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Tax Alerts

In recent years, it seems that the arrival of spring has coincided with a natural or man-made disaster somewhere in Canada. Spring is also, of course, tax return preparation and filing season for most Canadian taxpayers, but it’s likely taxes were the last thing on the minds of families and individuals affected by this spring’s floods. And, in most cases, those families and individuals will not be penalized for failing, in such circumstances, to fulfill their tax obligations in a timely way.


For many years, post-secondary students have financed their educations in part through private savings and often in part through government student loans, which are generally interest-free while the student is in school. As well, the bulk of costs incurred to attend post-secondary education (or to finance it) have been eligible for a tax deduction or credit, at both the federal and provincial/territorial levels. Beginning in 2017, however, changes to that regime at both the federal level and in some provinces will mean changes to the way students (and their parents) pay for post-secondary education.  


If spring is the season for real estate sales in Canada, then summer is the time when all those real estate buyers and sellers pack up their belongings and move to their newly purchased homes. And, while buying a new home and making that move is usually something home buyers are doing by choice, that doesn’t make the actual process of moving any less stressful or costly.


Once they’ve completed and filed their 2016 tax return, most Canadians give a sigh of relief that the dreaded annual chore is done, and that income taxes will be out of sight and out of mind until the next filing deadline rolls around.

If all goes as planned, that is how events will unfold. In the best case scenario, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will issue a Notice of Assessment which indicates that the Agency agrees with the taxpayer’s summary of his or her income, deductions, credits, and taxes payable for the past year, and that it has no further questions or concerns. And, for the vast majority of Canadians, that is exactly how things will unfold. For many others, however, there will be a few more questions to be answered or steps to be taken before the tax filing and assessment process for the year is finally completed.


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


Older taxpayers who have recently completed and filed their tax returns for 2016 may face an unpleasant surprise when that return is assessed. The unpleasant surprise may come in the form of a notification that they are subject to the Old Age Security “recovery tax” – known much more familiarly to Canadians as the OAS clawback.


As just about everyone knows, individual income tax returns for the 2016 tax year must be filed, by most Canadians, and any tax balance owed must be paid by all individual Canadians, on or before May 1, 2017. And, most Canadians do file that return, and pay any tax balance owed, on or before the deadline. As of April 24, 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had received just over 18 million individual income tax returns for the 2016 tax year. There are, however, a significant minority of Canadians who don’t file a return, or pay taxes owed (or both) by the annual deadline. The reasons for that are as varied as the individuals involved. In some cases, taxpayers are unable to pay a tax balance owing by the deadline and they think (wrongly) that there’s no point to filing a return where taxes owed can’t be paid. They may even think that they can fly “under the radar” and escape at least the immediate notice of the tax authorities by not filing the return. In other cases, it is just procrastination – virtually no one actually likes completing their tax return, especially where there’s the possibility of a tax bill to be paid once that return is done.


The Canadian tax system is in a constant state of change and evolution, as new measures are introduced and existing ones are “tweaked” through a never-ending series of budgetary and other announcements. However, even by normal standards, 2017 is a year in which there are larger than usual number of tax changes affecting individual taxpayers. And, unfortunately, most of those changes involve the repeal of existing tax credits which are claimed by millions of Canadian taxpayers.


For the majority of Canadians, the due date for filing of an individual tax return for the 2016 tax year is May 1, 2017. (Self-employed Canadians and their spouses have until June 15, 2017 to get that 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 be “short-circuited” in a number of ways.


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


For most Canadians, having to pay for legal services is an infrequent occurrence, and most of us would like to keep it that way. In most instances, the need to seek out and obtain legal services (and to pay for them) is associated with life’s more unwelcome occurrences—a divorce, a death, or a job loss. About the only thing that mitigates the pain of paying legal fees (aside, hopefully, from a successful resolution of the problem that created the need for legal advice) would be being able to claim a tax credit or deduction for the fees paid.


The current election campaign has once again focused the attention of Canadians, especially the baby boomers, on changes announced in 2012 to Canada’s retirement income system. One of the results of those changes is that Canadians aged 65 and over can, as of July 1, 2013, choose to defer receipt of their Old Age Security (OAS) benefits. What’s more difficult is deciding, on an individual basis, whether it makes sense to defer receipt of those benefits and, if so, for how long.


A number of circumstances and developments have come together to make working from home an attractive prospect for both employers and employees. Soaring house prices in major Canadian cities have driven those who work in those cities further and further afield in the search for affordable housing. Consequently, there are increasing numbers of Canadians who must travel into a major urban centre for work each day, putting already crowded highways and city streets into near-gridlock much of the time. And the summer of 2015 has been more difficult than most for commuters. In addition to the usual delays caused by the summer construction schedule, special events held in major cities have closed or narrowed the usual commuter routes. Any commuter spending hours a day just trying to get to and from work might well wonder whether it’s worth it.


By this time of the year, most Canadian taxpayers have filed their returns for 2014 and received a Notice of Assessment with respect to those returns. Many will have received a refund, while others have received the unwelcome news that money is owed to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and have paid up, however unwillingly.


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


This month, millions of Canadians will receive unexpected mail from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). That mail will contain an unfamiliar form—a 2015 Instalment Reminder. On that form, the CRA suggests to the recipient that he or she should make instalment payments of income tax on September 15 and December 15 2015, and will identify the amount which should be paid on each date.


Earlier this year, it was announced that the annual contribution limit to tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) would be nearly doubled, increasing from $5,500 to $10,000, and that that increase would be effective for the 2015 and subsequent tax years.


This summer, millions of Canadians have been affected by a series of disasters ranging from forest fires to droughts and other kinds of severe weather, and many of those Canadians have been temporarily displaced from their homes and businesses as a result.


In October 2014, the federal government announced a number of changes to tax and benefit programs affecting families with young children. One such change altered the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) program, effective January 1, 2015, to increase the amount of that taxable benefit for families having children under the age of 6 and to create a new benefit for those with children aged 6 to 17. The first payment of the new or increased benefit was made in July, in the form of a lump sum payment representing the accrued benefits for the first half of 2015. Since then, this being an election year, there have been claims and counter-claims about the amount of the net benefit to Canadian families of the changes to the UCCB, and about the kind of tax planning families receiving that benefit need to undertake. The existing and new tax rules which determine the overall net benefit of the changes for Canadian families are as follows.