Category Archives for "Personal Income Tax"

Should I Invest in my RRSPs now?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Now is the perfect time to check where you RRSP contributions have been for the year, and where they’ll be in by the end of February. Do you have the room to put more in? Do you have some extra funds lying around? You may want to put the funds in now, and earn some income on them rather than wait until February; plus, you’re beating the rush and not scrambling to get them in by March 1st.

I’m going to assume you know what is an RRSP, and have hopefully checked what your contribution limit is for the year. Does your work have a pension plan? If so, how much have you contributed so far, as that comes your contribution limit.  If you’ve reached your contribution limit, then what about your spouse? You can always put money into their RRSP, up to their contribution limit (they would need to be the contributor and annuitant).

Planning Opportunities

Contribute early in the year. This helps shelter income for a longer period and increases the compounding of the income in the plan. A monthly plan can also be used to help with cash flow.

Use the spousal plan (including common-law spouse) as much as possible to split the income tax upon withdrawal. Remember not to withdraw from any spousal plan until 3 years after the last contribution was made or it will be added to the income of the contributor. Note that it is the timing of the payment of contributions to a spousal RRSP that governs this recapture rule, not when (or whether) you claimed a deduction.

Make your money work for you. Consider other investments within your RRSP, such as mutual funds. Carefully consider what you invest in to maximize your return. (See schedule on page 3)

Utilize “rollovers” (special RRSP contributions). You may find yourself in a situation where you receive a payment which qualifies for special contribution treatment.

These special situations include:

  • Special payments you receive on leaving employment, either in recognition of long service or as damages for loss of office. Note that years of service after 1995 no longer qualify;
  • Lump-sum payments received from foreign pension plans for services performed outside Canada;
  • Lump-sum payments received from a United States IRA and taxable in Canada;
  • Amounts received from the RRSP or RRIF of a spouse, or in some cases, a parent or grandparent, who has died; and • The “cost amount” of shares you receive, directly or through a trust, in a special lump-sum distribution from a DPSP.

The magic of compound interest! Annual contributions of $13,500 at an average interest rate of 8% per annum made at the beginning of each year accumulate over $15,000 more interest in the first 10 years than contributions made at the end of the year. After 25 years, the difference is over $75,000!

The compounding effect of interest earned on the RRSP is clearly demonstrated above by the difference in interest rates. An investment of $13,500 per year at 6% interest per annum grows to $785,111 at the end of 25 years, while the same amount invested at 8% grows to $1,065,885.


Should You Borrow to Finance an RRSP

Interest on money borrowed to make RRSP contributions is not a deductible expense for tax purposes. If you have a choice between borrowing to make an RRSP contribution or borrowing to make another investment, you should always borrow to make the other investment. The interest paid on the investment loan may well qualify for tax deduction and thus offset the cost of borrowing.

Spousal RRSP

A spousal RRSP is an RRSP which names your spouse rather than yourself as the “annuitant” but you have made the contribution. Any amount, which you could have contributed to your own plan under your current contribution limit, can instead be contributed to your spouse’s plan. Contributions made by you to your spouse’s RRSP can be deducted from your income. Your spouse will be taxed when the funds are withdrawn subject to the 3-year rule described in Planning Opportunities above.

Once a cohabitation relationship achieves the status of a common-law marriage under the 12-month or child rule, that marriage is considered to continue until there is a marital breakdown marked by a separation of at least 90 days.

Common-law spouses are included in the definition of spouse and are, therefore, eligible for the spousal plan, although there are still some questions as to how Canada Customs and Revenue Agency will monitor the common-law relationships.

The special rules on spousal RRSPs are very beneficial. Ideally, you and your spouse should have the same amount in your RRSPs at retirement. However, when using a spousal RRSP, you should note that the contributing spouse would be taxed on any withdrawals within 3 years of the last contribution to any spousal plan.

Are You Leaving Canada?

If you leave Canada for an extended period, you must determine whether you are going to become a non-resident for income tax purposes.

If you have withdrawn funds from an RRSP under the Home Buyers’ Plan (you qualify as “first-time home buyers” could borrow up to $20,000 from an RRSP to purchase a “principal place of residence”), and become a non-resident before acquiring your Canadian home, your withdrawals will be disqualified and added to your income in the year of withdrawal. You may cure the disqualification by refunding the withdrawal and cancelling your participation in the plan.

If you have withdrawn funds from an RRSP under the Home Buyers’ Plan and become a non-resident after acquiring your Canadian home, you must repay the entire withdrawal within 60 days of becoming a non-resident. To the extent that you do not repay the amount within 60 days, the unrepaid balance will be included in your income for the period of the year in which you were still a resident of Canada and taxed accordingly.

Now is a great time to review your RRSP, and what you want to accomplish with it this year. Think about all that money you’re missing out on by not investing now, and waiting until January or February of next year. That’s a missed opportunity, and that’s just sad.

Your TFSA and Ten Things You Should Know

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

In 2009, the government of the day created the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) as a means to efficiently invest more. Surprisingly, eight years in to the TFSA’s existence, some Canadians are still confused about how they actually work. And, no it’s not another way for the rich to save on taxes, it can benefit the ordinary Canadian too. We’re going to talk about 10 things you should know about the TFSA.

You Can Have More Than One TFSA Account

You can have multiple TFSA accounts at different institutions, however, they all share the same contribution limit. As of 2017, that limit is $5,500 per year. Good records are a must when you have multiple accounts, as you need to track your contributions and withdrawals as it’s much easier to over contribute by accident.

Over Contributions Incur Penalties

Whenever you go over your contribution limit, you will incur a penalty of 1% per month on that excess amount. This over contributing is a simple mistake because many people don’t under understand how the contribution limit works. This gets more complicated when you have multiple TFSAs, and you have several transactions happening throughout the year. Your best method of determining your contribution limit is to keep track of it yourself, or chat with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). They can let you know what your limit is for the year.

Successor Holder vs. Beneficiary

You can name a beneficiary to your TFSA, however, you may not realize you can name someone a ‘success holder’. Your beneficiary can be anyone you choose, such as a child, parent, or sibling; a successor holder can only be your spouse or common-law partner. Your beneficiary receives the proceeds of your TFSA upon your death, and the TFSA is closed. With a successor holder, your account is rolled into their TFSA which doesn’t affect their contribution room. If you have a spouse or common-law partner and want them to inherit your TFSA, it makes sense to name them successor holder as they can continue to grow your investments tax free; and, avoid taxes payable on any income on the account from your time of death to when the account is closed.

Contributions in Kind

Are you thinking about transferring from your non-registered account to your TFSA? You need to ensure there are no unrealized capital gains or losses. Once you transfer in-kind to a TFSA, it’s considered a deemed disposition for tax purposes; however, there’s a catch, unrealized gains are realized immediately upon disposition, but unrealized losses are not claimed. You should never ever transfer an investment in a loss position to your TFSA. What you should do is sell the security in your non-registered account so you can claim the loss, transfer the cash into your TFSA, then wait at least thirty days before repurchasing so you avert prompting a superficial loss.

Non-qualified Investments

While most investments can be help in your TFSA, there are some that are considered non-qualified. The non-qualified investments are:

  • Any personal debt in your name;
  • Any debt or share of a corporation in that you hold a significant interest;
  • Any debt or share of a corporation that you don’t deal with at arm’s length.

Any time you have a non-qualified investment in your TFSA, there is a one-time tax equal to 50% of the fair market value at the time it’s acquired or became non-qualified.

Foreign Withholding Tax

If you have foreign investments and receive dividends, they’ll be subject to a non-resident withholding tax. Usually on your foreign investments in non-registered accounts you can claim the foreign dividend tax credit against that foreign tax withheld; however, that is not the case with TFSAs.

Non-resident contributions

If you are considered a non-resident and you make a contribution to your TFSA, you are taxed at a rate of 1% per month on said contributions. This generally applies to someone who is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States. Unlike RRSPs, there is no tax treaty between Canada and the United States that recognizes the TFSA as an exempt foreign trust. As far as the Internal Revenue Service is concerned, you need to disclose and pay tax on income generated by your TFSA. If you are a US citizen, you’re better off keeping your investments in an RRSP or non-registered accounts rather than a TFSA.

Social Security Benefits

Your TFSA withdrawals are not considered taxable income. As such, and a major advantage, is that withdrawals won’t count against you for the purpose of determining your social security benefits, such as Old Age Security (OAS) or Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), which get clawed back based on your income level for the tax year.

Loan Interest Tax-deductibility

Any time you borrow money to invest in a non-registered investment account, the interest is tax deductible. However, this doesn’t apply with your TFSA or any other registered accounts. Of course, this makes total sense, as with TFSAs there are no tax ramifications for contributions or withdrawals, so you shouldn’t be able to claim a deduction for the interest paid. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Retroactive Contribution Room

The beauty of the TFSA is that you have accumulated contribution room that depends on how long you’ve been a Canadian resident, and not when you first opened your TFSA. If you open your TFSA today, you still have contribution room retroactive back to when TFSAs were first introduced in 2009, as long as you were 18 or older at the time. If you weren’t 18 in 2009, then you have no accumulated contribution room for those years. If you turned 18 in 2013, then you would have no accumulated contribution room for 2009 to 2012.

The TFSA is an excellent investment vehicle for all Canadians. As the contribution limit continues to accumulate, and, hopefully, the government increases the yearly amount, in the future, you’ll need to ensure you know everything about your TFSA.

Thinking of Moving Up North for a Job? 

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

The north is thought to be a desolate place, however, that’s not the case anymore. It could be a good time to find a job in the Northern parts of Canada. There are credits for being a northern resident, and they could be good enough to make that move worthwhile.

Northern Residents Deduction

There are two northern residents’ deductions:

  • a residency deduction (Step 2 of Form T2222) for having lived in a prescribed zone; and
  • a deduction for travel benefits (Step 3 of Form T2222) you received from employment in a prescribed zone that was included in your income.

You qualify if you have lived on a permanent basis, in a prescribed northern zone (Zone A) or a prescribed intermediate zone (Zone B) for a continuous period of at least six consecutive months. This period can begin or end in the tax year specified on Form T2222, Northern Residents Deductions. To determine if you lived in the prescribed zone on a permanent basis, we consider the number of your absences from the prescribed zone and the purpose and length of your absences.

If you have not lived in a prescribed zone for a continuous period of at least six consecutive months at the time you file your return, you do not yet qualify. File your return without making the claim. When you qualify, you can ask us to adjust your return.

Your period of residency is not affected if you moved from one place in a prescribed zone directly to another place in a prescribed zone. Absences from a prescribed zone - If you lived in a prescribed zone on a permanent basis, absences from a prescribed zone do not usually affect your period of residency. If you lived in a prescribed zone for work-related reasons (while your principal place of residence was not in a prescribed zone), you may qualify for the deduction.

Can you claim the deduction for travel benefits?

You can claim the deduction for travel benefits for expenses you incurred to travel or the value of travel provided by your employer if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • you qualify to claim northern residents’ deductions;
  • you are an employee dealing at arm's length with your employer; and
  • you must have included in your income (in the same year that you have the travel expenses) the taxable travel benefits that you received from your employment in a prescribed zone.

If you take a trip that begins and ends in one year and you are reimbursed the following year, you cannot claim the deduction for travel benefits for that trip.

You can claim a deduction for travel benefits if you leave on a trip in one year and return the next year. For example, you may leave on a trip in December and come back in January. If you receive non-refundable tickets or travel vouchers, the taxable travel benefit should be included in your T4 slip or T4A slip for the year the trip begins.

Taxable travel benefits include:

  • travel assistance provided by your employer such as airline tickets or a trip on the company owned airplane; and
  • a travel allowance or a lump-sum payment you received from your employer for travel expenses you incurred.

Any travel expenses, excluding those for employment purposes, which are paid for by your employer, are generally considered taxable benefits.

The maximum deduction you can claim for each eligible trip is the lowest of the following three amounts:

You can claim a deduction for travel benefits even if you are not claiming a residency deduction. For example, if your spouse or common-law partner claims both the basic and the additional residency amounts, you can still claim a deduction for any taxable travel benefits you received.

You cannot claim a deduction for travel benefits if:

  • you or any member of your household received or was entitled to receive non-taxable amounts as travel assistance, a travel allowance, or as a reimbursement for travel expenses; or
  • someone else has already claimed the deduction for travel benefits for this trip on their return.

There are two parts to the residency deduction: a basic residency amount and an additional residency amount. The amount you can claim for these will depend on whether you lived in a prescribed northern or an intermediate zone.

For 2016, you can claim a basic residency amount of $11 for each day you lived in a prescribed northern zone. Or if you lived in a prescribed intermediate zone, you can claim $5.50 per day.

The additional residency amount is $11 for each day you lived in a prescribed northern zone. Or if you lived in a prescribed intermediate zone, it is $5.50 per day. You can claim this additional amount only if you maintained and lived in a dwelling in the northern or intermediate zone and you are the only person in your household claiming the basic residency amount.

  • Example 1: Eric and his wife Geneviève lived in a prescribed northern zone for 300 consecutive days during 2016. Eric’s basic residency amount is $3,300 (300 days x $11). Geneviève’s basic residency amount is also $3,300 (300 days x $11). Eric and Geneviève cannot claim the additional residency amount. This is because they lived in the same dwelling during the same period and they are each claiming the basic residency amount.
  • Example 2: Jane lived in a prescribed intermediate zone for 300 days during 2016. Her basic residency amount is $1,650 (300 days x $5.50). Her additional amount is also $1,650 (300 days x $5.50). This gives her a total claim of $3,300 ($1,650 + $1,650). Jane can claim the additional residency amount because she maintained and lived in a dwelling and is the only individual in her dwelling claiming the basic residency amount.

As you can see, moving up north may not be all that bad, and many people I know that moved up north are enjoying it very much.

Are You Having a Baby? 

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Congratulations! If you are a new parent, or about to be one, there are some things that can benefit you tax wise when having children. Children can be expensive to raise and the government recognizes this and gives parents different tax credits and benefits to somewhat offset those costs.

If you are a single parent, then you can claim the child as equivalent to spouse, which gives you an additional $11K non-refundable tax credit.

Apply for child benefits

With the Automated Benefits Application (ABA), you can automatically apply for child benefits when registering the birth of your new baby. If you live in a province that has ABA and give your permission, you will automatically be applying or registering for:

  • the Canada child benefit (CCB)– A tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising a child under 18
  • the goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit - A tax-free quarterly payment that helps families and individuals with low and modest incomes offset all or part of the GST or HST that they pay
  • any related provincial programs – Most provinces and territories also have child and family benefits and credits, which families can receive in addition to the CCB and the GST/HST credit. We won’t get into these in this post as there are just too many of them.

If you live in a territory that does not have ABA, you can apply for child and family benefits using the “Apply for child benefits” service through My Account or by completing and mailing Form RC66, Canada Child Benefits Application to your tax centre.

Canada Child Benefit (CCB)

The Canada child benefit (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. The CCB might include the child disability benefit and any related provincial and territorial programs.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) uses information from your income tax and benefit return to calculate how much your CCB payments will be. To get the CCB, you have to file your return every year, even if you did not have income in the year. If you have a spouse or common-law partner, they also have to file a return every year.

Benefits are paid over a 12-month period from July of one year to June of the next year. Your benefit payments will be recalculated every July based on information from your income tax and benefit return from the previous year.

If you want to know if you qualify for the CCB check out CRA’s website here.

GST/HST Credit

The GST/HST credit is a tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset all or part of the GST or HST that they pay. You no longer have to apply for the GST/HST credit. The Canada Revenue Agency will automatically determine your eligibility when you file your next income tax and benefit return for the 2014 and later tax years.

There are various provincial programs related to the GST/HST credit, which you can check on CRA’s website here. For British Columbia, there is the BC Family Bonus and the BC Low Income Climate Action Tax Credit.

If you have a spouse or common-law partner, only one of you can receive the credit. The credit will be paid to the person whose return is assessed first. The amount will be the same, regardless of who (in the couple) receives it.

Working Income Tax Benefit

Your baby is considered an eligible dependent, which means you may now claim the working income tax benefit (WITB), or the amount you claimed before might increase. The WITB is a refundable tax credit that provides tax help for working low-income families and individuals. Eligible individuals and families may be able to apply for WITB advance payments, which are paid quarterly. This credit is especially helpful if you are a single parent.

Save For Your Child's Education

It's never too early to start saving for your child's future education by contributing to a registered education savings plan (RESP). Programs such as the Canada education savings grant (CESG) and the Canada learning bond (CLB) are other reasons for creating an RESP for your child. These programs may provide incentives for using an RESP to save for a child's education after high school (post-secondary education).

With the above credits, there is a disability portion if your child is diagnosed with any kind of disability. All the above credits get an increase for a disable child under 18 years of age. Note that the disability must be severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions.

If you are having a baby, then these credits can help with the cost of raising them, and you may as well take advantage of them.


Are you considered Common-law for Tax Purposes?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

You and a significant other have decided to take a leap and moved into together; however, you didn’t get married. You may be considered common-law for tax purposes after living together for a certain length of time, whether, you believe so or not. And, you’d better not lie about living together, as this could catch up to you and cost you $1000s in taxes, fines, etc.

What is a Common-law Partner?

This applies to a person who is not your spouse, with whom you are living in a conjugal relationship, and to whom at least one of the following situations applies. He or she:

  1. has been living with you in a conjugal relationship, and this current relationship has lasted at least 12 continuous months;
    1. In this definition, 12 continuous months includes any period you were separated for less than 90 days because of a breakdown in the relationship.
  2. is the parent of your child by birth or adoption; or
  3. has custody and control of your child (or had custody and control immediately before the child turned 19 years of age) and your child is wholly dependent on that person for support.

If the 90-day period includes the end of the tax year (December 31st), you may want to wait until 90 days have elapsed before filing your return, to avoid confusion and possibly having to submit a request for a change to your return.

If you were separated because of an involuntary separation, you are still considered to have a spouse or common-law partner if you were separated involuntarily. An involuntary separation could happen when one spouse or common-law partner is away for work, school, health reasons, or incarcerated.

And, these rules apply for same-sex couples, too.

What do I do Now that I’m Considered Living Common-law?

The first thing you should do is inform Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in one of these ways:

  • log in to MyBenefits CRA or MyCRA on CRA’s mobile apps page
    • select “Manage profile details” or "Personal information" then “Marital status”
  • log in to My Account
    • select “Personal information” then “Change my marital status”
  • call the CRA at 1-800-387-1193
  • fill out Form RC65, Marital Status Change, and send it to the CRA

What Changes on My Taxes When I File Common-law?

The benefits you’ve been receiving, such as the GST/HST credit, or Canada Child Benefit (CCB), will be affected by being common-law. As a single person, you may have qualified for the GST/HST credit; however, as a common-law couple you may not. As a couple, CRA combines your income, so you need to have less than $45,000 combined family income to qualify.

The same for the Canada Child Benefit, as a couple the more your combined family income is the less benefit you get. The CCB decreases to zero around $150,000 in combined family income.

There is a plus side to being common-law. You can combine deductions for medical and donations under one spouse. If you don’t have enough medical to qualify individually, you may as a couple. For donations, you only get 15% on $200 in donations, however, you get 29% on the amount over $200. For example, you each have $175 in donations, individually you get 15% of that or $26.25; combined you’d have $350, you get $30 on the first $200 and $43.50 on the other $150 for a combined deduction of $73.50 (that’s almost 3 times as much).

Pension splitting is another area where you can save taxes when living common-law. If one person has a lower income (doesn’t have to be pension), and the other person has a higher income (must be pension based), then they can split the income to lower their tax bill.

There is also the spousal credit which is equivalent to the Basic Personal Exemption. If the spouse has no income then you get the full amount, otherwise, it decreases based on how much the other spouse makes.

If one spouse is going to school then the higher income spouse can claim a tuition/education transfer of up to $5000. And, the higher income spouse can claim the child care expenses if the spouse going to school has no income.

When you’re in a relationship, and you move in together, even without getting married, CRA will consider you common-law after 12 consecutive months. You need to inform CRA once you have lived together 12 consecutive months as any credits you are getting now will change once you are common-law. And, CRA will make you pay back any overpayments.

Why You Need to Think About CRA’s Online Services? 

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Personal Income Tax

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has joined the 21st Century when it comes to giving you access to your tax information online. You can get your notices of assessment, RRSP contribution limit, and more via their My Account and Online Mail, and they even have an app called MyCRA. These allow easy access, and faster access than snail mail, to your tax information that CRA has for you.

Before we get into why you should use these services, let’s give a quick overview.

My Account

My Account allows you to track your refund, view or change your return, check your benefit and credit payments, view your RRSP limit, set up direct deposit, receive online mail, and so much more. My Account is a secure portal. This is for your personal taxes, and not for business accounts, such as GST/HST.

My Business Account

My Business Account is a secure online portal that provides an opportunity to interact electronically with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on various business accounts. Business accounts include GST/HST (except for GST/HST accounts administered by Revenu Québec), payroll, corporation income taxes, excise taxes, excise duties, and more.

Online Mail

Online mail is a simple to use service that allows individuals to receive most of their mail, like their notice of assessment or benefit notices, from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) directly in My Account.

MyCRA App

MyCRA is a mobile app for individual taxpayers where you can securely view and update key portions of your tax and personal information.

For step-by-step instructions on setting up your CRA user ID and password, go to Registration process to access the CRA login services.

All of the above are:

  • Convenient – It is available 21 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Easy to use – After registering, simply log in with your CRA user ID and password.
  • Fast – Information is up-to-the-minute and transactions are processed immediately.
  • Secure – The CRA user ID and password are just part of the security.

It is possible to see information in My Account before you receive the official document from the CRA. For example, if the CRA reassessed your return, you will see details of the reassessment in My Account before you receive your notice of reassessment in the mail. This is because the most up-to-date information is displayed immediately in My Account, while the notice goes through several manual processes before you receive it by mail.

Correspondence that you can receive electronically

Some examples of correspondence currently available through online services include:

  • notices of assessment (NOA)
  • notices of reassessment (NORA)
  • benefit notices and slips
  • T1 adjustment notices
  • instalment reminders and payments made
  • income tax and benefit return status
  • tax-free savings account and registered retirement savings plan contribution limits
  • buy-back amounts for the Home Buyers’ Plan and the Lifelong Learning Plan
  • GST/HST return status
  • Account balances
  • And more…

The above are just some of the services that are currently available, and CRA is looking at adding more all the time. CRA finally wants you to be able to access this information electronically rather than get it in the mail.

Let’s face it mail theft is on the rise and will continue to do so as long as we have those community mailboxes; those mailboxes are not secured in any fashion. Online services allow you to have access to your tax information at any time, and you can authorize others to access it on your behalf, such as your tax preparer. This allows them access to your notices of assessment, T-slips, etc., allowing you to relax as to whether or not you got them. It also allows you to check to see if you didn’t get a T4, or other slip before you do your taxes.

I’m am going to suggest to all my clients this year to sign up for My Account, Online Mail and MyCRA App, it’s just the right thing to do.

Is that Letter from CRA Legit?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Comes this time of year when you, the Canadian taxpayer, start to receive love letters from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting information or informing you of your tax debt if you hadn’t paid it on April 30th. Unfortunately, in this day and age of rampant scams, email and otherwise, you need to be diligent and don’t just answer that email or caller, or even that letter you received supposedly from CRA.

Email, Telephone, Letter Scams

CRA does NOT use email to contact individual taxpayers. The CRA has an automatic email system that sends out an email letting you know that you have Online Mail. This is the only time they will send you an email. The CRA will never use aggressive language or tone, ask for prepaid credit cards, threaten arrest or to send police in any correspondence. A CRA email notification will only advise you that you have correspondence to view in My Account. It will never ask for you to confirm information or click on a link. If you’re unsure, log into My Account and see if you have new mail to read.

The other email, and now a text, that goes around is a fake e-Interac transfer, CRA will never send you money via this method. It will be either a cheque, or direct deposit, which you must setup.

Fake letters are still going around, and they’re getting much better at it too. Someone showed me a letter he got from CRA, and this letter was so good it would’ve fooled me. It had their name, address, and it all looked very real. The letter even and a CRA number on it with 1-800-959, which many of their numbers start with. It had a balance owing, which made this person feel something wasn’t quite right; he usually gets refunds. This letter had the right language, and looked very legit. Fortunately, he called the CRA and found out, of course, it was fake.

Know how to recognize a scam

There are many fraud types, including new ones invented daily.

You should be vigilant when you receive, either by telephone, mail, text message or email, a fraudulent communication that claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting personal information such as a social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number, or passport number.

These scams may insist that this personal information is needed so that the taxpayer can receive a refund or a benefit payment. Cases of fraudulent communication could also involve threatening or coercive language to scare individuals into paying fictitious debt to the CRA. Other communications urge taxpayers to visit a fake CRA website where the taxpayer is then asked to verify their identity by entering personal information. These are scams and taxpayers should never respond to these fraudulent communications or click on any of the links provided.

To identify communications not from the CRA, be aware of these guidelines.

If you receive a call saying you owe money to the CRA, you can call us or check My Account to be sure.

If you have signed up for online mail (available through My Account, My Business Account, and Represent a Client), the CRA will do the following:

  • send a registration confirmation email to the address you provided for online mail service for an individual or a business; and
  • send an email to the address you provided to notify you when new online mail is available to view in the CRA's secure online services portal.

The CRA will not do the following:

  • send email with a link and ask you to divulge personal or financial information;
  • ask for personal information of any kind by email or text message.
  • request payments by prepaid credit cards.
  • give taxpayer information to another person, unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.
  • leave personal information on an answering machine.

Exception:

If you call the CRA to request a form or a link for specific information, a CRA agent will forward the information you are requesting to your email during the telephone call. This is the only circumstance in which the CRA will send an email containing links.

Caller ID is a useful function. However, the information displayed can be altered by criminals. Never use only the displayed information to confirm the identity of the caller whether it be an individual, a company or a government entity.

The old cliché holds true, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What’s the Best Way to Get Away from these Scams?

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

  • Did I sign up to receive online mail through My Account, My Business Account, or Represent a Client?
  • Did I provide my email address on my income tax and benefit return to receive mail online?
  • Am I expecting more money from the CRA?
  • Does this sound too good to be true?
  • Is the requester asking for information I would not provide in my tax return?
  • Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?

If you get a letter, or email from CRA, you do need to check its validity with CRA itself. Give them a call at their main numbers 1-800-959-8281 for individuals and 1-800-959-5525 for businesses.

The best way to alleviate any issues is to sign up for My Account, and then sign up for Online Mail.

My Account is a secure portal that lets you view your personal income tax and benefit information and manage your tax affairs online.

My Account is:

  • Convenient – It is available 21 hours a day, 7 days a week (see Hours of service).
  • Easy to use – After registering, simply log in with your CRA user ID and password.
  • Fast – Information is up-to-the-minute and transactions are processed immediately.
  • Secure – The CRA user ID and password are just part of the security.

You can also log in with a Sign-in Partner. This option lets you log in with a user ID and password that you may already have, such as for online banking.

Online mail is a simple to use service that allows individuals to receive most of their mail, like their notice of assessment or benefit notices, from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) directly in My Account.

When you sign up for online mail, the CRA will send you an email letting you know when you have new mail to view in My Account. Once you are signed up for online mail, you will go paperless since your correspondence will no longer be printed and mailed. Don’t worry - if your bank or anyone else needs a paper copy, all you need to do is log in to My Account and print or download a copy.

You will stop getting any physical mail, and never have to worry about mail theft from those crappy community mailboxes, or fake letters as you’ll know they’re fake as you don’t get physical mail from CRA anymore.

Be diligent with any correspondence you get from CRA, and always check with CRA when you get such correspondence. Signing up for My Account and Online Mail will definitely get you feeling more secure about not getting scams in the future.

If you do have concerns about correspondence from the CRA, call them at 1-800-959-8281 for individuals and 1-800-959-5525 for businesses.

Why Designating Your Tax Preparer as a Representative is a Good Idea

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

There comes a time when your tax preparer is going to need access to your information that Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has on you. This could be as simple as finding out how much you made in installments to more complicated such as adjusting your income tax return already filed. Of course, if CRA comes calling about your tax return filed, then having your tax preparer may be the way to go.

Access to Your Information

Allowing your tax preparer to have access to your CRA information can not only save them time getting your notices of assessments or tax installments, it saves you the hassle of having to find them and delay the preparation of your return. There are quite a few things your tax preparer can gather as your representative.

List of notices issued

A new service called 'List of notices issued' provides authorized representatives with a summary list of notices of assessment (NOA) and notices of reassessment (NOR) that have been issued to you as a result of a tax return being filed or amended.

Starting February 13, 2017, a summary list will be available and will include notices that were issued within the last year. Notices that were assessed before February 13, 2017, or before the authorization effective date, will not appear in the list.

The four possible notice types that will be displayed are:

  • NOA issued – No change – will be displayed when an initial assessment results in no tax difference from what was originally submitted.
  • NOA issued – Changed – will be displayed when an initial assessment results in a tax difference from what was originally submitted with the tax return.
  • NOR issued – Client or representative request – will be displayed when a change has been submitted to an assessment.
  • Other NOR issued – will be displayed when a change to an assessment has been initiated by the CRA.

Here’s a list of services for representatives of individuals.

Submit Documents

The “Submit documents” service allows you to electronically send documents to CRA on behalf of either your individual or business clients. “Submit documents” can be accessed directly through Represent a Client and allows you to submit documents on behalf of multiple clients without leaving the “Submit documents” service. The service can only be used to submit documents in response to requests from the CRA to submit supporting documentation and you will be provided with a reference number to use.

Auto-fill Return

Auto-fill my return is a secure Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) service that allows authorized representatives to automatically fill in parts of a 2016 and 2015 income tax and benefit return with information that the CRA has available at the time of filing the return. This service will continue in the future. That said, your tax preparer still needs to see the physical slips to compare what CRA has on file. We found many clients with a T4 of which CRA had no information.

Auto-fill also allows your tax preparer to get information on your carry forwards such as the Home Buyers Plan, non-capital and capital losses, tuition/education credits, etc.

Representing You in a “Review” or an “Audit”

This is where the representative can home in very handy. You get that notice that CRA wants to review something from your return filed, medical is usually one of those. Your tax preparer can get this information together from you, scan and then upload all your receipts to CRA, nice and easy.

If CRA is calling to “review” your return as a small business person, then you should have someone represent you in such matters. They will know exactly what items they put under each expense category, and can explain to CRA their reasoning for so doing. However, they can’t do that without being your representative.

For individuals, it won’t hurt having a third party at any reviews or audits by CRA, or even having them represent you without having to be there with the auditor. Who needs that stress, right? Letting the representative attend the review or having the review done in the representative’s office, may be a good choice.

Responsibilities of authorized representatives

· You shall act in the interest of your clients, employers, and interested third parties.

· You agree not to disclose any taxpayer information that is provided to you by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to anyone else without the taxpayer's prior consent.

· You agree to ensure the security and privacy of all transactions you conduct on behalf of the taxpayer(s).

· You will ensure that all documents are properly disposed of to protect the taxpayer's confidentiality.

· You must comply with all provisions of applicable legislation (i.e. Income Tax Act (ITA), Excise Tax Act (ETA), etc).

· Please note that if you are accessing a taxpayer's account information online through the Represent a Client online service, you are also subject to the terms and conditions of the Represent a Client online service.

· EFILE® service providers are subject to the terms and conditions of EFILE®.

· The CRA reserves the right to revoke or suspend your privileges as an authorized representative of the taxpayer if you fail to abide by these terms and conditions of use.

Having a representative when it comes to CRA matters is a good thing to do, and it allows them to chat with CRA alieving you of that stress. For the representative it makes preparing your return more accurate, and less stressful for them as they can get the information they need to do the return without pestering you.

Is Your Donation Going to a Registered Charity? 

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

It’s always good to give, and charity is one way you can give to help others, and at the same time get a credit on your taxes. In 2010, 84% of Canadians over 15 donated to charity, for an average of $446/donor, or $10.6 Billion. However, is that charity registered with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)? Any organization that wishes to have donors get a tax credit must register with CRA. You may be giving to a US Charity in US dollars, however, it may still be registered with CRA.

That raises the question, how do you know if your charity is registered with CRA?

What is the difference between a registered charity and a non-profit organization?

This is where some donors get confused as you may be giving to a non-profit rather than a registered charity. Although registered charities and non-profit organizations (NPOs) both operate on a non-profit basis, they are not the same. This explains the differences between the two.

Registered charities

Registered charities are charitable organizations, public foundations, or private foundations that are created and resident in Canada. They must use their resources for charitable activities and have charitable purposes that fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • the relief of poverty
  • the advancement of education
  • the advancement of religion
  • other purposes that benefit the community

Examples of registered charities

Here are some examples of registered charities under each of the four categories:

  • relief of poverty (food banks, soup kitchens, and low-cost housing units)
  • advancement of education (colleges, universities, and research institutes)
  • advancement of religion (places of worship and missionary organizations)
  • purposes beneficial to the community (animal shelters, libraries, and volunteer fire departments)

Non-profit organizations

Non-profit organizations are associations, clubs, or societies that are not charities and that are organized and operated exclusively for social welfare, civic improvement, pleasure, recreation, or any other purpose except profit.

Examples of non-profit organizations

Here are a few types of non-profit organizations and examples of each:

  • social, recreational, or hobby groups (bridge clubs, curling clubs, and golf clubs)
  • certain amateur sports organizations (hockey associations, baseball leagues, and soccer leagues)
  • certain festival organizations (parades and seasonal celebrations)

If you wish to find out more about the differences between registered charities and non-profit organizations, go here.

List of charities and other qualified donees

Only qualified donees, including Canadian registered charities can issue official donation receipts for gifts they receive from individuals and corporations. Find a charity or other qualified donee, their current status and any available public information.

  • Charities
    (Charities Listings) Confirm registered status; review contact information and information filed on annual returns.
  • Municipalities
    Municipalities currently registered, revoked or terminated.

How do I Check if the Charity I’m Donating to is Registered?

There are two ways to confirm if a charity is registered with CRA:

· You can also call the Charities Directorate at 1-800-267-2384.

· You can ask the charity for its registration number and confirm its status in the List of charities.

Here’s Some More Information on Donating

Does a charity have to give a receipt when it receives a donation?

No. But the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) advises charities to tell potential donors when they will or will not give a receipt. For example, a charity may decide to give receipts only for donations over $10.

Can a charity return a donation?

In most cases, no. Once the donation is made, the charity has to use the donation to carry out its charitable programs. But there are exceptions. For more information, go to Returning a gift to a donor.

Can a charity lend its registration number to another organization so it can give receipts?

No. A charity should never lend its registration number to another organization. A charity is responsible for all receipts issued under its name and number and must show these donations on its annual return. A charity that lends its registration number could lose its charitable registration.

Does a charity have to send copies of receipts to the CRA?

No. But charities have to keep a copy of all receipts they issue for at least two years from the end of the calendar year the donations were made in.

Whose name should a charity put on the receipt?

A receipt can be issued only to the true donor of the gift. For example, if a corporation donates money that was collected from its employees, and there is a written declaration to prove this, the charity can issue a receipt in each donor’s name. For more information, see Policy Commentary CPC-010.

Can a charity correct or replace a receipt?

Yes. A charity can give you a replacement receipt. For more information, go to Correcting or replacing official donation receipts.

The charity you made a donation to is no longer registered. Can you still use your receipt to claim a tax credit?

Yes. If the organization was registered when you made your donation, you can still use your receipt to claim a tax credit.

What if you get something in return for your donation?

When a charity gives you something of value in return for your donation, it is considered an advantage. The charity has to subtract the value of the advantage from the amount of your donation to figure out the eligible amount to put on your receipt.

Is it safe to donate online?

A charity that asks for donations online should be responsible for protecting your information. Read the charity’s privacy policy before making a donation. Make donations only if the webpages are secure. If you are not sure about donating online, contact the charity and ask about other ways to donate.

You’ve been invited to participate in a donation program that will make a profit for you. Is it safe to participate?

There are serious risks associated with this type of program. To learn more, go to Donation tax shelter schemes.

Donating not only helps your fellow man, but gives you a tax credit. I will say this, giving less then $200 per year really doesn’t do much for your tax credit, and depending on your income, $1000 or more is better.

Are You Considered a Low-Income Worker?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

In 2007, the government at the time established a refundable tax credit for those Canadians who are working but have a low income, and not attending post-secondary education called the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB). It was thought this would encourage Canadians to enter the workforce. A refundable tax credit is one that you actually get the money back rather than added to your other non-refundable credits. For some clients, this has meant going from a balance owing to getting a refund, which is always nice. Who qualifies and what do you get with the WITB?

Are you eligible for the WITB?

You are eligible for the WITB if:

  • You are 19 years of age or older on December 31st; and
  • You are a resident of Canada for income tax purposes throughout the year.

If you are under 19 years of age, you may still be eligible for the WITB, if you have a spouse or common-law partner or an eligible dependent on December 31st.

You are not eligible for the WITB if:

  • You do not have an eligible dependent and are enrolled as a full-time student at a designated educational institution for more than 13 weeks in the year;
  • You are confined to a prison or similar institution for a period of 90 days or more in the year; or
  • You do not have to pay tax in Canada because you are an officer or servant of another country, such as a diplomat, or a family member or employee of such person.

If you are eligible for the WITB and the disability amount, you may also be eligible to claim an annual disability supplement. To be eligible for the disability supplement, your working income must be over $1,150 and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) must have an approved Form T2201, Disability Tax Credit Certificate on file. If you have not already sent the CRA a completed Form T2201, you must do so to receive the disability supplement.

Some provinces/territories have exercised the option to reconfigure the WITB calculation based on specific social and economic realities. The CRA will determine the amount of WITB to pay based on the eligible individual's province or territory of residence at the end of the year.

For WITB purposes, you have an eligible dependent if you have a child who, at the end of the year:

  • lives with you;
  • is under 19 years of age; and
  • is not eligible for the WITB.

For WITB purposes, eligible dependents can be registered by completing Form RC66, Canada Child Benefits Application. However, if your dependents are already registered for the goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit, the CRA will automatically take them into consideration when calculating your WITB amount.

For WITB purposes, an eligible spouse at the end of the year is a person who meets all of the following conditions:

  • is your spouse or common-law partner on December 31st;
  • is a resident of Canada throughout the year;
  • is not enrolled as a full-time student at a designated educational institution for a total of more than 13 weeks in the year, unless he/she has an eligible dependant at the end of the year;
  • is not confined to a prison or similar institution for a period of 90 days or more during the year; and
  • is not an officer or servant of another country, such as a diplomat, or a family member or employee of such person.

Family net income is an individual's net income added to the net income of their spouse or common-law partner, minus any amount reported for Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) (line 117 of the Income Tax and Benefit Return). Net income is the amount on line 236 of the Income Tax and Benefit Return.

Working income for a tax year is the total amount of an individual's or family's income for the year from employment and business (excluding losses).

How is the working income tax benefit (WITB) calculated?

The WITB is calculated using the following information:

  • marital status; province or territory of residence; working income; net income; eligible dependent; and eligibility for the WITB disability supplement.

To see how the WITB is calculated, please refer to the calculation sheet applicable to you, or you can use the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Child and family benefits calculator to get an estimate of your benefit.

What is the maximum amount of WITB you may receive?

WITB is intended for low-income individuals and families who have working income earned from employment or business.

For single individuals without children, the maximum amount of WITB is paid if working income is between $7,112 and $11,675 for 2016. The WITB payment is gradually reduced when net income is more than $11,675 (this is referred to as the base threshold). No WITB is paid when net income exceeds $18,529. These amounts vary slightly for residents of Alberta, Quebec, Nunavut and British Columbia.

For families, the maximum amount of WITB is paid if the family's working income is between $10,472 and $16,122 for 2016. The WITB payment is gradually reduced when family net income is more than $16,122 (this is referred to as the base threshold). The WITB payment is reduced to zero once family net income exceeds $28,576. These amounts vary slightly for residents of Alberta, Quebec, Nunavut and British Columbia.

For single individuals and families who are eligible and entitled to WITB disability supplement, the income thresholds will be a bit higher. See here.

Check here for the income levels.

The WITB can be quite beneficial to low-income, working Canadians, and was designed to give them a break on their taxes, as well as encourage those not yet in the workforce to do so.

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