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Although virtually no one looks forward to the task, the vast majority of Canadians do file their tax returns, and pay any taxes owed, by the applicable tax payment and filing deadlines each spring. There is, however, a significant minority of Canadians who do not file or pay on a timely basis and, for some, that’s a situation which can go on for years.


As every Canadian driver knows, gas prices seem to rise every spring, seemingly in lockstep with the warmer weather. This year, that annual trend has been given an extra push by the implementation of federal and provincial carbon taxes. As of the end of April, gas prices ranged from $1.19 to $1.56 per litre, depending on the province, and most forecasts call for those prices to increase over the summer.


The deadline for payment of all individual income taxes owed for the 2018 tax year was April 30, 2019. For all individuals except the self-employed and their spouses, that date was also the filing deadline for tax returns for the 2018 tax year. (The self-employed and their spouses have until June 17, 2019 to file.)


For the majority of Canadians, the due date for filing of an individual tax return for the 2018 tax year was Tuesday April 30, 2019. (Self-employed Canadians and their spouses have until Monday June 17, 2019 to get their return filed.) In the best of all possible worlds, the taxpayer, or his or her representative, will have prepared a return that is complete and correct, and filed it on time, and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) 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 go “off the rails” in any number of ways.


Both changes in the job market and increases in real estate prices over at least the past decade have made the goal of home ownership an elusive or even impossible one for many Canadians, especially younger Canadians.


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, for the most part, a mystery to individual Canadians. The rules surrounding income tax are complicated and it can seem that for every rule there is an equal number of exceptions or qualifications. There is, however, one rule which applies to every individual taxpayer in Canada, regardless of location, income, or circumstances, and of which most Canadians are aware. That rule is that income tax owed for a year must be paid, in full, on or before April 30 of the following year. This year, that means that individual income taxes owed for 2018 must be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on or before Tuesday, April 30, 2019 — no exceptions and, absent extraordinary circumstances, no extensions.


By the time most Canadians sit down to organize their various tax slips and receipts and undertake to complete their tax return for 2018, the most significant opportunities to minimize the tax bill for the year are no longer available. Most such tax planning or saving strategies, in order to be effective for 2018, must have been implemented by the end of that calendar year. The major exception to that is, of course, the making of registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions, but even that had to be done on or before March 1, 2019 in order to be deducted on the return for 2018.


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 first quarter of 2019 (January to March 2019), that maximum monthly benefit is $601.45. 


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 the 2018 show that the vast majority of Canadian individual income tax returns — nearly 87%, or almost 26 million returns — were filed online, using one or the other of the CRA’s web-based filing methods. The remaining 13% of returns were, for the most part, paper-filed, and a very small percentage (0.1%) were filed using the File My Return service, in which returns are filed by telephone.


For many years now, there has been a persistent tax scam operating in Canada in which Canadians are contacted, usually by phone, by someone who falsely identifies himself or herself as being a representative of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The taxpayer is told that money — sometimes a substantial amount of money — is owed to the government. The identifier for this particular scam is that the caller insists that the money owed must be paid immediately (usually by wire transfer or pre-paid credit card) and, if payment is not made right away, significant negative consequences will follow, including immediate arrest or seizure of assets, confiscation of the taxpayer’s Canadian passport, or deportation.


While Canadian taxpayers must prepare and file the same form – the T1 Income Tax and Benefit Return – every spring, that return form is never the same from one year to the next. The one constant in tax is change, and every year taxpayers sit down to face a different tax return form than they dealt with the previous year.


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


The fact that debt levels of Canadian households have been increasing over the past decade and a half can’t really be called news anymore. In particular, the ratio of debt-to-household-income, which stood at 93% in 2005, has risen steadily since then and, as of the third quarter of 2018, reached (another) new record of 177.5%. In other words, the average Canadian household owed $1.78 for every dollar of disposable (after-tax) income. (The Statistics Canada publication reporting those findings can be found on the StatsCan website at https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/181214/dq181214a-eng.htm.)


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 17 of this year.


For most taxpayers, the annual deadline for making an RRSP contribution comes at a very inconvenient time. At the end of February, many Canadians are still trying to pay off the bills from holiday spending, the first income tax instalment payment is due two weeks later on March 15 and the need to pay any tax balance for the year just ended comes just 6 weeks after that, on April 30. And, while the best advice on how to avoid such a cash flow crunch is to make RRSP contributions on a regular basis throughout the year, that’s more of a goal than a reality for the majority of Canadians.


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.


The Employment Insurance premium rate for 2019 is decreased to 1.62%.


The Quebec Pension Plan contribution rate for employees and employers for 2019 is 5.55%, and maximum pensionable earnings are $57,400. The basic exemption is $3,500.


The Canada Pension Plan contribution rate for 2019 is increased to 5.1% of pensionable earnings for the year.


Dollar amounts on which individual non-refundable federal tax credits for 2019 are based, and the actual tax credit claimable, will be as follows.


The indexing factor for federal tax credits and brackets for 2018 is 2.2%. The following federal tax rates and brackets will be in effect for individuals for the 2019 tax year.


Each new tax year brings with it a listing of tax payment and filing deadlines, as well as some changes with respect to tax planning strategies. Some of the more significant dates and changes for individual taxpayers for 2019 are listed below.


The following tax changes are in effect January 1, 2019.


While there weren’t a great number of tax measures included in the 2018 Fall Economic Statement brought down by the Minister of Finance on November 21, 2018, the tax changes that were announced represented good news for Canadian businesses.


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


For individual Canadian taxpayers, the tax year ends at the same time as the calendar year. And what that means for individual Canadians is that any steps taken to reduce their tax payable for 2018 must be completed by December 31, 2018. (For individual taxpayers, the only significant exception to that rule is registered retirement savings plan contributions, which can be made any time up to and including March 1, 2019, and claimed on the return for 2018.)


The holiday season is usually costly, but few Canadians are aware that those costs can include increased income tax liability resulting from holiday gifts and celebrations. It doesn’t seem entirely in the spirit of the season to have to consider possible tax consequences when attending holiday celebrations and receiving gifts; however, our tax system extends its reach into most areas of the lives of Canadians, and the holidays are no exception. Fortunately, the possible negative tax consequences are confined to a minority of fact situations and relationships, usually involving employers and employees, and are entirely avoidable with a little advance planning.


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


The start of the calendar year also marks the beginning of the tax year for individuals and consequently most tax changes are scheduled to take effect as of January 1 of each year. However, the federal and provincial budgets are brought down in the late winter and spring, and those budgets can include announcements of tax changes which will take effect later in the year (often, but not exclusively, on July 1, being halfway through the tax year). As well, where a change in tax rates, credits, or income brackets announced in the budgets is made effective as from the beginning of the tax and calendar year, individuals will first notice that change when their payroll withholdings are adjusted starting in July.


Most Canadians, understandably, think about taxes only when such thoughts can’t be avoided — once or twice a year. The first such time is, of course, when the annual return must be filed at the end of April (or mid-June for the self-employed). And some, but not all, taxpayers turn their minds to taxes when the annual RRSP contribution deadline rolls around.


By the end of June, all individual taxpayers have filed their 2017 income tax returns and most will have received a Notice of Assessment outlining the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA’s) conclusions with respect to their income and tax position for the year. In most cases, the Notice of Assessment won’t vary a great deal from the information provided by the taxpayer in his or her return. Where it does, and the change is to the taxpayer’s detriment — the amount of income assessed is greater than that reported by the taxpayer, or a deduction or credit is denied — then the taxpayer must decide whether to dispute the CRA’s assessment.


For several generations, reaching one’s 65th birthday marked the transition from working life to full retirement, and, usually, receipt of a monthly employee pension, along with government-sponsored retirement benefits. That is no longer the reality. The age at which Canadians retire can now span a decade or more, and retirement is more likely to be a gradual transition than a single event.


It’s something of an article of faith among Canadians that, as temperatures rise in the spring, gas prices rise along with them. Whether that’s the case every year or not, this year statistics certainly support that conclusion. In mid-May, Statistics Canada released its monthly Consumer Price Index, which showed that gasoline prices were up by 14.2%. As of the third week of May, the per-litre cost of gas across the country ranged from 125.2 cents per litre (in Manitoba) to 148.5 cents per litre (in British Columbia). On May 23, the average price across Canada was 135.2 cents per litre, an increase of more than 25 cents per litre from last year’s average on that date.


By the middle of May 2018, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had processed just over 26 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2017 tax year. Just over 14 million of those returns resulted in a refund to the taxpayer, while about 5.5 million returns filed and processed required payment of a tax balance by the taxpayer. Finally, about 4.4 million returns were what are called “nil” returns — returns where no tax is owing and no refund claimed, but the taxpayer is filing in order to provide income information which will be used to determine his or her eligibility for tax credit payments (like the federal Canada Child Benefit or the HST credit )


While the Canadian real estate market seems, by all accounts, to have retreated from the record pace it was setting in 2017, there is still plenty of activity. According the statistics released by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), more than 35,000 homes were sold across Canada in the month of April alone. And that means that an equal number of households will be moving in the upcoming months.


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


For almost a decade now, Canadians have been living, and borrowing, in an ultra-low interest rate environment. As of the end of April 2018, the bank rate (from which commercial interest rates are derived) stood at 1.5%. The last time that the bank rate was over 1.5% was in December of 2008. Effectively, adult Canadians who are under the age of 30 have had no experience of managing their finances in high (or even, by historical standards, ordinary) interest rate environments.


The arrival of warmer weather signals both the start of spring and the approaching end of the school year. For many families, it also means the need to begin researching the availability of suitable child care or summer daytime or overnight camp arrangements for the summer months. There are many such options available to parents, but what each of those options have in common is a price tag – sometimes a steep one. Some options, like day camps provided by the local recreation authority or municipality can be relatively inexpensive, while the cost of others, like summer-long residential camps or elite level sports or arts camps, can run to the thousands of dollars.


There are a number of income sources available to Canadians in retirement. Those who participated in the work force during their adult life will have contributed to the Canada Pension Plan and will be able to receive CPP retirement benefits as early as age 60. Earning income from employment or self-employment will also have entitled those individuals to contribute to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP). A shrinking minority of Canadians will be able to look forward to receiving benefits from an employer-sponsored pension plan.


By the end of April 2018, more than 20 million individual income tax returns for the 2017 tax year will have been filed with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). And, inevitably, some of those returns will contain errors or omissions that must be corrected – last year the CRA received about 2 million requests for adjustment(s) to an already-filed return.


Virtually no one looks forward to dealing with the need to file a tax return each spring, and while some of that reluctance is undoubtedly due to the complexity of our tax system, there’s another factor at work.

Many (even most) taxpayers don’t know, until they have actually completed their return for the year, whether additional taxes will be owed. And, no matter what the taxpayer’s financial circumstances, finding out that money is owed to the tax authorities is bad news.


The reach of Canada’s system is broad – residents of Canada are taxed on their world-wide income, and the income or capital amounts that escape the Canadian tax net are few and far between.

One of the most significant of those exceptions, particularly for individual Canadian taxpayers, is the “principal residence exemption”. Plainly put, when a Canadian taxpayer sells his or her home, the proceeds of sale are not included in his or her income for the year (and therefore not taxed), no matter how much that home has appreciated in value since it was acquired. And, of course, given the real estate market conditions that have prevailed in recent years, especially in some urban centers, the difference between the original cost of the family home and its later sale price can be very substantial.


While everyone knows that the best results are obtained when tax and financial planning take place on an ongoing basis, the reality is that most Canadians focus on their tax situation only once a year, at tax filing time. And the harsher reality is that, by then, the opportunity to take steps which will make a significant difference in one’s tax liability for 2017 is lost.


The rules surrounding income tax are complicated and it can seem that for every rule there is an equal number of exceptions or qualifications. There is, however, one rule which applies to every individual taxpayer in Canada, regardless of location, income, or circumstances. That rule is that income tax owed for a year must be paid, in full, on or before April 30 of the following year. This year, that means that individual income taxes owed for 2017 must be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on or before Monday, April 30, 2018. No exceptions and, absent extraordinary circumstances, no extensions.


One of the smaller frustrations of dealing with the federal government is that personal information provided by an individual to any one government department is not shared with or communicated with other branches of the government. The intention behind that policy is a good one – it’s there to protect the privacy of the individual. However, it also means that a single individual must contact potentially several government departments, or log on to several websites in order to, for instance, arrange for direct deposit, or to provide updated information – like a change in bank account information.


The early months of the new calendar year can feel like a never-ending series of bills and other financial obligations, especially tax-related financial obligations. Credit card bills from holiday spending, or perhaps a mid-winter vacation, arrive in mid to late January. RRSP contributions to be claimed on the 2017 return must be made on or before March 1, 2018. And, finally, the April 30, 2018 deadline for payment of any final balance of 2017 income taxes looms.


Last year, 85 percent of individual income tax returns filed were prepared and submitted online using one or the other of the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) web-based tax filing services. There’s every reason to expect that the same percentages will apply this year, but there are some other options available to Canadian taxpayers.


The time is fast approaching when the annual chore of gathering together the various pieces of information needed to complete one’s annual tax return, and getting that return completed and filed can’t be delayed any longer. For those wishing to put that chore off as long as possible, there is one (very small) bit of good news. Individual Canadians (other than the self-employed and their spouses) are required to file the annual return by April 30 of the following year, and to pay any tax amount owed by the same deadline. This year, since April 30 falls on a Sunday, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has extended that filing and payment deadline to the following day, Monday May 1, 2017. Self-employed taxpayers have until Thursday June 15, 2017 to file their returns for 2016, but they too must pay any outstanding tax amounts owed for that year by Monday May 1, 2017.