Tag Archives: Canada Pension Plan

Taxable, non-taxable employee benefits

When you are interviewing for a new a new job, perks like company-paid gym memberships, tuition reimbursement or a free cellphone may seem really attractive and influence you to accept the position. However, it is important to keep in mind that come tax time, all or part of the value of these employee benefits may be included in taxable income on your T4 slip.

Here are 10 things that may form part of your compensation and how they are viewed by CRA.

  1. Group benefits: Amounts your employer pays for your life, accident and critical illness insurance coverage are taxable benefits. But when the company pays all or part of the cost of your extended health care, dental plan, short-term disability (STD) or long-term disability (LTD) insurance you do generally not pay tax on the premiums. If you collect on your STD or LTD insurance you will pay taxes if any part of the premiums were employer-paid.
  2. Pensions/Group RRSPs: Your company’s contributions to your pension plan are not taxable. However, your employer’s contributions to your Group RRSP account are viewed as additional taxable income by CRA. But you can deduct RRSP contributions (up to $26,010 for 2017) so you will not actually have to pay taxes on Group RRSP contributions made by your employer on your behalf.
  3. Service and recognition awards: Cash, gift certificates and things like gifts of stock certificates and gold coins are always taxable benefits. However, you can receive tangible tax-free gifts or awards worth up to $500 annually in some specified circumstances, such as a wedding or outstanding service award. In addition, once every five years you can receive a tax-free, non-cash long-service or anniversary award worth $500 or less
  4. Clubs and Recreational Facilities – If your employer pays or subsidizes the cost of membership or attendance at a recreational facility such as a gym, pool, golf course, etc. it is considered a taxable benefit. But if the company provides a free or subsidized onsite facility available to all employees, it is not a taxable benefit.
  5. Tuition reimbursement: If you get a scholarship or bursary from your employer it will be a taxable benefit unless you took the program to maintain or upgrade your employment skills. For example, if you need an executive MBA to be promoted, no tax is payable on the value of company-paid tuition. Where the company gives your child a scholarship or bursary, generally neither you nor your son or daughter who gets the scholarship has to pay taxes on the amount.
  6. Transit Passes: Transit passes are a taxable benefit unless the employee works in a transit-related business (such as a bus, train, or ferry service business).
  7. Child Care Expenses are a taxable benefit unless child care is provided to all employees in the business at little or no cost.
  8. Mobile phone or internet: Charges paid by the company for the business use of your cellphone and internet are not taxable. If your phone or internet is used in part for personal reasons, that portion of the bill should be reported on your T4 as a taxable benefit. However, if the cost of the basic plan has a reasonable fixed cost and your use does not result in charges over the cost of basic service, CRA will not consider any part of the use taxable.
  9. Subsidized meals: If the company cafeteria sells subsidized meals to employees, this will not be considered a taxable benefit as long as employees pay a reasonable amount that covers the cost of food preparation and service.
  10. Discounts on merchandise: Generally, if your employer sells merchandise to you at a discount, the benefit you get is not considered taxable. A document posted on the CRA website in late 2017 suggested that CRA’s interpretation changed, but National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier subsequently announced there have been no changes to the laws governing taxable benefits to retail employees.

This chart illustrates whether taxable allowances and benefits are subject to CPP and EI withholdings. The employer’s Guide: Taxable Benefits and Allowances, including What’s New? Can be found here.

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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.

Best from the Blogosphere: 2018 Federal Budget Edition

SOURCE: 2018 FEDERAL BUDGET, P. 47

What I find most interesting about budgets are the provisions that are often buried in the fine print and don’t make the front page of the newspaper. You will find links below to some widely-reported features of the 2018 Federal Budget and others you may not yet be aware of.

The graphic above illustrates how the new EI parental-sharing benefit will operate. The Investment Executive reports that in an initiative that was widely-anticipated in the lead-up to the February 27th budget, the Liberal government introduced a new Employment Insurance (EI) parental sharing benefit that will provide extended EI parental benefits when both parents agree to share parental leave. The proposed “use-it-or-lose-it” benefit will increase the duration of EI parental leave by up to five weeks for parents who share a standard 12-month parental leave, or up to eight weeks for parents who share an extended 18-month leave. This incentive is expected to be available starting June 2019.

And while details are sketchy, MPs may finally be entitled to long over-due maternity and parental leave. According to the Budget Papers (p.52):

“The Government is supportive of, and will work with Parliament on, the recommendations put forward in the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs entitled Support for Members of Parliament with Young Children. This includes…improving work-life balance, providing access to child care and designated spaces for the use of Members with infants and children, and a change to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons to allow an infant being cared for by a Member of Parliament to be present on the floor of the House of Commons. The Government will also bring forward amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act to make it possible for Parliamentarians to take maternity and parental leave.”

The government has backtracked on key tax measures for small businesses. Mark Burgess at advisor.ca explains how the federal government will tie the passive income threshold to the small business deduction. He notes that the plan put forward in Tuesday’s federal budget takes a different approach to the one the government proposed last summer that received considerable blowback from business owners.

If a corporation earns more than $50,000 of passive investment income in a year, the amount of income eligible for the small business tax rate is reduced and more of the company’s active income is taxed at the general corporate rate. The $50,000 threshold originally announced in changes the government made to its proposals while under pressure from business groups in October is equivalent to $1 million in passive investment assets at a 5% return.

Julie Cazzen at Maclean’s lists 15 ways Budget 2018 will affect your wallet.  Here are a few of the interesting budget provisions she highlights:

  • The Canadian Child Benefit will be indexed to inflation starting July 2018.
  • You will be able to open an RESP and claim the $500 Canada Learning Bond grant at the same time that you apply for a birth certificate for your child. This will automatically enroll children born into low-income families for the grant.
  • Canada Student Grants and Loans has expanded eligibility for part time students, as well as full and part time students with children, and introduced a three-year pilot project that will provide adults returning to school on a full-time basis after several years in the workforce with an additional $1,600 in grant money starting Aug 1, 2018.
  • A new Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women will give women in male-dominated trades fields $3,000 per year of training (or up to $6,000 over two years). Almost all Red Seal trades are eligible.
  • The CPP death benefit is now $2,500 for all eligible contributors (whereas before it was pro-rated.)

Rob Carrick in the Globe and Mail discusses seven changes that could affect your finances. For example, following up on public consultations in 2016, the federal government is poised to announce improvements to Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. The consultations looked at adding registered disability savings plans (RDSPs) and registered education savings plans (RESPs) to the list of registered accounts that are covered and adding foreign currency deposits to covered products.

This would benefit snowbirds keeping large deposits in U.S.-dollar accounts. Other reforms could add coverage for guaranteed investment certificates of longer than five-year terms. Increasing the current $100,000 coverage limit for eligible deposits does not appear to be in the government’s plans.

Some other lesser known and unexpected Budget proposals reported by the Financial Post are:

  • The government will create an advisory council to begin “a national dialogue” on a national pharmacare program.
  • The government is moving to provide more support for Canadians suffering from mental health issues – including veterans – by helping them with the cost of psychiatric service dogs. Specifically, starting this year, the Medical Expense Tax Credit will be expanded to cover costs associated with the animals.

The federal government also announced in the budget that it will eventually move away from its problem-plagued Phoenix pay system – which has overpaid, underpaid or completely failed to pay tens of thousands of public servants – and invest $16-million over two years to develop a new pay system.

You can see the full document tabled in the House of Commons here.

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.

Feb 26: Best from the blogosphere

This week we feature content from old friends and new dealing with a range of interesting issues.

On You and Your Money, Ed Rempel writes about Understanding the Differences Between Financial Advisors and Brokers. He says, “I do think everyday investors are much better off if they have someone in their corner who is recommending a particular investment product because it actually is the best product for them, given their circumstances and life stage. Not because there’s a commission on the sale at the end of the day.”

Doris Belland on Your Financial Launchpad tackles How to deal with multiple requests for donations and money. According to Doris, “The key is to run your financial life deliberately and consciously. Instead of barrelling through life with your nose to the grindstone, dealing with a plethora of urgent matters, spending on an ad hoc basis depending on which squeaky wheel is acting up, I suggest you make a plan and decide ahead of time which items are worthy of your valuable monthly cash.”

If you are spending a lot on Uber, should you buy a car? Desirae Odjick addresses this question on her blog half/BANKED. If you are laying out a large sum (say $1,000) every month on Uber, she agrees that a car makes sense. But if it’s a seasonal thing in really cold weather when you cannot easily walk, bike or take public transit she nixes the idea.

Mark Seed at My Own Advisor interviews Doug Runchey about the perennial question, Should you defer your Canada Pension to age 65 or 70? Runchey suggests that the main reasons for taking CPP and OAS as late as possible are:

  • You don’t necessarily need the money to live on now.
  • You have good reason to believe that you have a longer-than-average life expectancy.
  • You don’t have a reliable defined pension with full indexing, and the CPP and OAS are integral to your inflation-protected, fixed-income financial well-being.
  • You are concerned about market risk to your savings portfolio.
  • You aren’t concerned about leaving a large estate – so you use up some or all personal assets before taking government benefits.

And finally, Maple Money’s Tom Drake puts the spotlight on Canada’s best no annual fee credit cards and the perks they offer. His list includes the:

  • Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
  • President’s Choice Financial Mastercard
  • MBNA Rewards Mastercard
  • SimplyCash Card from American Express.

The features of each of these cards and a link to the relevant website are included in Drake’s blog.

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.

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.

Part 2: Always appeal refusal of CPP disability benefits

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For the second part of our series about CPP disability benefits, I interviewed David Brannen, a former occupational therapist turned disability claim lawyer from Moncton, New Brunswick. Brannen is the author of A Beginner’s Guide to Disability Insurance Claims in Canada. He started the national disability claim law firm Resolute Legal to help deserving people win long-term disability payments from insurance companies and the CPP Disability Program, even after a denial or unsuccessful appeal.  Thanks for joining me today David.

I’m delighted to be here, Sheryl

Q: How does the definition of eligibility for CPP disability benefits differ from the definition in an individual or a group disability insurance plan?
A: The easiest way to look at it is that the CPP definition is much harder to meet than most disability insurance policies. CPP disability is focused on the inability to do basically any job in the economy, whereas disability insurance policies look at the ability to do your own job. Then there usually is a second part in an insurance policy that will continue to pay benefits if you’re disabled from doing any job as defined by the insurance policy but that is usually a much less restrictive definition of any job as would be defined for CPP.

Q: So how hard is it to meet the eligibility criteria and get CPP disability benefits? Of the people who apply, how many are successful at the first level?
A: The last data that we had released was an auditor-general’s report back in 2016. The results were pretty shocking and showed that of the 70,000 people who applied in the audit year, about 60% were denied.

Q: Why is the denial rate so high?
A: It’s hard to say. I would assume a number of those people of the 60% simply don’t meet the eligibility from a contribution standpoint so many people have either not made recent contributions or they’ve never paid into CPP at all. But the bulk of people who have met the contribution requirements get denied because they simply don’t have enough information for the case to be approved.

Q: Why should a person receiving LTD benefits — that’s long-term disability benefits — from a private or a group plan apply for CPP disability benefits although if they are successful the LTD benefits will typically be reduced?
A: That is a very good question. The first reason I tell people is look, you really don’t have a choice because after a certain point the insurance company will estimate and start deducting your CPP disability amount even if you’re not receiving it.

The other big one is that receiving a CPP disability benefit will actually result in you eventually getting a higher CPP retirement. The general idea is that it shows that you’ve been out of the workforce for a legitimate reason and it actually does factor into the ultimate CPP retirement pension at the end. Finally, getting the CPP disability benefit is really a safety net. If you suddenly lost your disability benefits you would have still the income coming in from the CPP disability program.

Q: That’s interesting. Now, tell me about the appeal process available to people who are turned down.
A: Okay. It’s a two-step paper appeal process. So once you apply and get a denial, you have 90 days to submit a written appeal requesting a re-consideration. You will send it directly to Service Canada, the same people who declined the original application. The best scenario is that you will supply more information to support your arguments.

If your internal reconsideration is denied, the next level of appeal is to the Social Security Tribunal which is an independent body that is the final decision-maker as to whether or not you are entitlted to a CPP disability benefit.

Q: You just told me in an offline discussion that typically those hearings are held by video conference or telephone.
A: You have the option to do them in person and certainly sometimes the tribunal judges will request an in-person hearing but more and more they are scheduled by video conference and telephone. It enables the Tribunal to actually process the claims more quickly and at less expense to the claimant.

Q: So of the 60% of applicants who are turned down initially, what percentage go on from there to submit a reconsideration appeal and then an appeal to the Social Security Tribunal if they are turned down a second time?
A: One of the big things that really shocked me when I saw the auditor general’s report is that of the 40,000 people denied, about 66% just give up altogether. That means only 33% or about 13,000 people actually file appeal. Then of these 13,000 people, about 35% get approved and about 65% are denied. That leaves you with a pool of like about 8,500 people who get denied after the second appeal.

So you’re already down from 70,000 to 8,500 who are denied at that second level. Again, of those people who get denied on the first appeal, more than half give up. As a result, the number of people that go on to the tribunal hearing is about just over 3,000 people as documented in the most recent report.

Q: How do they do?
A: Actually they do fairly well. Of the 3,000 that go to the final hearing, about just over 60% actually get approved. That shows if you’re one of those people that does persevere to the end, you do have a better than 50% change of winning at the tribunal hearing, all things being equal. It’s the one point where the percentage of approvals kind of flips if you look at it. By the time you make it to the tribunal here is about a 60% approval rate.

Q: So you’ve published a number of online publications to help people and one of them is The CPP Disability Claims Approval Blueprint. What are some of the tips for success on appeal that you offer in blueprint?
A: Number one is meet the claim deadlines. Many people lose and are denied because they just don’t meet the deadlines for appeals. It’s a very unforgiving system. The other thing we tell people is that most claims are denied because there’s just a lack of information. Therefore, we encourage people to just get as much information into the claim file as possible. That means getting your complete doctor’s records going back as far as possible. Any physiotherapy records or medical records you send in are helpful. Most people just send in their most recent family doctor’s records but I can’t emphasize how important it is to have historical records on file.

Finally, the real secret to winning these cases is building a persuasive narrative and story of your case. To build that narrative you need the historical medical records. One of the most powerful stories you can tell is a struggle over time — that you just didn’t decide to stop working one day. You can show you struggled for years at work. You struggled with disability and pain for years and it’s all recorded in the medical records. Once you can show that powerful story all of a sudden the hearing can flip from, “Why aren’t you still trying to work?” to, “Wow, look at what this person’s been through over the last five years.” 

Q: How can a disability lawyer help people who are turned down the first time around?
A: Frequently disability lawyers can help not by necessarily jumping in to represent people but by giving them better information to do a better job representing themselves. The main value a lawyer brings in a case like this is the ability to pinpoint where the information gaps are. The fact that you’re disabled does not win your case. What wins the case is showing that the medical records or the materials you put in demonstrate you’re disabled.

I guess lawyers help most by being able to pinpoint the specific information that’s needed and sometimes they are better able to get the information. Doctors are often not as receptive to having the patient tell them, “Can you please expand on this? We need to know more about that.” But if a lawyer writes to them, they’re more likely to respond to those types of inquiries.

Q: How much does it typically cost for legal services to appeal a CPP disability claim?  After all, disabled people appealing CPP benefit typically haven’t worked for a long time and may be really broke. How much are they putting out and how long is it going to take them to pay this off before they even have a pension in their pocket?
A: I can’t speak for all lawyers or people who practice in this area. We take cases on a no win, no fee basis so that there’s no money is required upfront. You would just pay if an appeal is successful. Anticipating this call, I calculated that our average fee for the last year was about $4,500. That’s based on all cases, including ones where we get a zero because the case is lost.

Typically if we are successful, there is a back payment and the fee would be paid as a percentage of that back-payment (say about $15,000). Like I said, our average for 2016 was around $4,500 of that back-payment. We’d get our fee and our client would keep the remainder and all future payments. 

Q: Okay, that’s great. So is there any other comments or questions that I didn’t ask that you’d like to comment on?
A: Many people, legitimate people I see are denied are for two main reasons. One, they haven’t tried to go do other types of work or they haven’t demonstrated that they really tried to stay in the workforce.  The other one is, for whatever reason not really following through all of the medical recommendations. So if you quit going to physio, if you refused to take a drug, those are kind of things that can also cause a legitimate claim to be denied

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That’s great! Thank you very much, David. It was a pleasure to chat with you today.

It was my pleasure. Thank you.

David Brannen

 

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.

Part 1: What you need to know about CPP disability benefits

Employed and self-employed Canadians must pay into the Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan* throughout their working career. The standard age for beginning to receive your CPP retirement pension is the month after your 65th birthday. However, you can take a reduced pension as early as age 60 or begin receiving an increased pension after age 65.

But many people do not realize that if they are under age 65 and become disabled, they may be eligible for taxable monthly CPP disability benefits.

Eligibility
To qualify for a disability benefit under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), a disability must be both “severe” and “prolonged”, and it must prevent you from being able to work at any job on a regular basis.

  • Severe means that you have a mental or physical disability that regularly stops you from doing any type of substantially gainful work.
  • Prolonged means that your disability is long-term and of indefinite duration or is likely to result in death.

Both the “severe” and “prolonged” criteria must be met simultaneously at the time of application. There is no common definition of “disability” in Canada. Even if you qualify for a disability benefit under other government programs or from private insurers, you may not necessarily qualify for a CPP disability benefit. Medical adjudicators will determine, based on your application and supporting documentation, whether your disability is both severe and prolonged.

Benefit levels
For 2017, the average monthly CPP disability benefit for new beneficiaries is $952.51 and the maximum monthly amount is $1,313.66. If you are receiving a CPP disability benefit, your dependent children may also be eligible for a children’s benefit. In 2017, the flat monthly rate your child can receive is $241.02.

If you are aged 60 to 64 and you think you might qualify for a CPP disability benefit, you may also want to apply for a CPP retirement pension. While you cannot receive both at the same time, you may qualify to begin receiving a retirement pension while you wait for your CPP disability benefit application to be assessed, which usually takes longer.

If you are already receiving a CPP retirement pension when your application for a disability benefit is approved, Service Canada will switch your retirement pension to a disability benefit if:

  • You are still under the age of 65.
  • You were deemed to be disabled, as defined by the CPP legislation, before the effective date of your retirement.
  • You have been receiving your CPP retirement pension for less than 15 months at the time you applied for your disability benefit; and
  • You meet the minimum contributory requirements.

Should your disability benefit be approved, you must pay back the retirement pension payments you received. According to Service Canada, the retirement pension payments are normally from your first disability payments.

Waiting period
It takes approximately four months for a decision to be made from the date your application and all the necessary documents is received. See how disability benefit applications are assessed. A Service Canada representative will call you to explain how your application will be processed, the type of information required and answer any questions.

Medical adjudicators may also ask for additional information or ask you to see another doctor who will evaluate your medical condition. How long it takes for them to receive the requested information will impact the time it takes for your application to be processed.

If you are eligible under the terms of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) legislation, your disability benefits will start the fourth month after the month you are determined to be disabled. You may receive up to a maximum of 12 months of retroactive payments from the date your application was received.

While on CPP disability benefits
Without having any effect on your CPP disability benefit, you can:

  • Do volunteer work
  • Go back to school to upgrade or complete a degree, or
  • Take a re-training program.

You can earn up to a certain amount without telling Service Canada and without losing your benefits. For 2017, this amount is $5,500 (before taxes). This amount may increase in future years. If you earn more than the amount allowed, you must contact Canada Pension Plan.

Your CPP disability benefit may stop if:

  • You are capable of working on a regular basis.
  • You are no longer disabled.
  • You turn 65 (it will automatically be changed to a CPP retirement pension)
  • You die (it is important that someone notify Service Canada about your death to avoid overpayment).

What if my claim is refused?
If your claim is refused there is a reconsideration and appeal process. (See Part 2 in this series).

*This article focuses only on CPP disability benefits and does not further explore similar disability benefits available under the QPP.

 

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.

June 5: Best from the blogosphere

This week it’s back to basics with some of our favourite bloggers.

On HowToSaveMoney.ca Heather Clarke shares Budget Home Decorating Ideas. She says you can often make a “knock off” of a pricey designer item and a little bit of spray paint goes a long way. She also reminds us that there are some hidden gems at the dollar store.

Rona Birenbaum, a financial planner at Caring for Clients offers 5 reasons why you should negotiate your severance package. She notes that there may well be more money and protection available to you, but only if you ask. Also, she says the cost of legal advice is tax deductible.

In Jim Yih’s retirement seminars, even participants close to age 65 are often concerned that they have not saved enough for retirement. His Advice for Baby Boomers who are not ready for retirement is to get a plan, revise their retirement date and think about a phased retirement. He also tells readers to focus on their cash flow and consider finding another job if they do not love what they currently do.

Boomer & Echo’s Marie Engen suggests Frugal Summer Fun For Canada’s 150th Birthday. For example, Parks Canada is offering free admission to all national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas for the entire year. If you haven’t got your Discovery pass yet, you can order one online, or you can pick one up on arrival at any Parks Canada location.

And finally, Tom Drake answers the question What Is the CPP Death Benefit and Who Should Apply? Typically the death benefit is paid to the estate of the deceased, but where he/she does not have an estate, it can go to one of the following three entities:

  1. Whoever paid for the deceased’s funeral expenses. The death benefit is mainly designed to offset funeral expenses, so it makes sense that it will be paid out to the person or institution who covers these costs.
  2. Surviving partner: The spouse or common-law partner left behind by the deceased can also apply for, and receive, the CPP death benefit.
  3. Next of kin: Finally, if the other two circumstances aren’t met, the deceased’s next of kin can apply for the death benefit.


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.