Tag Archives: TFSA

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.

Burn your mortgage: An interview with author Sean Cooper

By Sheryl Smolkin

Click here to listen
Click here to listen

If you think you can’t possibly afford to buy a home or that paying off your mortgage is a pipe dream, Burn Your Mortgage is the must-read book of the year. Today I’m pleased to be interviewing author Sean Cooper for savewithspp.com.

By day, Sean is a mild-mannered senior pension analyst at a global consulting firm. By night he is a prolific personal finance journalist, who has been featured in major publications, including the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and MoneySense. He has also appeared on Global News, CBC, CP24 and CTV News Network.

Thanks for agreeing to chat with us today Sean.

My pleasure, Sheryl.

Q: As a 20 something, why did you decide to buy a house?
A: Well I guess a lot of people strive for home ownership. My parents were my biggest influence. We always owned a home growing up, so I thought that owning a home was kind of the path to financial freedom.

Q: How much did your home cost, and how much was your down payment?
A: I purchased my home in August 2012 for $425,000 dollars. My down payment was $170,000, leaving me with a mortgage of $255,000. I didn’t go out and spend the massive amount the bank approved me for. I could have spent over $500,000 dollars but I found a house with everything that I needed for $425,000 and because of that I was able to pay off my mortgage in three years.

Q: How on earth did you save a down payment of $170,000 dollars? How long did it take you to save it, and how many hours a week did you have to work to do so?
A: Yes, it was definitely a sizable down payment for one person. I pretty much started saving my down payment while I was in university. I was able to graduate debt free from university and while I was there, I was working as a financial journalist. I was also working at the MBA office, and employed part-time at a supermarket. When I got my full-time job I was saving probably 75%-80% of my paycheck. I wasn’t living at home rent free. I was actually paying my mother rent.

Q: Kudos for your determination and stamina. Do you think working three jobs is actually a practical option for most people, particularly if they have young families?
A: No. As I emphasize in the book, that’s how I paid off my mortgage as a financial journalist on top of working at my full time job. While for somebody like me who is single it makes sense, it’s probably not realistic if you have a spouse and children. But there are plenty of things you can do to save money.

Q: Many people again think they would never, never be able to save up enough for a down payment. Can you give a couple of hints or tips that you give readers in your book that will help them escalate their savings?
A:
Definitely. First of all, you absolutely have to be realistic with your home buying expectations. You can’t expect to be able to buy the exact same house that you grew up in with three or four bedrooms and two stories. But you can at least get your foot in the door of the real estate market by perhaps buying a condo, or a town house, and building up equity, and hopefully moving up one day. Think about creative living arrangements. Rent a cheaper place than a downtown condo. Find a roommate.

Q: How can prospective home buyers use registered plans like their RRSP or TFSA to beef up their savings and get tax breaks?
A: If you are a first time home buyer, I definitely encourage you to use the home buyers plan. The government allows you to withdraw $25,000 dollars from your RRSP tax-free (it has to be repaid within 15 years). If you are buying with your spouse, that’s $50 000 dollars you can take out together. That’s a great way to get into the housing market. The caution I can offer is when you withdraw the money, make sure that you fill in the correct forms so you are not taxed on the withdrawal. If you’re not a first time home buyer, then I would definitely encourage you to use a Tax Free Savings Account, because it’s very flexible, and although you don’t get a tax refund, the balance in the plan accumulates tax-free.

Q: After shelter, which means mortgage and rent, food is a pretty expensive cost. How can people manage their food costs while still eating a healthy, varied diet?
A: I offer a few tips in my book. First of all, try to buy items like cereal and rice in bulk and on sale. Another tip I offer is to buy in season. I probably wouldn’t buy cherries during the winter  because they would cost me a small fortune. Try to buy apples instead, and during the summer if you enjoy watermelon, definitely buy it then. Try to be smart with your spending, and that way you can cut back on your grocery bill considerably.

Q: I enjoyed the section in your book about love, money, and relationships. Can you share some hints about how couples can manage dating and wedding costs, to free up more money for their house?
A: People like to spend a fair amount on their weddings these days, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you just have to consider your financial future, and how that’s going to affect it. Also, when it comes to dating, make sure that you and your potential partner are financially compatible and have similar financial goals. For example, one might be a saver while the other is a spender. Sit down and make sure both of you are on the same page financially, and then find common financial goals, and work towards them.

Q: How can prospective home buyers determine how much they can actually afford?
A: If you are ready to start house hunting, I would definitely encourage you to get pre- approved for a mortgage. Basically, the bank will tell you how much money you can afford on a home. That way you don’t waste time looking at houses out of your price range. However, just because the bank says you can spend $800,000 doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend that much.

Also don’t forget you will have to pay for utilities, property taxes, and home insurance plus repairs and maintenance. Come up with a mock budget ahead of time, and see how that will affect your current lifestyle. I would say if over 50% of your month income is going towards housing, that’s too much.

Try to kind of balance home ownership with your other financial goals, whether they are saving towards retirement, or even going on a vacation. That way all of your money won’t be going towards your house, and you will actually be able to afford to have fun and save towards other goals as well.

Q: You’re living in the basement and you rented the first floor. Why did you decide to do that, instead of vice versa?
A: Well I’m just one person living on my own, and upstairs there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. I wouldn’t know what to do with all the space, so it made sense to live in the basement, because to be honest I lived in basement apartments for several years before that, so it wasn’t really much of an adjustment. I mean, personally I’d rather rent out the main floor than get a second or third job. It’s all about kind of maximizing all of the space that you have, and looking for extra ways to earn income.

Q: We rented the basement in our first house. Why did you decide to write the book?
A:
When I paid off my mortgage, a lot of people reached out to me for home buying advice. In the media, there seems to be a lot of, I guess, negativity surrounding real estate and big cities.

I always hear that the average house costs over a million dollars in Toronto and Vancouver. It seems like for millennials home ownership is really out of reach. I wanted to write a book to really inspire them and show them that home ownership is still a realistic dream, and it is still achievable if you are willing to be smart about your finances.

Q: Congratulations Sean. It’s a great book. I’m sure people reading and listening to this podcast will want to run out and buy it. Where can they get a copy?
A: They can order a copy on Amazon. It will also be available in Chapters and other major book stores across Canada.

Well that’s very exciting. Good luck.

Thanks so much.

 

 

 

 

 

You can purchase Burn Your Mortgage by Sean Cooper on Amazon.

This is an edited transcript of a podcast interview conducted in February 2017.

Feb 20: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Get out the popcorn! It’s time for our selection of monthly personal finance videos.

First of all, if you don’t have a company pension plan for your employees, you need to know about the SPP business plan. Find out why the Sutherland Chiropractic Clinic set up SPP for their employees.

Globe and Mail personal finance columnist shares some great ideas for protecting yourself from online scammers.

In Save Your #@%* Money with these RRSP, TFSA, and RESP recipes Melissa Leong brings you an amusing look at the ingredients it takes to successfully save in these registered vehicles.

Preet Bannerjee explains how disability insurance works and why it is so important in this Money School blog.

And finally, if you have made financial mistakes along the way, it doesn’t mean you have irreparably ruined your financial future. Blogger Bridget Casey (Money After Graduation) makes a case for forgiving yourself for financial regrets.

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.

Who does NOT need an RRSP?

By Sheryl Smolkin

In the first two months of every year financial institutions across the country advertise heavily encouraging every Canadian to open a registered retirement savings plan and make a maximum contribution.

And if you haven’t made all of your permissible RRSP contributions in earlier years you are an even more attractive target because chances are you have thousands of dollars of additional unused RRSP contribution room.

But in spite of the fact that I have been preaching the retirement savings gospel for decades, I agree with other pundits that there may be some circumstances in which it doesn’t make sense for you to top up your RRSP. For example:

  1. Low marginal tax rate: If you have a low marginal tax rate, you may be better off saving in a tax-free savings account or other non-registered savings and wait until you are earning more money to use up your RRSP savings room (which can be carried forward). Of course you could make the RRSP contribution in a year of low earnings and wait until a future year when you are more affluent to take the tax deduction.
  1. High interest debt: If you are carrying high interest credit card or other debt, your priority should be to pay off that debt as soon as possible to avoid further interest compounding. Then put controls in place to avoid getting into further debt. Once you have retired the debt, the additional cash flow can be used to make tax deductible RRSP contributions.
  1. Short -term goals: If you have high priority short-term objectives such as saving a down-payment for a house, funding your education or taking a family vacation, a TFSA is a more flexible savings vehicle. Your TFSA contributions accumulate tax-free. All or part of the balance can be withdrawn without tax consequences. And contribution room in the amount you withdraw will be restored the following year.
  1. Higher retirement income: RRSP contributions are most tax effective if you make them at a time when you are in a higher tax bracket but you have a reasonable expectation that your income in retirement will be lower when you must convert your RRSP account into a RRIF and begin withdrawing funds. However, you may live frugally and build a business in your prime working years. As a result, by the time you retire your income from money in the business, registered and un-registered funds is higher than prior to age 65.
  1. Great DB pension plan: Contrary to what you may have read, the defined benefit pension plan is not completely dead in Canada. For example, a small number of employees of private companies, federal public servants and some provincial employees will have generous monthly pensions when they retire. In these circumstances having a large taxable income in an RRSP maybe a great idea if RRIF withdrawals push your annual income over the threshold and as a result your Old Age Security is clawed back ($74,789 in 2017).
  1. Business owner: Unlike employees, incorporated business owners can control their compensation. If corporate income is not needed for personal living expenses, for example, it can be retained in a corporation to defer income taxes. The tax cost of withdrawing dividends (in retirement) could be significantly lower than the tax cost of withdrawing RRSP or RRIF dollars, which are be fully taxable.

Nevertheless, for all but a small number of people who fall into the categories above, an RRSP is a splendid idea. And consider using some of your RRSP contribution room to contribute to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (up to $2,500/year) or transferring in up to $10,000/year to the SPP from your RRSP. Your money will be professionally managed and at retirement you can purchase an annuity that will pay you for life.

Jan 30: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

The thing about January is that everyone is either trying to get physically, mentally or financially fit, although some people are closer to the end game than others. Here’s what some of our favourite bloggers wrote about saving money and reaching other goals in 2017.

In How to Save Money on Groceries: 10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Bill in Half Tom Drake gives the usual advice, such as make a list and stick to it, try private label brands and buy case lots of products you use regularly. But he says you can also kill two birds with one stone by eating less so your grocery bill goes down.

Stephan Weyman says one of the reasons he shops at Costco is the company’s “no questions asked, crazy return policy.” For example, the company took back a three year old recumbent bicycle that broke down two years before and he got a $500 refund. He has also successfully returned a bicycle purchased for his wife that turned into a garage ornament for $200; cushioned floor mats, and frying pans that were supposed to be professional quality and didn’t hold up.

On Give me back my five bucks, Krystal says her primary 2017 goals are to have a fun year full of travel and adventure. She plans to stay debt free and continue to save save at least $1,650/month in her RRSP/TFSA. She also resolves to curb impulse spending, continue to be active and keep in better touch with friends.

Cait Flanders (formerly Blonde on a Budget) who paid off her $28,000 of debt in two and a half years and in July 2014 completed a year- long shopping ban, plans to make 2017 the year of slow living.

Each month, she is going to experiment with slowing down in one area of her life. Some of the different things she will experiment with are: slow food, slow mornings, slow evenings, slow movement, slow technology and slow money. “The only thing I won’t do is make a list of what I’m going to work on each month. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s to trust my gut,” Flanders says.

And finally, Tim Stobbs has documented progress towards his early retirement goal on Canadian Dream: Free at 45 for several years. He hopes 2017 is the last year of his full-time working career. However, he is beginning to notice a new emotion in the people around him: fear. He gets the usual well-meaning queries like:

  • Are you sure you have enough saved?
  • What happens if you don’t get a part time job?
  • What will you do with unexpected expenses?
  • Maybe you should work just one more year?

But Stobbs figures the worse that can happen is that he will have to go back to work for a few years. “I fully admit I may not have enough saved to head into semi-retirement,” he says.  “But I don’t want to live a life based on fear of the unknown.  I’m willing to try out something new and see what happens. “


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.

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.