Archive for January, 2019

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The Tax Refund: Friend or Foe to Wealth Management?

The Statistics Canada’s Individual Income Tax Report*released on January 8, highlighted just how much Canadians are being over-taxed by the CRA. With average tax refunds coming in at $1,757 for the 2018 filing season, many taxpayers are effectively providing the government with interest-free loans of approximately $150 per month for up to 16 months before they see their refund. Just how much is that really costing you?

Consider this: $150 a month could help you take advantage of investment opportunities or pay down debt. Investing the money in a TFSA at a 5% return would earn almost $50 in interest over a 12-month period. While that may not sound like much annually, it’s significant over the long-term if that investment is allowed to grow. The earnings are tax-free along the way and when they are withdrawn, too. 

If the money was put into an RRSP, almost immediate tax savings would result, at the taxpayer’s marginal tax rates, provided the taxpayer is age-eligible and has RRSP contribution room.  A spousal RRSP opportunity may also be possible. This opportunity brings with it the possibility of reducing withholding taxes throughout the year, using Form T1213.

Likewise, if taxpayers used that $150 monthly payment to reduce debt — particularly high-interest consumer debt — instead of giving it up to the CRA in overpayment, that could make a significant financial impact. Especially when you consider that the average interest rate for credit cards in Canada is 19%, and that number continues to rise. The benefit is exponentially positive, given that interest on consumer debt is not deductible.

Many Canadians celebrate their refund cheque as though it’s free money when, in reality, money collected through over-taxation should have been theirs all along. Lacking access to it therefore has a negative impact on their financial future – making the tax refund a foe, not a friend, to financial planning goals.

To prevent these repercussions seek out the services of a certified professional in tax-efficient debt management  or a Real Wealth Manager, who can help you coordinate financial plans with tax filing priorities. It’s important to reduce CRA’s reach up-front, and control whether the correct amount of tax is being paid on a regular basis.

Consider the following implementation tips:

  • Fill out a TD1 for your employer’s payroll department, outlining tax credits and deductions you’re likely to claim. Payroll deductions can be adjusted accordingly. This often needs to be requested, as most companies don’t routinely provide these forms to new hires.
  • Update your employer on significant life changes that may impact the amount of tax to be withheld (child or spouse no longer a dependent, for example).
  • Inform your employer if you have more than one employer in the same tax year. This could affect your tax-exempt basic personal amount. Otherwise, if a new employer assumes this applies, under-taxation could occur and you’ll owe money you weren’t anticipating.
  • CRA can give approval to an employer to collect less tax in cases where employees are making RRSP contributions or claiming significant childcare costs, for example. An advisor can help you make the right moves in order to ensure only the necessary taxes are being withheld.

Advisors helping taxpayers through this process can do more than simply manage the logistics; having conversations around this issue creates an opportunity for education. It’s time to start moving the needle and help Canadians better understand the complex tax issues that impact their wealth.

The Statistics Canada Individual Income Tax Report*


What Else Is New in 2019? Auto Expense Deduction Changes

Did you check your odometer reading at the start of the year? Finance Canada confirmed its 2019 auto expense rates on December 27, but they don’t quite measure up to cover the carbon taxes that increase the cost of driving, including the increased gas prices as of January 1. Those who use passenger vehicles for business will be disappointed that their write-offs haven’t changed at all, unless a new vehicle was purchased after November 20, 2018.

Here are the tax changes:

Employer-owned cars. For those who use an employer-provided vehicle, the prescribed rate that determines the taxable benefit for the personal portion of operating expenses paid by employers will be increased to 28 cents per kilometer from 26 cents. For those employed principally in selling or leasing cars, the rate goes up to 25 cents; also a 2-cent-per-kilometer increase. However, that’s not all in terms of costs to employees with this benefit: a standby charge must be computed separately to reflect the fact that the car is available for personal use.

Employee-owned cars. For those who purchase a passenger vehicle, limits on the claims for capital cost allowance, interest costs and leasing costs will not be changed from 2018 limits. The amounts are $30,000 (plus taxes), $300 a month and $800 a month (plus taxes), respectively.

Tax-exempt allowances. The limit on tax-exempt allowances paid to employees who use their own vehicles for business purposes will increase by 3 cents to 58 cents per kilometer for the first 5,000 kilometres driven, and then to 52 cents for each additional kilometer. Those living in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon will add 4 cents to this, making it 62 cents per kilometer for the first 5,000 kilometres, and 56 cents there over that distance.

Given that these allowances are intended to offset the costs of owning and operating the vehicle — including fuel, financing, insurance, maintenance and depreciation — the new rates may not be enough to cover the carbon taxes of 4.4 cents starting April 1 for provinces that do not have their own carbon tax regime; and that amount will be even more in other provinces that do.

Average gas prices. It turns out Manitoba has the lowest average gas prices in the country these days, according to the CAA website. As of January 2, the rates were as follows:

Province Gas Price per Litre ($)
Alberta 091.1
British Columbia 125.8
Manitoba 088.7
New Brunswick 101.6
Newfoundland and Labrador 108.5
Nova Scotia 096.1
Ontario 097.6
Prince Edward Island 095.7
Quebec 108.4
Saskatchewan 096.0