Tag Archives: CRA

What if your tax return is late?

By Sheryl Smolkin

You left filing your 2016 income tax return to the last minute and a huge project came up at work. You look at the calendar and suddenly realize you have missed the May 1st deadline. Or you have been working outside Canada for several years and didn’t file a return because you thought you didn’t have to.

What happens if your tax return is late and what can you do about it? Here’s what the Canada Revenue Agency has to say:

Interest
If you have a balance owing , CRA charges compound daily interest starting May 1, 2017, on any unpaid amounts owing for 2016. This includes any balance owing if they reassess your return. In addition, they will charge you interest on the penalties starting the day after your return is due.

The rate of interest charged can change every three months. For the first quarter of 2017 the interest rate charged on overdue taxes, Canada Pension Plan contributions, and Employment Insurance premiums was 5%. However, if you overpaid your personal taxes, the interest rate paid to you is 3%. See Prescribed interest rates.

If you have amounts owing from previous years, CRA will continue to charge compound daily interest on those amounts. Payments you make are first applied to amounts owing from previous years.

Late-filing penalty
If you owe tax for 2016 and do not file your return for 2016 on time, CRA will charge you a late-filing penalty. The penalty is 5% of your 2016 balance owing, plus 1% of your balance owing for each full month your return is late, to a maximum of 12 months.

If you were charged a late-filing penalty on your return for 2013, 2014, or 2015 your late-filing penalty for 2016 may be 10% of your 2016 balance owing, plus 2% of your 2016 balance owing for each full month your return is late, to a maximum of 20 months.

That’s why even if you cannot pay your full balance owing on or before April 30, 2017 you should have filed the return on time to avoid the late-filing penalty.

Repeated failure to report income penalty
If you failed to report an amount on your return for 2016 and you also failed to report an amount on your return for 2013, 2014, or 2015, you may have to pay a federal and provincial or territorial “repeated failure to report income penalty.” If you did not report an amount of income of $500 or more for a tax year, it will be considered a failure to report income.

The federal and provincial or territorial penalties are each equal to the lesser of:

  • 10% of the amount you failed to report on your return for 2016; and
  • 50% of the difference between the understated tax (and/or overstated credits) related to the amount you failed to report and the amount of tax withheld related to the amount you failed to note on your return.

However, if you voluntarily tell CRA about an amount you failed to report, they may waive these penalties. For more information, see Voluntary Disclosures Program.

False statements or omissions penalty
In addition, you may have to pay a penalty if you, knowingly or under circumstances amounting to gross negligence, have made a false statement or omission on your 2016 return.

The penalty is equal to the greater of:

  • $100; and
  • 50% of the understated tax and/or the overstated credits related to the false statement or omission.

However, if you voluntarily tell CRA about an amount you failed to report and/or credits you overstated, they may also waive this penalty.

Cancel or waive penalties or interest
The CRA administers legislation, commonly called the taxpayer relief provisions, that gives them the  discretion to cancel or waive penalties or interest when taxpayers are unable to meet their tax obligations due to circumstances beyond their control.

The CRA’s discretion to grant relief is limited to any period that ended within 10 calendar years before the year in which a request is made.

For penalties, the CRA will consider your request only if it relates to a tax year or fiscal period ending in any of the 10 calendar years before the year in which you make your request. For example, your request made in 2017 must relate to a penalty for a tax year or fiscal period ending in 2007 or later.

For interest on a balance owing for any tax year or fiscal period, the CRA will consider only the amounts that accrued during the 10 calendar years before the year in which you make your request. For example, your request made in 2017 must relate to interest that accrued in 2007 or later.

To make a request fill out Form RC4288, Request for Taxpayer Relief – Cancel or Waive Penalties or Interest. For more information about relief from penalties or interest and how to submit your request, go to Taxpayer relief provisions.

April 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

It’s show time again! For your viewing pleasure, in this monthly feature we present links to a selection of personal finance videos.

For students who may be filing an income tax return for the first time (and there is still one week left), CRA offers a series of 10 short videos. For example, Segment 2: Do I have to file is geared towards helping Canadian students determine whether or not they need to file an income tax and benefit return.

Globe and Mail columnist Rob Carrick shares four steps for millennials to get started as  investors, including where to put savings for a home down payment and where not to invest  savings.

Preet Bannerjee, author of Stop Over-Thinking Your Money: The Five Simple Rules of Financial Success (Portfolio Penguin, 2014) offers five simple rules of financial success. Rule #1 is to “disaster-proof” your life.

And finally, a video from the Canada Deposit and Insurance Company interviews three couples about their financial hopes and dreams and ways that they are protecting their hard-earned money.


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.

Changes you need to know about on your 2016 Income Tax Return

By Sheryl Smolkin

If your financial affairs are fairly straightforward and the only income you receive is from employment, you should have already received all of your tax slips and you may have already filed your income tax return, although it is not due until midnight on Monday, May 1st.

But tax slips for mutual funds, flow-through shares, limited partnerships and income trusts only had to be sent out by March 31st, so if you have multiple, more complex sources of income you are likely among the group of Canadians who are under the gun this month to finalize and file your returns.

Here are some of the things that have changed since last year that individuals and families should be aware of when they are assembling documentation and preparing their returns.

GENERAL/ADMINISTRATIVE
MyCRA: A mobile app from the Canada Revenue Agency now allows you to view your notice of assessment, tax return status, benefit and credit information, and RRSP and TFSA contribution room.

Auto-fill: If you use electronic software to do your taxes, the CRA will fill in many of the boxes for you. You sign into CRA MyAccount and agree to a download that will include information on your RRSP contributions, plus information from T4s, T4As and T5s. Users are advised to double-check the CRA’s data before they file.

INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES
Canada child benefit (CCB): As of July 2016, the CCB has replaced the Canada child tax benefit (CCTB), the national child benefit supplement (NCBS), and the universal child care benefit (UCCB). For more information see Canada child benefit.

Child-care expenses: The amount parents can claim for child-care expenses has increased by $1,000 annually, per child, to $8,000 for a child under six and $5,000 for a child aged between seven and 16 years old. For more information see line 214.

Canada Apprentice Loan: Students in a designated Red Seal trade program can now claim interest on their government student loans. For more information see line 319.

Northern resident’s deductions: The basic and additional residency amounts used to calculate the northern residency deduction have both increased to $11 per day. See Form T2222, Northern Residents Deductions. For more information see line 255.

Children’s arts amount: The maximum eligible fees per child (excluding the supplement for children with disabilities), has been reduced to $250. Both will be eliminated for 2017 and later years. For more information see line 370.

Home accessibility expenses: You can claim a maximum of $10,000 for eligible expenses you incurred for work done or goods acquired for an eligible dwelling. This deduction typically applies to home renovations to improve accessibility for individuals eligible for the disability tax credit for the year or for qualifying seniors over 65. For more information see line 398.

Family tax cut: The Family Tax Cut allowed eligible couples with children under the age of 18 to notionally split the income of the spouse with higher earnings, transferring up to $50,000 of taxable income to the lower income spouse in a taxation year. The family tax cut has been eliminated for 2016 and later years.

Children’s fitness tax credit: The maximum eligible fees per child (excluding the supplement for children with disabilities) has been reduced to $500. Both will be eliminated for 2017 and later tax years. For more information see lines 458 and 459.

Eligible educator school supply tax credit: If you were an eligible educator, you can claim up to $1,000 for eligible teaching supplies expenses. For more information see lines 468 and 469.

INTEREST AND INVESTMENTS
Tax-free savings account (TFSA): The amount that you can contribute to your TFSA  every year has been reduced to $5,500.

Dividend tax credit (DTC): The rate that applies to “other than eligible dividends” has changed for 2016 and later tax years. For more information see lines 120 and 425.

Labour-sponsored funds tax credit: The tax credit for the purchase of shares of provincially or territorially registered labour-sponsored venture capital corporations has been restored to 15% for 2016 and later tax years. The tax credit for the purchase of shares of federally registered labour-sponsored venture capital corporations has decreased to 5% and will be eliminated for 2017 and later tax years. For more information see lines 413, 414, 411, and 419.

What’s new on your 2016 tax return: Sale of a principal residence

By Sheryl Smolkin

For many Canadians, the family home is the most valuable asset they own and an important factor when they are planning their retirement. When you sell your principal residence, any increase in value is not subject to capital gains tax. However, if you sold your principal residence in the last year, there is a new form you will need to complete for the first time when you file your 2016 income tax return.

Your principal residence can be any of the following types of housing units:

  • A house
  • A cottage
  • A  condominium
  • An apartment in an apartment building
  • An apartment in a duplex, or
  • A trailer, mobile home, or houseboat.

For one of the above to qualify as a principal residence you must have owned it alone or jointly with another person. In addition, you, your current or former spouse or common-law partner, or any of your children must have lived in the home at some time during the year.

You are only allowed to designate one home as your principal residence for a particular year. If you are unable to designate your home as your principal residence for all the years you owned it, a portion of any gain on sale may be subject to tax as a capital gain. The portion of the gain subject to tax is based on a formula that takes into account the number of years you owned the home and the number of years it was designated as your principal residence.

The principal residence exemption calculation formula is:

The extra year in the top of the equation (the “one-plus rule”) means that when a person moves, both the old home and the new home will be treated as a principal residence in the year of the move, even though only one of them can actually be designated as such for that year.  However, for dispositions occurring after October 3, 2016, the “one-plus” factor applies only where the taxpayer is resident in Canada during the year in which they acquire the property.

In years prior to 2016, there was no need to report the sale on your tax return if the entire gain was eliminated.  However, on October 3, 2016 the federal government announced that, starting with the 2016 tax year, the sale of a principal residence must be reported on Schedule 3 of the tax return in order to claim the principal residence exemption.  This change applies also for deemed dispositions, such as a deemed disposition due to change in use of the property.

The purpose for the new reporting requirement is two-fold. The federal government wants to ensure that Canadian residents only claim the capital gains exemption for principal residences in appropriate circumstances. In addition, under the new rules, foreign buyers who were not residents at the time a home was bought will no longer be able to claim a principal residence exemption.

There are two other major changes to the Income Tax Act (ITA) regarding the reporting of the disposition of a principal residence:

  • Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) can, according to new ITA s. 152(4)(b.3), reassess a taxpayer outside of the normal reassessment period, if the taxpayer does not report a disposition.  Normally for individuals the reassessment period is three years from the date of the initial notice of assessment, with some exceptions.
  • If the disposition of the principal residence is not reported on the tax return as required, a late-filing penalty can be imposed @ $100 per month x the number of months late, to a maximum of $8,000.  New ITA s. 220(3.21) is added to this effect.

For a more in depth assessment of how changes to the principal residence exemption may impact you, contact your accountant or other tax advisor.

10 things you need to know about SPP

By Sheryl Smolkin

I have been writing about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for six years and a member of the plan for just as long. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the plan, but every time I review the website I learn something new.

Here are 10 things about SPP that you may find interesting.

  1. The 30 year old plan is the 25th largest defined contribution plan in Canada (Benefits Canada 2016).
  2. The plan is funded by member contributions and investment earnings. As of December 31, 2016 there was $479.5 million in assets under management administered by a Board of Trustees, some of whom are also plan members.
  3. If you are between age 18 and 71 and have available Registered Retirement Savings Plan room you are eligible to join the 33,000 other members who are saving for their future, whether or not you live or work in Saskatchewan.
  4. With an annual maximum contribution of $2,500, the plan has several payment options designed to suit your budget.
  5. You can also transfer up to $10,000 per calendar year into your SPP account from your existing RRSP or Registered Retirement income Fund (RRIF).
  6. You have two investment options for your funds. The default fund is the Balanced Fund (BF) which is a low to moderate risk/return investment option. Approximately 55% of the fund is invested in equities, 35% in fixed income investments and 10% in a real estate pooled fund.
  7. The Short-term Fund (STF) is a low risk/low return investment option. Its primary purpose is to preserve capital. It is suitable for members who are near retirement and have reached their retirement savings goal, or members who wish to have a cash equivalent component in their investment portfolio.
  8. You may retire from SPP between the ages of 55 and 71 regardless of your employment status. You must apply for SPP retirement benefits; the package to make this application is available by calling SPP.
  9. If you name your spouse as beneficiary of your account, Canada Revenue Agency allows death benefits to be transferred, tax-deferred, directly to his or her SPP account or to an RRSP, RRIF, or guaranteed Life Annuity Contract (LAC).
  10. In addition to spousal rollover of SPP death benefits, rollovers to an RRSP or Registered Disability Savings Plan for a financially dependent infirm child or grandchild are permitted.

For more information about SPP see the website or call the office at 1-800-667-7153.

Top 10 year-end tax tips

By Sheryl Smolkin

If you earn income in Canada, you pay taxes. My father-in-law always said, “If you make money, pay what you owe, but not any more than you have to.” So to help you manage your 2016 tax bill, here are 10 top end-of-year tax tips he definitely would have approved of:

  1. Defer income: If you think you may earn less in 2017 than you have earned in 2016 and therefore be taxed at a lower rate, defer income where possible. This is less likely if you are employed and receive a regular wage or salary. However, your employer may agree to pay out a year-end bonus in January.  Also, if you are a consultant or freelancer consider wait until the beginning of 2017 to invoice certain clients.
  2. Contribute to SPP: SPP plan members with RRSP contribution room can contribute a maximum of $2,500/year. Contributions made until the end of February 2017 can be reported on your 2016 tax return, but the sooner you make your contribution the better.
  3. Max RRSP contributions: Your 2016 RRSP contribution limit is 18% of earned income you reported on your tax return in the previous year, up to a maximum of $25,370 minus any contributions to a company pension plan. However, unused RRSP contributions can be carried forward. Therefore if you have not maxed out your contributions every year, you may have thousands of dollars of contribution room. By using up this room you will trigger significant tax deductions when you file your 2016 tax return.
  4. Spousal RRSP: Where only one spouse is employed, opening a spousal RRSP will allow income splitting at retirement. Your permissible contributions to a spousal RRSP will depend on your available RRSP contribution room and you will get the tax deduction. Also, if your spouse withdraws funds within three calendar years of your contribution, it will be attributed to you.
  5. Max TFSA Contributions: As of this year, cumulative total TFSA contribution room is $46,500. Contributions are not tax-deductible, but investments accumulate tax-free and there are no tax consequences when money is withdrawn. Contribution room is also restored in the year following withdrawal. If you are holding cash or investments in an unregistered account and you have TFSA contribution room, consider moving as much as you can into your TFSA. However, keep in mind this will trigger a deemed disposition as of the date of transfer and you may have to pay any capital gains tax in the year of disposition
  6. Disability tax credit: Taxpayers who meet the criteria can apply for a non-refundable disability tax credit (DTC) of $8,001 in 2016. Where the disability has been in existence for some time, you can file retroactively for up to 10 years. However, the DTC requires Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) approval. Your doctor needs to complete a T2201 Disability Tax Credit Certificate for the CRA to review and approve, and you can only proceed once you have this approval.
  7. Get rid of losers: If you have an unregistered investment account, sell off investments with accrued losses at year end to offset capital gains realized in your portfolio.
  8. Charitable donations: You have until December 31st to make charitable donations that will generate a non-refundable tax credit on your 2016 tax return. You can typically claim eligible amounts of gifts to a limit of 75% of your net income. You can also claim any unclaimed donations made in the previous five years by you or your spouse or common law partner. You can find charitable donation tax credit rates for 2016 here. First-time donors who qualify can get an extra federal tax credit of 25%. For more information, see First-time donor’s super credit.
  9. Donate stock: There are plenty of ways to give to charity, but the donation of shares, whether publicly-traded or private company shares, can give rise to significant tax relief. Not only will you get a charitable donation tax credit but you will not have to pay capital gains tax on any appreciation in value since you purchased the shares.
  10. Medical/dental receipts: Make sure you have receipts for eligible medical expenses for you, your spouse or common-law partner, and dependent children under 18 that have not been otherwise reimbursed. They can be claimed on line 330 of the federal tax return. Only expenses in excess of the lesser of $2,237 for 2016 or 3% of net income can be claimed for the federal tax credit. Generally, you can claim all amounts paid, even if they were not paid in Canada.

Saskatchewan Pension Plan employees trust 30 years of simplicity and security

Seeing what the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has done for its members is giving Debbie Dand confidence about her own retirement.

“I usually talk to people who are inquiring about retiring,” said Dand, who works as a retirement officer for the plan.

“I educate them the best I can as to what their options are with the plan so they can make the best decision about what to do with their retirement savings.”

She discusses those options on the phone with members, knowing in detail what the plan has done over the last 30 years, first as a member and then, as an employee.

“Since 1986, when the plan started, it has accumulated an average return of 8.1 per cent less administration fees, so it has been a very good plan.”

It’s not just the return history that has benefited members.

“Saskatchewan Pension Plan has very low management fees at around one per cent, which is very low if you look around at some of our competitors,” said Dand.

“(The competitors) fees could be quite a bit higher. Over the years, it makes a quite a difference in what you are going to make in the long run.”

Now, after working for the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for the last 26 years, Dand is looking ahead to her own retirement.

“I myself have been a member of the plan right from 1986. The accounts have grown very nicely,” said Dand.

Her co-worker, Melody Lamont, sees the plan having a solid future capable of taking caring of members in retirement.

“For anybody that’s a member, they have the opportunity to receive an annuity if they remain with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, guaranteed for the balance of their life,” said Lamont.

“So we’re offering the members something that’s very simple to work with. It’s a fit for anybody who’s interested in obtaining a wonderful pension plan.”

That’s why she encouraged her husband and daughter to join the plan while Dand says her husband and four children are also members.

Canadians between the ages of 18 and 71 with room to make RRSP contributions are eligible to become members. Your Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue Agency will tell you what amount you are eligible to contribute each year. There is no minimum contribution amount and members have options about how they will make their contributions, including through online banking or directly from a bank account.

“I believe it’s something that’s there for the long term and that’s what’s very important for anyone who wants to look toward retirement and a good pension plan,” said Lamont.

Tax tips from Tim Cestnick

By Sheryl Smolkin

Click here to listen
Click here to listen

Today I am interviewing Tim Cestnick, Managing Director of Advanced Wealth Planning at Scotia Wealth Management for savewithspp.com. Tim also writes a personal finance column called, “Tax Matters” that has appeared every Thursday for almost twenty years in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe & Mail. We’re going to talk about some of the things you need to know to complete and file your income tax return.

Welcome Tim and thanks for joining me today.

Q: What are some of the tax credits or deductions that many people aren’t aware of or that they may miss?
A: There are so many kinds of tax credits now. It’s important to really check to make sure you’re not missing something that you haven’t claimed in the past that is now available. Some of the things we see people missing are for example, interest deductions. Interest is deductible where you borrow the money for the purpose of earning income from a business or from an investment.

Also, I think fitness tax credits and tax credits for children are another area that people sometimes overlook. Don’t forget if you’ve paid for any kind of sports activities for your kids or even artistic classes like music or piano lessons, you can claim a tax credit for these amounts.

The amounts have actually been increased for fitness tax credits. You can claim up to a thousand dollars of eligible activities. It would get you pretty decent tax relief, probably two hundred and fifty dollars in tax relief federally plus maybe in total about four hundred dollars in tax relief from local and federal governments together, so it’s worth claiming those credits.

People also sometimes forget about the education and textbooks tax credits. But based on the March 2016 budget this will be the last year for many of these tax credits. 

Q: Are receipts required in all cases?
A: Yes, you do need receipts. You don’t have to turn them in with your tax return when you file electronically, but you have to keep them on file.

Q: Why should tax returns be filed for children, even if they don’t have any taxable income?
A: There are a couple of reasons why it might make sense to file a return for a child, even a minor child. Some people don’t even realize you can do this. If your child has earned any type of income at all from babysitting, or cutting grass, or delivering papers, report that income on a tax return because they’re not going to pay tax anyway if their total income is under $11,400 for 2015. However, they will create RRSP contribution room for later when they graduate and are working full-time.

Also, once your child reaches age 19 there’s good reason to file even if they have no income because they will be entitled a GST or HST credit which results in cash back to them of almost $300. 

Q: If taxpayers own stock in an unregistered portfolio, what are the advantages of making a charitable donation using stock instead of selling the shares and donating cash?
A: You’ll be better off donating securities that have appreciated in value than donating cash. You get a full donation tax credit for the value of the shares you are donating and on top of that, the government eliminates the capital gains tax on the securities. 

Q: What is the advantage to taxpayers of filing electronically instead of submitting paper forms?
A: There are a couple of reasons why you might want to do this. First of all, if you’re expecting a refund, you will get it faster by filing your return electronically. They can process it sooner and you will get your money much faster.

Also, it’s just simple to not have to send in all the paperwork. Some tax returns would be two inches thick if taxpayers had to send in all their receipts and what not. It’s just easier and quicker. 

Q: Do slips and receipts always have to be sent in with a paper filing?
A: Yes, you do have to send a number of slips and receipts. However, there are things you don’t necessarily have to provide. For example, if you’re an employee and you are claiming a certain employment expenses like use of your car, you don’t have to file a Form T2200 signed by your employer to say you had to pay for those costs. But you have to keep it handy. 

Q: Why is it getting a big tax return not necessarily a good thing?
A: A tax refund is not necessarily a good thing because what it really means is that you’ve been lending money to the government over the course of the year and they’re only now going to give it back to you. The perfect scenario is that you file a return and you owe nothing and you receive nothing back. The reality is most people actually owe or get a refund of some kind. You just want to make sure the refund is not too big. 

Q: If an individual is reporting self-employment income and wants to deduct expenses, what are a couple of things that they should do to ensure that the expenses are allowed if CRA comes knocking?
A: The first thing is to make sure amounts you’re claiming are allowed. That includes any kind of expenses you have incurred for the purpose of earning income from your business but expenses also have to be reasonable in amount. In most cases, as long as you’re paying a third party for some of these expenses that shouldn’t be an issue.

You also have to make sure that you do keep any receipts or invoices that you paid as part of your expenses just in case CRA asks for them. There was a court decision that was handed down a number of years ago which established that if you don’t have a receipt for something it may still be deductible if you can demonstrate you paid that amount and the cost is reasonable. But it’s just easier if you keep all of your receipts. 

Q: What are the penalties if Canadians file their tax returns late?
A: If you don’t owe taxes then there’s no penalty for filing late. Of course you won’t get your refund as soon as you should so it’s nice to file on time. If you owe money and don’t file your return on time, there is a five percent penalty on the tax owing the day after the due date. The key is to make sure you file your tax return on time even if you don’t have the money to pay your taxes immediately. By doing that you’ll avoid any penalties.

Q: If you do file on time and you owe money, when do you have to pay it?
A: The money is owing  as of the due date of your tax return. Typically, for most people that would be April 30th. If it’s not paid by that time, you will end up paying some interest on the outstanding tax balance — not a penalty, just interest. 

Q: If CRA sends a notice requesting quarterly tax installments is it ever safe to ignore it?
A: You should never exactly ignore it. The reason they send you the statement is because they expect that you probably owe installments for the coming year. What you need to do is to evaluate whether or not the amount  they’re asking for is correct.

If you’re receiving a lot of investment income or you are a senior and don’t have employment income, you may end up  owing taxes when you file your return. Your best bet is to take a look at your income for the coming year, assess whether or not you think your taxes will be less or more than they were in the past year and actually do the math on your installments. When CRA sends you a statement you don’t have to abide by it, but don’t ignore it because you may actually owe  quarterly payments.

Q: So if you think your earnings will be lower, you do not necessarily have to remit the whole amount?
A: There have been situations where people have been asked to pay installments because they had a certain amount of income that was a one-time event. In that case, you may not have to make installments next year at all. You have to know really what your income is going to look like in this coming year compared to where it was last year to be able to make a decision about whether you can ignore a request for installments or pay a smaller amount.

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This is an edited transcript of a podcast interview with Tim Cestnick recorded in March 2016.