual return. Unfortunately, however, the rules governing such claims are detailed, somewhat complex and frequently confusing.


Between now and June 15, more than 26 million income tax returns for the 2019 tax year will be filed by individual Canadian taxpayers. The vast majority of those returns will be filed by electronic means, through the website of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). A minority will be filed in hard copy, using the paper return, and an even smaller number will be filed using a touch-tone telephone.


The one constant in income tax is change and consequently, 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.


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


Sometime during the month of February, millions of Canadians will receive mail from the Canada Revenue Agency. 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 16 and June 15 of this year.


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.


If there is one invariable “rule” of financial and retirement planning of which most Canadians are aware, it is the unquestioned wisdom of making regular contributions to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP). And it is true that for several decades the RRSP was only tax-sheltered savings and investment vehicle available to most individual Canadians.


There’s no denying that the Canadian tax system is complex, even for individuals with relatively straightforward tax and financial circumstances. As well, significant costs can follow if a taxpayer gets it wrong when filing the annual tax return. Sometimes those costs are measured in the amount of time needed to straighten out the consequences of mistakes made on the annual return; in a worst-case scenario, they can involve financial costs in the form of interest charges or even penalties levied for a failure to remit taxes payable on time or in the right amount. Whatever the reason, fewer and fewer individuals are willing to brave the annual trip through the 8 pages (as of 2019) of the federal tax return (plus a seemingly innumerable related federal schedules and provincial tax forms), and that means that the percentage of Canadians who have their return prepared by someone who has, presumably, more expertise, has continued to rise.


The Employment Insurance premium rate for 2020 is decreased to 1.58%.


The Quebec Pension Plan contribution rate for employees and employers for 2020 is 5.7%, and maximum pensionable earnings are $58,700. The basic exemption is $3,500.


The Canada Pension Plan contribution rate for 2020 is increased to 5.25% of pensionable earnings for the year.


Dollar amounts on which individual non-refundable federal tax credits for 2020 are based, and the actual tax credit claimable, will be as follows:


The indexing factor for federal tax credits and brackets for 2019 is 1.9%. The following federal tax rates and brackets will be in effect for individuals for the 2020 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 2020 are listed below.


Alberta

The general corporate income tax rate will decrease from 11% to 10%, effective January 1, 2020.

The provincial education and tuition tax credits are eliminated as of the 2020 taxation year.

Indexation of personal income tax credits and income brackets is eliminated as of January 1, 2020.

The provincial Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit is eliminated as of January 1, 2020.


Between now and the end of February 2020, Canadians will receive a variety of receipts for expenditures made during the 2019 taxation year. Some of those expenditure receipts will support a tax deduction or credit claim to be made by the recipient on his or her 2019 tax return, while others will not. And, it’s not always easy for a taxpayer to know when such a credit or deduction is or is not available to be claimed. While the Canadian individual income tax return is only four pages long, the information on those four pages is supported by 13 supplementary federal schedules, dealing with everything from the calculation of capital gains to determining required Canada Pension Plan contributions by self-employed taxpayers.


While Canadians benefit from a publicly funded health care system, there are nonetheless a large, and increasing, number of medical expenses which are not covered by provincial health care plans. As well, with the rise in part-time positions and contract work — the “gig” economy — an increasing number of Canadians do not enjoy coverage for such costs through employer-sponsored private insurance. In those situations, Canadians have to pay for such unavoidable expenditures, including dental care, prescription drugs, ambulance trips, and many other para-medical services, like physiotherapy, on an out-of-pocket basis.


For most Canadians, registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) don’t become top of mind until near the end of February, as the annual contribution deadline (which, for 2019 contributions, will be March 2, 2020) approaches. When it comes to tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs), most Canadians are aware that there is no contribution deadline for such plans, so that contributions can be made at any time or even carried forward to a subsequent taxation year. Consequently, neither RRSPs nor TFSAs tend to be a priority when it comes to year-end tax planning.


During the month of December, it is customary for employers to provide something “extra” for their employees, by way of a holiday gift, a year-end bonus or an employer-sponsored social event. And it is certainly the case that employers who provide such extras don’t intend to create a tax headache for their employees. Unfortunately, a failure to properly structure such gifts or other extras can result in unintended and unwelcome tax consequences to those employees.


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


Planning for – or even thinking about – 2020 taxes when it’s not even December 2019 may seem more than a little premature. However, most Canadians will start paying their taxes for 2020 with the first paycheque they receive in January, and it’s worth taking a bit of time to make sure that things start off – and stay – on the right foot.


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, within the next month, as the holiday season approaches, charities will launch their year-end marketing campaigns.


Most Canadians expend a considerable amount of time and effort in order to put money aside for retirement. Especially in an era in which the majority of workers can’t look forward to receiving an employer-sponsored pension plan, Canadians are well aware that the bulk of their income during retirement will have to come from government sources and from their own savings efforts.


To win elections, politicians need votes. And to run the election campaigns needed to garner those votes, those politicians need an organization, volunteers, and money — a lot of money. To wage the most recent federal election, the major political parties raised and spent millions of dollars, and their task of raising that money was undoubtedly made somewhat easier by the fact that Canadian taxpayers who donated money to political parties or candidate can obtain some tax relief from doing so.


Tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) have been around for a full decade now, having been introduced in 2009, and for most Canadians, a TFSA (along with a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP)) is now a regular part of their financial and tax planning.


In most cases, the need to seek out and obtain legal services (and to pay for them) is associated with life’s more unwelcome occurrences and experiences — a divorce, a dispute over a family estate, or a job loss. About the only thing that mitigates the pain of paying legal fees (apart, hopefully, from a successful resolution of the problem that created the need for legal advice) would be being able to claim a tax credit or deduction for the fees paid.


As the baby boom generation ages, members of that generation must switch their focus from the accumulation of retirement savings to creating a structure which will ensure a steady flow of income throughout that retirement. Those individuals face a particular deadline when their 71st birthday arrives, as they must, by December 31st of that year, collapse their RRSP and convert it into a source of retirement income.


When parents separate and divorce, it is frequently the case that they are able to agree on an arrangement to share custody of their children. Such a shared-custody arrangement is often to the benefit of all concerned, especially the children of the marriage.


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.


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