All posts by saskpension

Oct 23: Best from the blogosphere

Sustaining a blog for months and years is a remarkable achievement. This week we go back to basics and check in on what some of our favourite veteran bloggers are writing about.

If you haven’t heard, Tim Stobbs from Canadian Dream Free at 45 has exceeded his objectives and retired at age 37. You can read about his accomplishment in the Globe and Mail and discover how he spent the first week of financial independence here.

Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen writes about why he doesn’t have bonds in his portfolio but you probably should. He acknowledges that bonds smooth out investment returns and make it easier for investors to stomach the stock market when it decides to go into roller coaster mode. But he explains that he already has several fixed income streams from a steady public sector job, a successful side business and a defined benefit pension plan so he can afford to take the risk and invest only in equities.

On My Own Advisor, Mark Seed discusses The Equifax Breach – And What You Can do About It. In September, Equifax announced a cybersecurity breach September 7, 2017 that affected about 143 million American consumers and approximately 100,000 Canadians. The information that may have been breached includes name, address, Social Insurance Number and, in limited cases, credit card numbers. To protect yourself going forward, check out Seed’s important list of “Dos” and Don’ts” in response to these events.

Industry veteran Jim Yih recently wrote a piece titled Is there such a thing as estate and inheritance tax in Canada? He clarifies that in Canada, there is no inheritance tax. If you are the beneficiary of money or assets through an estate, the good news is the estate pays all the tax before you inherit the money.

However, when someone passes away, the executor must file a final tax return as of the date of death.  The tax return would include any income the deceased received since the beginning of the calendar year.  Some examples of income include Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), retirement pensions, employment income, dividend income, RRSP and RRIF income received.

When the Canadian Personal Finance Blog’s Alan Whitton (aka Big Cajun Man) started investing, he was given a few simple rules that he says still ring true today. These Three Investment Credo from the Past are:

  • Don’t invest it if you can’t lose it.
  • Invest for the long term.
  • If you want safety, buy GICs.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Your guide to upcoming CPP changes

In June 2016 federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers finally reached an agreement to expand the Canada Pension Plan. However, because the changes will be phased in over an extended period, there has been considerable confusion among many Canadians about how both CPP contributions and benefits will increase, and who the winners and losers will be.

The Globe and Mail reports that an expanded CPP is designed to address the shortfall in middle-income retirement planning that is occurring as a result of disappearing corporate pensions. “Most at risk are workers under the age of 45 with middling incomes – say, families earning about $50,000 to $80,000 a year,” note authors Janet McFarland and Ian McGugan. “Without the defined-benefit pensions that their parents enjoyed, many could hit retirement with little in savings.”

Here is what you need to know about the planned CPP changes.

Effects on CPP retirement pension and post-retirement benefit:
Currently, you and your employer pay 4.95% of your salary into the CPP, up to a maximum income level of $55,300 a year. If you are self-employed you contribute the full 9%.

When you retire at the age of 65, you will be paid a maximum annual pension of $13,370 (2017) under the program if you contributed the maximum amount each year for 40 years (subject to drop out provisions). People earning more than $55,300 do not contribute to CPP above that level, and do not earn any additional pension benefits.

The first major change will increase the annual payout target from about 25% of pre-retirement earnings to 33%. That means if you earn $55,300 a year, you would receive a maximum annual pension of about $18,250 in 2017 dollars by the time you retire — an increase of about $4,880/year (subject to the phase in discussed below).

The second change will increase the maximum amount of income covered by the CPP (YMPE) from $55,300 to about $79,400 (estimated) when the program is fully phased in by 2025, which means higher-income workers will be eligible to earn CPP benefits on a larger portion of their income.

For a worker at the $79,400 income level, CPP benefits will rise to a maximum of about $19,900 a year (estimated in 2016 dollars). Contributions to CPP from workers and companies will increase by one percentage point to 5.95% of wages, phased in slowly between 2019 and 2025 to ease the impact. The federal finance department says the portion of earnings between $54,900 and $79,400 will have a different contribution rate for workers and employers, expected to be set at 4%.

The enhancement also applies to the CPP post-retirement benefit. If you are receiving a CPP retirement pension and you continue to work and make CPP contributions in 2019 or later, your post-retirement benefits will be larger.

Impact on CPP disability benefit/survivor’s benefit
The enhancement will also increase the CPP disability benefit and the CPP survivor’s pension starting in 2019. The increase you receive will depend on how much and for how long you contributed to the enhanced CPP.

Impact on CPP death benefit
There is currently a one-time lump sum taxable death benefit of $2,500 for eligible contributors of $2,500. This amount will not change.

The main beneficiaries of the CPP changes will be young employees, who are less likely to have workplace pension plans than older workers. To earn the full CPP enhancement, a person will have to contribute for 40 years at the new levels once the program is fully phased in by 2025. That means people in their teens today will be the first generation to receive the full increase by 2065.

The recently released Old Age Security report from chief actuary Jean-Claude Ménard which includes the GIS illustrates how higher CPP premiums scheduled to begin in 2019 will ultimately affect the OAS program.

The report reveals that because of the planned CPP changes, by 2060, 6.8% fewer low-income Canadians will qualify for the GIS, representing 243,000 fewer beneficiaries. This will save the federal government $3-billion a year in GIS payments.

In other words, higher CPP benefits mean some low income seniors will no longer qualify for the GIS, which is a component of the Old Age Security program. The GIS benefits are based on income and are apply to single seniors who earn less than $17,688 a year and married/common-law seniors both receiving a full Old Age Security pension who earn less than $23,376.

Also read: 10 things you need to know about enhanced CPP benefits

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Oct 16: Best from the blogosphere

There is nothing like curling up on the couch to watch a good movie on a chilly, autumn evening. Before you move on to Netflix, here are some great new personal finance videos that will educate and entertain you.

In Money Left on the Table, Kerry Taylor, aka financial writer and blogger Squawkfox is interviewed on the CBC News Network about eligibility for Registered Disability Savings Plans and how to navigate the application process. She says, “There is really limited uptake for this program geared to people with serious, ongoing physical or mental impairment because applying for it is very complicated.”

This video from the Khan Academy clarifies what buying company stock means and clearly identifies the difference between stocks and bonds. The commentator explains, “In the general sense when you buy shares or stock you are essentially becoming a partial or part owner in the company. In contrast, bonds mean you become a lender to the business.”

Accountant and certified financial planner Ed Rempel discusses the meaning of financial independence, the huge difference it makes in your life and what it takes to get there. By helping almost 1000 families put together a financial plan he has gained insights that form the basis of his 6 Steps to Become Financially Independent.

Sean Cooper, blogger and author is interviewed on the Global Morning show about how homeowners will be affected by higher interest rates. Because Cooper paid off his mortgage by age 30 he does not have to worry about the personal impact of these changes. However, he says, “If you are in a variable rate mortgage and rising interest rates are keeping you up at night, it may make sense to lock in right now.”

Planning a vacation? Preet Bannerjee explains the meaning of dynamic currency conversion and why you should always pay in local currency when travelling. When a merchant gives you the option to pay in your home currency and you choose to do so, the process is known as dynamic currency conversion or DCC. You may think you will come out ahead and avoid the 2.5% conversion fee charged by the credit company. But in fact his examples show that credit card companies typically offer a better exchange rate than if the merchant applied DCC and charged customers in their home currency. And some credit cards charge 2.5% on every transaction anyway.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

How much should you contribute to your child’s education?

According to a May 2017 Globe and Mail Report average university/college tuition in Saskatchewan is over $7,000/year but you need to also factor in living expenses, books etc. And if your child is just starting kindergarten, it is not easy to predict how costs will escalate over the next decade or more.

Many parents wisely take advantage of the tax breaks and grants available by saving in Registered Educational Savings Plans. But they also expect their kids to contribute to the cost of their post-secondary education by applying for scholarships, working part-time and taking out student loans.

Therefore it is interesting to note the results of a recent poll conducted on behalf of RBC® that found students who receive less than one-quarter of their funding from parents feel more confident in their financial decision-making and are more likely to make and stick to a budget compared to their peers who receive more family financial support .

Students whose parents contribute less than 25% Students whose parents contribute 25% or more
I feel confident in my financial decision making 50% 41%
I make a budget and stick to it 42% 33%

 

Expectations after school
Students receiving more financial support not only have more expectations of parental assistance during school but are twice as likely to expect some help from their parents post-graduation (21% compared to 11%).

“While contributing financially to your child’s education is a wonderful gift, being clear on expectations from both parties is really important. Make sure you discuss the ‘terms’ including when financial support will end,” says Laura Plant, RBC Director, Student Banking

Tips for Parents

  1. Have “the talk”: Start talking about budgeting and money management with your child early on. The earlier you get the conversation started, the more prepared everyone will feel when it comes time to start paying for tuition and other expenses. The transition to post-secondary education is significant – reducing money stresses is one way of easing the change.
  2. Start saving early: If you plan on contributing to your child’s education, save early and save often. One way of getting started is by opening up a Registered Education Savings Plan.
  3. Set the expectations: If you plan on contributing to your children’s post-secondary education, set the expectations on what you will contribute and what you expect them to contribute. Getting everyone on the same page is an important first step.

Tips for Students

  1. Don’t leave free money on the table: No matter how you are funding your education, there are lots of resources out there to help you access free money, including scholarships. Resources such as ScholarshipsCanada.com and StudentAwards.com will help you on your journey to free money.
  2. Save, Save, Save: Develop a habit to save on a regular basis. No matter how small the amount, saving can help you achieve your short and long term financial goals – whether it’s paying for tuition, rent or saving up for a reading week vacation. Let your money work harder for you by setting up automatic transfers from your daily chequing account into a separate high-interest savings account or guaranteed investment certificate to be used towards your goals.
  3. Talk to an expert: Let’s face it, as a post-secondary student (or soon to be student), you have a lot on your plate. Speak with a financial advisor on how to start saving and what options make the most sense for you and your family. This will help set you up for success.

We contributed to our childrens’ university education using RESP savings and current earnings. While I didn’t keep track of how much we gave them or what percent of their educational expenses we covered, they were able to graduate from their first degrees debt free.

Both kids also have Masters degrees and took post-graduate professional college programs which they self-financed. My son had scholarship money and my daughter worked for a major public sector union that paid for her tuition as she successfully passed each course.

I am quite confident that the financial lessons they learned living on a student budget and helping to support themselves were just as important to their future success as the programs they formally studied at university.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

How I saved $1,000/year

I know many people have cut the cord and  given up their landlines completely. But our house is three floors and inevitably wherever I am my cell phone is not, which means I miss lots of calls. Also, my Olympia digital recorder plugs into my desktop console resulting in good quality sound files for podcast interviews I record periodically for savewithspp.com.

But when I reviewed our bills for my company’s year-end recently I was reminded once again that in addition to two cell phone bills of about $50/month each from Koodo Mobile, we were paying a total off over $100/month for two landlines (one business, one personal). So in spite of some trepidation about the sound quality of VOIP lines and potential safety issues if our Internet service is down for any reason, we decided to bite the bullet and say good-bye to “Ma Bell.”

Of course in order to save money, we first had to spend money. A VOIP modem cost $56.49. Also, because our house alarm was on line 2, we had to pay $284.76 to have a technician come and switch us over to an internet-based alarm monitoring system.

While we hated to spend the money, the advantage is that now we can self-monitor and control our alarm system from just about anywhere using a computer, phone, tablet or watch. Also, making this change was an opportunity to re-negotiate our contract and save 30% on alarm monitoring services.

We selected residential service from the provider VOIPMuch for our two landlines. We were easily able to transfer over our long-standing telephone numbers and I was really impressed with the customer service. A helpful, knowledgeable person answered after only a couple of rings every time!

There are no contracts and there is free Canadian and US calling. There are also over 30 free calling features including enhanced 9-1-1, also known as E9-1-1. It works similar to regular 9-1-1 with an added safety feature of automatically sending vital information such as the client’s, address and geographical location (even if he/she is unable to speak).

We started by switching our home line and once we were satisfied that there was absolutely no reduction in quality we switched over my business line. I will not be able to fax on a VOIP line but that is not a problem as using a mobile app I can easily scan and email or text documents instead.

The service costs $10.68/month for each line or about $250/year in total as opposed to around $1300/year for the Bell lines with very few basic add-ons. So once we amortize the startup costs we will save over $1,000/year. I know we did not pick the absolutely cheapest VOIP provider but we can always switch at a later date. Furthermore, if we choose to do so, dropping the second line at any time will be hassle free.

We will continue to review our household bills to see what other expenses we can reduce going forward. However, the silver lining to this year’s cool wet summer weather in central Canada has been that our hydro bills have been a fraction of last year when the air conditioning ran 24/7.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Oct 2: Best from the blogosphere

Recently Kyle Prevost (Young and Thrifty) hosted the online Canadian Financial Summit which included video presentations and interviews with 25 Canadian personal finance experts. While the presentations were free from September 13-16, you can still buy a pass to view these presentations.

Blogs by many of these people are regularly featured in SPP’s Best from the Blogosphere, but there were some interesting people on the agenda who are new to me. Today I introduce you to some of their recent work.

Alyssa Fischer is the writer behind one of Canada’s top up and coming blogs MixedUpMoney.com. In How My Accountability Buddy Became My Secret Financial Weapon she writes that grocery shopping with her husband is important because they help each other stick to their budget. She says, “If I let myself spend money in a frivolous fashion each time I needed a pick me up, I would be right back where I was 3 years ago. In debt, maxed out, and over my limit.”

Martin Dasko on Studenomics graduated from college debt-free and the purpose of his blog is to help readers get to financial freedom by age 30 (no debt, money saved, and the ability to do whatever they want). In Why You Should Save $10k in The Next Six Months (and how to start) he explains that personal finance is often about habits and choices. “You may decide to find new ways to make more money or spend less.  Having money in the bank will make your life better because you will have options and you can plan your next move,” Dasko notes.

Chris Enns is an opera-singing-financial-planning-farmboy and the man behind Ragstoreasonable.com. He wonders whether he can be an artist and be profitable. He also questions the following core beliefs  so many carry in the creative industry.

  • That breaking even is enough.
  • That paying the bills is enough.
  • That building a profitable creative business is next to impossible.

He recognizes that wanting just “enough” to live his life is holding him back in a huge way. Instead he says shifting his thinking to “making a profit” is more likely to pave the way to building his savings and planning for the future.

Janine Rogan is the talented writer and CPA behind JanineRogan.com.  Rogan suggests that if your bank balance is too high you are more likely to spend too much. For example, even though you have $15,000 sitting in your chequing account, some (or all) of that money may be spoken for.

But you may feel you can splurge because you have extra cash on hand. Therefore she suggests that you should set guidelines for a maximum bank balance in your chequing account and once you hit that threshold excess cash should be moved to a savings or investment account.

Rogan says, “Shifting the expectation to living on less because you only have a set amount of cash in your bank account means that you will function in more of a frugal mind set.”

Half-banked.com is Desirae Odjick’s personal finance blog for millennials who want to manage their money and still have a life. She offers Five ways to learn about money for free (without leaving the house). They include:

  • Taking out a stack of books from your local library.
  • Watching money videos on YouTube.
  • Reading a whole pile of financial blogs.
  • Tracking your spending.
  • Visiting the Canadian Financial Summit .


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Gifting money to your children now, rather than later

According to a recent CIBC poll, the majority of Canadian parents with a child 18 years or older (76%) say they’d give their kids a financial boost to help them move out, get married, or move in with a partner, with nearly half of them giving an average of about $24,000.

And, when given the option, almost two-thirds of parents would prefer to give cash rather than have their adult child and partner/spouse live with them. Yet, most Canadians (68%) either misunderstand or say they don’t know the tax and other financial implications of gifting.

“The poll findings show that while many parents are thinking about giving their kids a financial boost to leave the nest, there are a lot of misconceptions about gifting,” says Jamie Golombek, Managing Director, Tax and Estate Planning,  CIBC Wealth Strategies Group.

In his new report, Give a Little Bit, he says, “Unlike in the U.S., we don’t have any kind of gift tax, which means if you have what’s called ‘never money’ – money you’ll never spend in your lifetime – it’s worth considering making a financial gift while you’re alive to help your kids get started in life.”

Mr. Golombek addresses the misconceptions about financial gifting and provides important tips on tax considerations in his Give a Little Bit report and accompanying video.

Key poll findings:

  • 76% say they’d give financial support to help an adult child move out, marry or live with a partner, while 24% wouldn’t provide any financial support.
  • Of parents providing financial support:
    • 47% would give money in the form of a financial gift
    • 28% would let their adult child and his/her partner live with them
    • 25% would act as a guarantor on a mortgage
  • 65% of parents would prefer to give a financial gift than have their adult child and spouse/partner live with them
  • $24,125 is the national average gift size. Those with household incomes of more than $100,000 gift nearly double that amount ($40,558) with as many as 25% giving over $50,000.
  • 68% of Canadians either misunderstand or don’t know what taxes exist on financial gifts

Gifting risks
The poll finds that parents are split on whether or not to tie a financial gift to major or special milestones like buying a home, graduation, birth of grandchildren, or settling down with a spouse. Further, more than half (55%) of parents are concerned about gifting to their children, with two-in-five of them admitting they may need the money later and almost a third (29%) worrying that their son or daughter won’t use the money ‘wisely’.

As well, more than a third (37%) of all parents say they’re comfortable taking on debt to help their kids get a good start. However, few parents will actually tap into their credit lines or borrow from family and friends and most (80%) of those giving money will draw from cash and savings to fund their gifts.

“The caveat to making any financial gift is that you generally don’t want to put your own finances at risk,” says Golombek. “You need to map out the lifestyle you want in retirement and the money you’ll need before making a financial gift.”

Bequeathing Boom
Over the next decade, baby boomers are expected to inherit an estimated $750 billion, according to a CIBC Capital Markets report. Based on the findings from the CIBC Gifting Poll, likely a good chunk of the bequest boom will skip a generation as 74% of parents aged 55+ say they would pay forward their inheritance or a portion of it to their children or grandchildren if they received an inheritance today.

“When you gift during your lifetime, you’re able to enjoy seeing your beneficiaries use the money while at the same time reaping potential tax savings opportunities,” Golombek says. “In addition, by gifting assets before you die, these assets will not be subject to probate fees because they will not be part of your estate.”

He offers five tips for gifting:

  1. Talk to your financial advisor to determine how much ‘never money’ you may have.
  2. Gift cash in Canada with no tax implications (gifting appreciated property may trigger capital gains tax).
  3. Minimize taxes for the entire family by gifting property to family members in lower tax brackets.
  4. Use strategies to avoid probate tax of up to 1.7% (depending on the province/territory) of the estate’s value.
  5. Help kids buy a home or pay down debt with a secured mortgage.

Also read: Déjà-Boom: Boomerang kids collide with retirement goals of boomer parents

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Sept 25: Best from the blogosphere

If you haven’t been following the financial media closely through the lazy, hazy days of summer, you may be unclear what income tax changes have been proposed and how they might impact you, particularly if you have an incorporated small business.*

As committed in the Federal Budget 2017, on July 18, 2017 the Department of Finance issued a discussion paper providing details about tax planning strategies involving the use of private corporations and setting out “proposed policy responses to close loopholes and bring greater fairness to the tax system.” Interested parties have been invited to submit comments to fin.consultation.fin@canada.ca by October 1st.

This paper focuses on three issues:

  1. Sprinkling income using private corporations which essentially means income splitting by paying out dividends or capital gains to other family members who may not actually be working for the corporation to reduce total taxes. The Government is seeking input on proposed rules to distinguish income sprinkling from reasonable compensation for family members.
  2. Holding a passive investment portfolio inside a private corporation, which means retaining and investing money in the corporation instead of paying it out annually because corporate income tax rates are much lower than personal rates.
  3. Converting a private corporation’s regular income into capital gains which can reduce income taxes by taking advantage of the lower tax rates on capital gains. Income is normally paid out of a private corporation in the form of salary or dividends to the principals, who are taxed at the recipient’s personal income tax rate (subject to a tax credit for dividends reflecting the corporate tax presumed to have been paid). In contrast, only one-half of capital gains are included in income, resulting in a significantly lower tax rate on income that is converted from dividends to capital gains.

Also read:  Tax Planning Using Private Corporations – The New Liberal Proposals (Blunt Bean Counter)

This has resulted in a huge outcry from groups as diverse as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Medical Association.

In a BNN video interview, Scott Johnston, a partner at CBM lawyers in B.C. says the Liberal plan would punish small business owners, not “fat cats.” He counsels more than 800 small businesses in the Vancouver area.

“You are comparing employees with entrepreneurs who may make nothing for years and have no guarantee their business will succeed,” he says. “They are the ones who are taking risk and putting their homes on the line. They don’t have fat government pensions and they don’t receive medical, dental or parental benefits.”

Canadian farmers are also worried about federal tax changes, but the proposals are the last thing they have had time to think about during the busy harvest season. The Western Producer says “the impact of the tax changes could be humongous,” including:

  • Rules to make it more difficult and risky for full-time farmers to share farm income with spouses and children.
  • Regulations that could make it dangerous to use farm earnings to help pay for children’s post-secondary education.
  • Rules that discourage farms from renting out their land or saving cash within a farm company.
  • Changes that could make it risky to divide ownership of a family farm’s land base among a number of children, while allowing the land block to remain intact.
  • Rules that encourage farmers to sell their land to neighbours or strangers rather than their own children.

In contrast, the Canadian Nurses Association representing primarily salaried nurses issued a statement on September 5th supporting the proposed changes. In her statement, Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) president Barb Shellian said:

“CNA commends Minister Morneau’s aim to achieve federal tax policy that treats all sources of income similarly and equitably, based on the principles of social justice. Accordingly, CNA supports the proposed changes to the federal tax code that reasonably strengthen the rules on increasingly popular but potentially unfair tax advantages for incorporated high-income earners. CNA further recommends a more comprehensive review of the Canadian tax system with an eye to simplification and ensuring all hard-working Canadians are treated fairly and equitably.”

Also read: Dissenting doctors write open letter in support of federal tax reforms

While both Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have said they are fully committed to the proposed tax changes, as in all cases “the devil is in the details.” It remains to be seen if any significant modifications to the proposals will be made prior to passage and the planned January 1, 2018 implementation date. We will update you when more information becomes available.

Also read: The good, bad and the ugly of Ottawa’s proposed corporate tax changes

*In the spirit of full disclosure, the tax status of my company Sheryl Smolkin + Associates Ltd. will be impacted by the proposed changes


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Don’t be fooled by CRA’s record of your TFSA contribution room

Several months after my husband and I filed our 2016 income tax returns and got our refunds, we received identical ominous envelopes from CRA.  They contained Notices of Assessment reporting that each of us had over-contributed $5,500/month for the last five months of the year, resulting in a $28,201 over-contribution to our TFSA accounts. Yet further down on the notices, it said the contributions to each of our accounts in 2016 totaled only $10,859.79.

Upon reviewing our bank statements, it appeared that one contribution of $5,500 was made in early March and a second amount was transferred into each TFSA in August 2016. When my husband checked our CRA accounts online mid-year, they said we still had $5,500 of contribution room in each account, so he made the second deposits in August.

However, upon calling CRA for clarification, we learned that unlike online banking records which are updated daily, CRA only receives information once a year by January 1st when financial institutions are required to report TFSA transactions for the prior calendar year. Therefore, because we made contributions after January 1, 2016, when we checked later in the year, they were not reflected in the total TFSA contribution room that could be viewed on CRA’s My Account feature.

The good news is that the total excess TFSA amount of $28,201.05 recorded in the first part of the Notice of Assessment was incorrect due to a programming error which totaled the overpayment at the end of each month instead of recording it as one amount of $5,500 for the balance of the year.

However, the bad news is that we had to withdraw $5,500 from each of our TFSA accounts and each pay $298.11 taxes and penalties. The tax payable for excess contributions to a tax-free savings account is 1% per month, for any month in which there is an excess amount at any time in the month.  This means there will be a tax payable even if the excess amount is withdrawn in the same month in which it is contributed.

While we could have appealed the penalties because the over contribution was due to a genuine misunderstanding, we decided to just pay the amounts and learn from our experience.

So the moral of the story is it is important to track TFSA contributions yourself. There is no deadline for contributions to a TFSA, as the unused contribution room is carried forward into the next year.  However, a withdrawal in any year does not increase the TFSA room until the following calendar year.  Thus, if you are thinking of making a withdrawal close to year end, make sure it is done by December 31st, in order to have the withdrawal amount added back to the TFSA room sooner.

The history of annual limits for each year is shown in the table below. The first year that contributions could be made was 2009.  At the current rate of inflation, the TFSA contribution limit will increase to $6,000 per year in 2019.

Years TFSA Annual Limit Cumulative Total
2009-2012 $5,000 $20,000
2013 $5,500 $25,500
2014 $5,500 $31,000
2015 $10,000 $41,000
2016 $5,500 $46,500
2017 $5,500 $52,000

 

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Sept 18: Best from the blogosphere

In early September the Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate by another .25% up to one percent from .75%. This decision followed the first hike in July and could be just the second in a string of increases, some economists have predicted in light of the announcement.

In this issue of Best from the Blogosphere, we sample several interesting media articles and blogs that will help you understand how rising interest rates will impact your both ability to manage debt and carry a mortgage.

Robert McLister, mortgage columnist at the Globe and Mail offers 10 things to ponder now that the Bank of Canada has put every mortgage lender on alert. He says adjustable-rate borrowers (whose mortgage payments float with prime rate) will see their payments jump about $12 a month for every $100,000 of mortgage balance.

He also notes that variable rates can still make sense for strong borrowers with a financial cushion or those who might need to break their mortgage early (since variable-rate penalties are usually lower).

But to justify the risk of a variable mortgage, McLister suggests that you look for a rate that’s at least two-thirds of a percentage point less than your best five-year fixed option. That buys you insurance against three more rate hikes.

Kerry K. Taylor aka Squawkfox discusses 6 ways an interest rate hike affects your finances. For example, variable-rate mortgages, or adjustable-rate mortgages, will see an increase as financial institutions increase their lending rates. Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and lines of credit will cost more. Student loan interest rates can be either fixed or variable (floating). As with mortgages, Taylor says those repaying a variable-rate student loan will see their interest rate go up immediately, while those on fixed rates won’t see a jump until it is time for renewal.

In MoneySense, Martin MacMahon and Denise Wong consider What the latest rate hike means for you. Economist Bryan Yu with Central 1 Credit Union told the authors that people carrying a lot of debt on their credit card will probably start to notice higher interest charges. “They’re going to be facing the quarter-point increase on terms of that debt for their servicing… That’s a quarter point on an annual basis. So, it is going to be a bit of a pinch going forward, ” he says. “In these circumstances people should be looking at paring back some of that debt over time.”

The Globe and Mail’s David Berman explores why even though interest rates are rising, your savings account isn’t growing. Many financial institutions have already passed along this week’s central bank quarter-percentage-point hike to borrowers, raising their prime lending rates to 3.2% on Thursday – but you may need a powerful microscope to see any increase in your savings rates. “Why? The simple reason is because lenders can get away with it,” Berman says.

James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub.ca and president of CanWise Financial mortgage brokerage believes at some point, as rates in Canada continue to rise, there will be an adjustment to all deposit and savings products.  “But it just seems to be that [financial institutions] just don’t look at it as closely as they do on their lending side,” he concludes.

The bank’s decision to raise its key lending rate to one per cent on September 6th, from 0.75 per cent, apparently surprised the markets, which sent the loonie soaring. The Canadian dollar, which had been trading around 80.5 cents U.S. in the morning, spiked by more than a cent to around the 82-cent mark immediately after the Bank of Canada’s announcement. It’s the highest level the currency has seen since June 2015.

So If you have invested in U.S. stocks or have American dollars socked away in a bank account for your next vacation south of the border, the spike in the value of the loonie as a result of the interest hike is bad news. But the soaring loonie as a result of the Bank of Canada’s interest rate announcement is great news if you are planning a U.S. vacation that is priced in American dollars. However, a higher loonie could also slow Canada’s economic momentum, as it will make exports more expensive.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.