AMC Chartered Professional Accountants Inc.

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For most Canadians, tax planning for a year that hasn’t even started yet may seem too remote to even be considered. However, most Canadians will start paying their taxes for 2023 with the first paycheque they receive in January of 2023, less than two months from now. And, of course, with inflation running at over 7% and interest rates having nearly doubled in the last eight months, managing cash flow and maximizing take-home (after tax) income is a priority for everyone right now.


Over the past three years, the structure of work-from-home arrangements for employees has been a constantly changing landscape. In 2020, almost all employees who could work from home were required to do so, as most workplaces were closed under pandemic public health lockdown rules. As the pandemic eased (slightly) in 2021, employees began, in some cases, to return to the workplace on a part-time or full-time basis. That trend has continued in 2022, although in most cases employees are now working from home by agreement with their employer, rather than because of the requirements of a public health mandate.


The majority of Canadians who are not members of an employer-sponsored defined benefit registered pension plan save for retirement through a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP). For those Canadians who have accumulated retirement savings in an RRSP, the year in which they turn 71 is decision time. By the end of that year, all RRSPs must be closed, and the RRSP holder must decide whether to transfer his or her accrued savings into a registered retirement income fund (RRIF), or purchase an annuity, or both. (It’s also possible to collapse the RRSP and include all RRSP amounts in income for that year, but such a course of action is rarely advisable from a tax perspective).


While the current state of the Canadian health care system is not without its problems, Canadians are nonetheless fortunate to have a publicly-funded health care system, in which most major medical expenses are covered by provincial health care plans. Notwithstanding, there is a large (and growing) number of medical and para-medical costs – including dental care, prescription drugs, physiotherapy, ambulance trips, and many others - which must be paid for on an out-of-pocket basis by the individual. In some cases, such costs are covered by private insurance, usually provided by an employer, but not everyone benefits from private health care coverage. Self-employed individuals, those working on contract, or those whose income comes from several part-time jobs do not usually have access to such private insurance coverage. Fortunately for those individuals, our tax system acts to help cushion the blow by providing a medical expense tax credit to help offset out-of-pocket medical and para-medical costs which must be incurred.


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


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


The fact that Canada is in the middle of a housing crisis isn’t really news to anyone. Whether it’s having difficulty finding an affordable apartment or putting together enough money for a down payment, or coping with ever increasing mortgage interest rates and mortgage payments, housing availability and affordability is a concern for Canadians across all age groups.


The Canadian tax system is a “self-assessing system” which relies heavily on the voluntary co-operation of taxpayers. Canadians are expected (in fact, in most cases, required) to complete and file a tax return each spring, reporting income from all sources, calculating the amount of tax owed, and remitting that amount to the federal government by a specified deadline. And, although the rate of compliance among Canadian taxpayers is very high – more than 30 million individual income tax returns for the 2021 tax year were filed with the Canada Revenue Agency between early February and mid-September of 2022 – there are, inevitably, those who do not either file or pay on time.


Most Canadians know that the deadline for making contributions to one’s registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) comes 60 days after the end of the calendar year, around the end of February. There are, however, some circumstances in which an RRSP contribution must (or should) be made by December 31, in order to achieve the desired tax result.


Since early 2022, the finances of Canadian households have been hit with what Statistics Canada has called a “trifecta of market challenges”, which increasingly stretched and squeezed the efforts of Canadians to maintain their financial stability during the second quarter (April 1 to June 30) of this year.


One of the most valuable tax and investment strategies available to Canadians is home ownership. While the real estate market can (and does) go and up down, home ownership has proven to be, over the long term, a reliable way of building net worth.


Transitioning into retirement is a complex process, one which involves decisions around finances (present and future) as well as one’s way of life. While it was once typical for an individual to work full time until retiring (usually at age 65), the word “retirement” no longer has a single meaning – in fact, it’s now the case that almost every individual’s retirement plans look at little different than anyone else’s. Some will take a traditional retirement of moving from a full-time job into not working at all, while others may stay working full-time past the traditional retirement age of 65. Still others will leave full-time employment, but continue to work part-time, either out of financial need or simply from a desire to stay active and engaged in the work force.


This year, for the first time since 2019, most (if not all) post-secondary students will be preparing to go to (or return to) university or college for in-person learning. While that’s an exciting prospect after two years of pandemic restrictions, starting or returning to post-secondary education is also an expensive undertaking.  There will be tuition bills, of course, but also the need to find housing and pay rent in what is, in most college or university locations, a very tight and expensive rental market. Those who choose to live in residence and are able to secure a place will also face bills for accommodation and, usually, a meal plan.


In this year’s budget, the federal government announced a number of measures to help Canadians who are trying to put together a down payment for the purchase of a first home. The most significant of those measures was the Tax-Free First Home Savings Account (FHSA) which, as the name implies, allows first time home buyers to save on a tax-assisted basis (within prescribed limits) toward such a purchase.


By the beginning of August almost every Canadian has filed his or her income tax return for the previous year and has received the Notice of Assessment issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with respect to that filing. Most taxpayers, therefore, would consider that their annual filing and payment obligations for the year are now in the past.


Canadian businesses should be aware that, while many programs which provided payroll or expense supports for businesses during the pandemic ended on May 7, 2022, there is still a program in place to help employers with payroll costs. As well, even for programs which ended on May 7, applications can still be made for relief for claim periods prior to that date.


Since 2009, Canadians have been living (and borrowing) in an ultra-low-interest-rate environment. Between January 2009 and January 2022, the bank rate (from which commercial interest rates are determined) was (except for a brief period in 2018) never higher than 1.50% – and was almost always lower than that.  Effectively, adult Canadians who are now under the age of 35 have had no experience of managing their finances in high – or even, by historical standards, ordinary – interest rate environments.


By the time August 2022 arrives, virtually all individual Canadians have filed their income tax return for the 2021 tax year, have received a Notice of Assessment from the tax authorities with respect to that return, and have either received their refund or reluctantly paid any balance of tax owing.


As pandemic restrictions ease, the option of sending kids to summer camp is once again a realistic one and, for both kids and parents, the possibility of doing so must be particularly welcome this year.


At a time when Canadian households are coping simultaneously with rising interest rates and an inflation rate which recently hit its highest point in nearly four decades, every dollar of income counts. And where that income can be obtained with minimal effort, and received tax-free, then it’s a win-win for the recipient.


When a public health emergency was declared in March of 2020, the focus for the federal government was getting pandemic benefits into the hands of eligible recipients as quickly as possible, to help mitigate the sudden financial crisis faced by so many Canadians. To that end, three decisions were made with respect to program administration. First, eligibility for benefits would be determined by “self-attestation” – in other words, applicants would certify, based on the information provided to them online, that they met the eligibility criteria for a particular benefit. Such self-attestations were accepted at face value, without documentation or other verification methods. Second, application for the same benefit – the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB – could be made to either the Canada Revenue Agency or Employment Insurance/Service Canada, depending on the circumstances of the applicant. Finally, in at least in the initial round of CERB payments (which were received by over 8 million Canadians), no income tax was withheld from payments issued, although the CERB itself was taxable income.


If Canadians have the feeling that they are being squeezed from all sides when it comes to household finances, it’s because they are. In 2022 Canadian consumers have been hit by a double whammy of three successive interest rate hikes since March (with more increases almost certainly on the horizon) while dealing at the same time with increases in the cost of everyday goods to an extent that has not been seen, in some cases, for as much as forty years.


Many, if not most, taxpayers think of tax planning as a year-end exercise to be carried out in the last few weeks of the year, with a view to taking the steps needed to minimize the tax bill for the current year. And it’s true that almost all strategies needed to both minimize the tax hit for the year and to ensure that there won’t be big tax bill come next April must be taken by December 31(the making of registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions being the notable exception). Notwithstanding, there’s a lot to recommend carrying out a mid-year review of one’s tax situation for the current year. Doing that review mid-year, instead of waiting until December, gives the taxpayer the chance to make sure that everything is on track, and especially to put into place any adjustments needed to help ensure that there are no tax surprises when filing one’s tax return for 2022 next spring. As well, while the deadline for implementing tax saving strategies may be December 31, the window of opportunity to make a significant difference to one’s current year tax situation does narrow as the calendar year progresses.


While recent increases in interest rates have put something of a damper on home sales, the Canadian real estate market was booming in the first quarter of 2022. According to Canadian Real Estate Association statistics, there were over 650,000 residential sales transactions in the first quarter (January to March) of this year.


Of the 27 million individual income tax returns already filed with the Canada Revenue Agency for the 2021 tax year, no two were identical. Each return contained its own particular combination of types and amounts of income reported and deductions and credits claimed. There is, however, one thing which every one of those returns has in common. For each and every one, the CRA will review the return filed, determine whether it is in agreement with the information contained therein, and, finally, issue a Notice of Assessment (NOA) to the taxpayer summarizing the Agency’s conclusions with respect to the taxpayer’s tax situation for the 2021 tax year.


Over the past several years, would-be buyers in the Canadian residential real estate market have been faced with two realities. First, the cost of homes continued to increase significantly in virtually every market across Canada. At the same time, however, the cost of borrowing to finance a home purchase had almost never been lower.


Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the federal government has provided a wide range of pandemic benefit programs for individuals. In the main, those programs have acted to replace income lost where employment income was no longer available as businesses closed during lockdowns, or individuals were unable to work because of illness or because they were at home with young children when schools closed to in-person learning.


Canada’s retirement income system has three major components – private savings through registered retirement savings plans or registered pension plans, and two public retirement income plans – the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security program. The last of those – the Old Age Security program – is the only aspect of Canada’s retirement income system which does not require a direct contribution from recipients of program benefits. Rather, the OAS program is funded through general tax revenues, and eligibility to receive OAS is based solely on Canadian residency. Anyone who is 65 years of age or older and has lived in Canada for at least 40 years after the age of 18 is eligible to receive the maximum benefit. For the second quarter of 2022 (April to June 2022), that maximum monthly benefit is $648.67.


The difficulties faced by younger Canadians in buying a first home almost anywhere in Canada, owing to both the spiraling cost of real estate and, more recently, increases in interest rates, is a major concern for those individuals and their families. Not surprisingly, then, the issue of housing affordability was a major focus of the recent federal budget, and the following measures to address that problem were announced.


For the majority of Canadians, the due date for filing of an individual tax return for the 2021 tax year was Monday May 2, 2022. (Self-employed Canadians and their spouses have until Wednesday June 15, 2022 to get that return filed.) When things go entirely as planned and hoped, the taxpayer will have prepared a return that is complete and correct, and filed it on time, and the Canada Revenue Agency will issue a Notice of Assessment indicating that the return is “assessed as filed”, meaning that the CRA agrees with the information filed and tax result obtained by the taxpayer. While that’s the outcome everyone is hoping for, it’s a result which can be derailed in any number of ways.


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


It is a sad fact that, every year, thousands of Canadians become the victims of scams in which fraud artists claim to be representatives of the federal government. Equally sadly, in most cases the money lost is never recovered.


Most taxpayers sit down to do their annual tax return, or wait to hear from their tax return preparer, with some degree of trepidation. In most cases taxpayers don’t know, until their return is completed, what the “bottom line” will be, and it’s usually a case of hoping for the best and fearing the worst.


Our tax system is complex and, understandably, its myriad rules and exceptions are a mystery to most Canadian taxpayers – and most are happy to leave it that way. There is however, one rule in the Canadian tax system which doesn’t really have any exceptions and of which most Canadian taxpayers are all too well aware. That is the rule that says individual income tax amounts owed for any tax year must be paid – in full – on or before April 30 of the following calendar year. This year, that means April 30, 2022 – although, since April 30, 2022 falls on a Saturday, the Canada Revenue Agency is providing an administrative concession by allowing taxpayers until Monday May 2 to pay their taxes without incurring any interest charges.


Most Canadians don’t turn their attention to their taxes until sometime around the end of March or the beginning of April, in time to complete the return for 2021 ahead of the May 2, 2022 filing deadline.


Each year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) publishes a statistical summary of the tax filing patterns of Canadians during the previous filing season. Those statistics for last year show that the vast majority of Canadian individual income tax returns — just over 90%, or just over 28 million returns — were filed online, using one or the other of the CRA’s web-based filing methods. About 2.8 million returns — or just over 9% — were paper-filed.


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


While the requirement that Canadians file an income tax return each year never changes, the actual content of that return is never the same year to year. While many of the changes — like inflation-related increases to income tax brackets and credit amounts — happen automatically and don’t require any particular awareness or action on the part of the taxpayer, this is not the case with all tax changes. In some cases, taxpayers who aren’t aware of the changes can miss out on newly available or expanded tax deductions or credits, even if they are using tax preparation software to prepare their return. While the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will usually catch arithmetic errors made on a return, the Agency does not (and cannot) ensure that a taxpayer has made all of the claims which are available to him or her. And perhaps the only thing worse than having to pay a tax bill is paying one that is higher than it needs to be because available deductions or credits were missed.


The list of financial assistance programs that have been provided by the federal government to support individual Canadians through two years of the pandemic is lengthy, detailed, and sometimes confusing. Unfortunately for the Canadian taxpayer, however, every one of those programs has one thing in common — benefits received are taxable income which must be reported on the return for the year in which they were received, and on which tax must be paid.


Sometime during the month of February, millions of Canadians will receive mail from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). That mail, a “Tax Instalment Reminder”, will set out the amount of instalment payments of income tax to be paid by the recipient taxpayer by March 15 and June 15 of this year.


Income tax is a big-ticket item for most retired Canadians. Especially for those who are no longer paying a mortgage, the annual tax bill may be the single biggest expenditure they are required to make each year. Fortunately, the Canadian tax system provides a number of tax deductions and credits available only to those over the age of 65 (like the age credit) or only to those receiving the kinds of income usually received by retirees (like the pension income credit), in order to help minimize that tax burden. And, in most cases, the availability of those credits is flagged, either on the income tax form which must be completed each spring or on the accompanying income tax guide.


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


As the pandemic continued past 2020 and through 2021, it is likely that employees who were able to work from home spent at least part of the 2021 tax year doing just that. And, as was the case in 2020, those workers may be entitled to claim a deduction on their 2021 tax return for home office expenses incurred.


The Employment Insurance premium rate for 2022 is unchanged at 1.58%.


The Quebec Pension Plan contribution rate for 2022 is set at 6.15% of pensionable earnings for the year.


The Canada Pension Plan contribution rate for 2022 is set at 5.7% of pensionable earnings for the year.


Dollar amounts on which individual non-refundable federal tax credits for 2022 are based, and the actual tax credit claimable, will be as follows:


The indexing factor for federal tax credits and brackets for 2022 is 2.4%. The following federal tax rates and brackets will be in effect for individuals for the 2022 tax year.


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


AMC Chartered Accountants Inc. - Federal Budget Commentary 2016

Commentary relating to various business and personal tax matters that were addressed in the 2016 Federal budget.