Tax Freedom Day, 2017. Working For Ourselves Now… Theoretically.

June 9, 2017 is Tax Freedom Day!

What is Tax Freedom Day?

Does it really exist?

What might it mean to me?

In their annual report, the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think-tank added up all forms of taxation — from income and sales taxes, to more hidden costs such as gasoline taxes, carbon taxes, tobacco and alcohol taxes, municipal property taxes, payroll taxes and even CPP and EI premiums — to come up with a figure for the overall tax burden for Canadian families, and this year, they have determined that the average Canadian family with two or more people will earn $108,674 and pay 43.4% in taxes.

Based on the Fraser Institute math, 100% of income earned thus far in 2017 has been gobbled up by government in taxes, and only now are you working for yourself until the end of the year.

Last year, in 2016, it came a day earlier, on June 8th and because of variances in all types of taxes in different provinces, Tax Freedom Day differs across the country, ranging from May 21st in Alberta to June 25th in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of the reasons for the extra day is to account for the fact that Canadians’ tax bill has risen, on average, by $1,126 this year, according to the Fraser Institute. Of that increase, $542, came from higher income taxes, but sales taxes (up $311) and other energy-related taxes (up $204) also took a bigger bite while liquor, tobacco, amusement, and other excise taxes, payroll and health taxes, and import duties all decreased.

The Ottawa-based Broadbent Institute, however, disputes the math behind the annual Fraser Institute report, because the Fraser Institutes uses “average” tax rates instead of median tax rates.

To come up with its “average” tax rates, the Fraser Institute simply adds up the amount of cash income earned by a taxpayer, and then divides that by the number of people. It then takes “outliers” and excludes those extremes from the calculations.

The Broadbent Institute said that skews the numbers in a certain way, and a better way than the average would be to use the median — the exact mid-point between the top and bottom and the rationale behind this surrounds the fact that the average income of Canada will always be higher than the median because of the small number of very high-income earners in Canada, which skews the average income amount higher.

Adding up only federal and provincial income taxes, the “average” Canadian in prime working years (between 25 – 54 years of age) earned $62,600 last year, and paid $12,000 in taxes, or around 19%, according to tax filings. Using the Broadbent method of calculation, the median for that group earned $50,500 last year and paid $7,000, or 14%, in income taxes.

Another main difference is that the figures used by Fraser Institute report doesn’t just include income taxes. It tabulates all sorts of fees that taxpayers don’t directly pay, such as payroll taxes and resource royalties that companies pay when they extract things like oil, minerals and timber.

It also only considers what it calls “cash income” on the other side of the ledger. That excludes employee benefits, investment income from pension plans and other forms of cash income.

The Fraser report also takes into consideration indirect costs like payroll taxes and other taxes which businesses pay in their calculations because even though businesses pay these taxes directly, the cost of business taxation is passed on to Canadians.

So now that we’re working for ourselves, let’s push all levels of government to treat our tax dollars more wisely, and let’s earn as much as possible (while continuing to pay our taxes on time!)

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Your Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Tax Collections Questions Answered

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked CRA Tax collections questions from the past weekend:IMG_7817

  1. Can you bribe a CRA officer in Canada?

Answer: NO.

First off, bribing a CRA officer is a criminal offense and you could quickly wind up with the RCMP at your door, or under investigation, but more realistically, the staff at the CRA tend to be lifelong civil servants and one of the great benefits of working in the civil service is the great pension.  Few civil servants are willing to even entertain the thought of giving up their pensions, let alone going to jail for someone when they have hundreds of other people to collect from.

2.   Is there GST/HST on a lien?

Answer: Let’s presume that the question is asking if there is additional GST / HST on a lien, and the lien has been registered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  In that scenario, the answer is no.

The CRA would register a lien for unpaid or unfiled (and assessed) GST / HST, and the amount used for the lien is the amount owing on the day it has been registered in Federal Court.  This fact is important because from that day forth, interest continues to accrue and accumulate on the tax account with the CRA, but the lien only reflects the amount owing at a point in time.

Often, a lien will get paid out and then the CRA’s computer system kicks out an update Notice of Assessment with an additional balance owing  and taxpayers are puzzled having just paid off a lien.

They did pay the lien.

Now they pay the rest of the balance owing.

3.   Where can I get the truth about Voluntary Disclosure?

Answer: From the CRA website, of course.  The link to the VDP section of their site is here;  http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/voluntarydisclosures/

4.   Can I claim mileage drive to and from work at the CRA?

Answer: I hope you enjoy your career at the CRA and are not an auditor, because you should know this answer!  You cannot claim mileage driving to and from work.

From the CRA website; http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns206-236/229/slry/mtrvhcl-eng.html

“If you use a motor vehicle for both employment and personal use, you can deduct only the percentage of expenses related to earning income. To support the amount you can deduct, keep a record of both the total kilometres you drove and the kilometres you drove to earn employment income. We consider driving back and forth between home and work as personal use.”

Get Ready to File your Personal Income Tax Return (T1). Make Sure You Have All Your Slips Accounted For!

Ready to file your Personal Tax (T1) Return here in Canada to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

Are you chomping at the bit to get your refund?

Before you push forward and get that return in, make sure to check that you have received all the tax slips you should be getting?

Then check again.

If you forget a tax slip – T3, T5, T4, T4A, etc – the CRA does not accept the argument that you just “forgot it”, but rather they believe that you have willingly omitted the slip in order to reduce the amount of income that you are reporting, so you end up paying less taxes.

The penalty for missing slips can be quite steep.

Forget to include slips year over year and the penalty increases.

At inTAXicating, we encourage our clients to keep track of slips expected and slips received through a spreadsheet, or a program such as QuickBooks  based on the slips received in the previous year, and any transactions in the current year which will result in the generating of a tax slip.

In the inTAXicating Personal Tax Spreadsheet, we take tax slip tracking a little bit further by identifying which member of the family the slip belongs to, when it was received the previous year and which institution produced the slip.

Remember that slips produced by institutions are also sent to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) so they know what you should be filing before you do unless you keep track.

Then take this list, and staple it to a box or file folder which is kept in the house / place of business for all potential tax-related materials for the year.  At tax time, it’s an easy checklist to make sure all is in order and that when filing, everything is included.

If, however, you have forgotten to include a slip, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will eventually use their copy of the slip notify and re-assess you if you have not had the time to amend your return.

If you don’t get to the CRA first, the next thing you know, you likely will have a balance owing and along with the penalty for missing the slip, the debt is accruing interest.  It can easily escalate from there!

A little organization will reduce the amount of penalties and interest paid to the CRA.  As the Tax Manager for Computershare Trust Company of Canada / Computershare Investor Services, I was responsible for the preparation, filing and submission of tax slips to the millions of investors Computershare kept track of, so I understand more than anyone the importance of getting slips out to the holders on time, and accurately, and then to the government on time and without penalty.

Here is a list of the slips you could receive and the date they have to be mailed to the holder and to the CRA.

RRSP – If you were one of the many who used the March 1st deadline to make your contribution for the previous year, then you would be receiving that slips beginning March 15th.  All other RRSP contributions which were made prior to the 60-day extended period saw their tax slips mailed beginning at the turn of the calendar.  They are T4RSP slips and RL2’s for residents of Quebec.

T5 / RL3 and NR4’s begin to get mailed around January 15th.

T4RIF / RL2 withdrawals from a RRIF, are mailed the 3rd week of February.

T5/RL3 for investment interest income coming from a mutual fund are mailed the 3rd week of February.

T3 / RL16 reporting dividend income from mutual funds are mailed by the 3rd week of February.

Receipt of contribution from an estate rolling over funds to a spouse produce a T4RSP / T4RIF / RL2 – issued for receipt of contributions from an estate rolling over funds to a spouse – sent  out the first week in February

T4A / RL1 are issued for RESP withdrawals and are produced and mailed the first week in February.

NR4’s showing income for non-residents of Canada are mailed the 3rd week in February.

If during the year you received Employment Insurance (EI), Old Age Security (OAS) or Canada Pension Plan (CPP) payments, you can follow this 3-step process from the government website to make sure everything is in order and get your tax slips online directly from Service Canada.

Happy filing.

inTAXicating Tax Services for all your tax needs and specializing in providing solutions to your tax problems.

info@intaxicating.ca

 

Why Getting the Largest Tax Refund Possible from the CRA is NOT a Good Idea

After spending close to 11-years working in the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), I have a very good idea what gets people into tax trouble.

Okay, I know exactly what gets people into tax trouble, and while it’s nearly impossible to list them all, I can tell you that there are ways to get out of tax trouble which many have never considered.

I also know that getting a refund back from the CRA isn’t always a good idea.  More on that later.

I can honestly say, without any prejudice that the main problem has to do with firms advertising at tax time about getting the most money in the fastest way possible.  These ads are aimed at people who equate getting their money back fast through the quick, cheap filing of tax returns.

The ads go something like this;

“Get the Largest Tax Refund Possible”.

“Get the Most Back.”

“Get the Most You Are Entitled To.”

“Get your Money Back Now!”

Just hearing those advertising slogans scare me, and it should scare you too.

Getting money back from the government at tax time, does not mean what you might think it does.

You are not getting money from the government because you fell into a threshold, but what you are doing is getting your money back from the government.

Your money that you overpaid (or were over-deducted at source) which the government kept during the year – held interest-free in fact – which you are asking for back.

Amazing.

It’s akin to lending someone money for a year – they use it, or invest it and make money off of it – and then a year later you ask for it back and you get it, while they made money off of it.

So how does this tied into tax debt?

History has shown me that people do not wake up in the morning and decide that they want to start carrying a balance owing to the Canada Revenue Agency.  Nobody wants to worry when they go to use their debit card that there might not be funds there as a result of a CRA bank garnishment, or when they go to sell their home find out that there is a lien on it.

Tax problem occur over time and as the time passes and interest accumulates, people find their ability to deal with it declines and before you know it, the amount owing is massive and the CRA is breathing down your neck.

So imagine if after rushing to have your tax return completed – so you can get back a couple of hundred dollars – you find out that you owed money instead.  Now you have a tax problem.  A tax problem that you have not budgeted for.  Now in collections, you have time find a way to pay off this amount owing, and fast, before the CRA takes legal actions.  You can ask friends and family for money, or consider a second job to pay that off.  It can be done, it can take time, or it can snowball and you become a chronic tax debtor in the eyes of the CRA.

Now the fun starts.  Visits to your house, your employer and notices to your bank or clients all run the risk of causing you long-term embarrassment.

If only there was a solution available to help out the repayment.

Well, there is.

This scenario could be completely different if you have taken the time to speak with an accountant, or a reputable tax firm and knew in advance that you might owe and together you had the opportunity to determine the best way to handle this impeding debt by placing money into your RRSP, or applying for, and claiming deductions to reduce your amount of taxes owing at year-end.  With a good accountant, your tax planning is not just for the current year, but also for future years.  

Wouldn’t that make more sense?

One of the first questions I ask a prospective client, or anyone who comes to me for tax advice, is who completed your tax return and what are their credentials.  It’s important because I have taken tax returns which owed the CRA $3000, $4000 or $5000 each year and turned them in to $4000 and $5000 credit returns just by claiming deductions and tax credits available to those taxpayers which their tax preparation service either didn’t know about or didn’t care about.  You only get so much service for $50.

There is nothing illegal in doing that, and provided that there is legitimate supporting documentation, the CRA wouldn’t reject the claim.

So instead of rushing to have your return completed for $40 or $50, think about spending the extra money this year and take advantage of an accounting firm which will sit with you, determine how to minimize your tax expenditures for this year and for future years.

Pay what you owe and not a cent more, and if you’re getting money back every year find out why.  Learn which deductions you may be eligible for and start keeping your receipts.

Take control of your year-end tax filing and stop sending the CRA penalty and interest revenue.

If you already have a tax problem, you need to have tax experts review your prior year tax returns to look for missed deductions and credits.  With a simple amending of the return, your balance could be reduced or wiped out completely.  This really is the best way to start resolving your tax problem.

It’s what I do.  For you.

It’s worth the money!

If you are looking for an alternative, some assistance, or have tax questions, contact us at info@intaxicating.ca and let’s get the ball rolling.

 

Tax Season in Canada… When can you expect to see your slips, receipts and returns?

Tax time in Canada.

April 30th for most Canadians and June 15th for self-employed Canadians.

So much fun… Really.  Organizations who issue tax slips, tax returns or contribution receipts have been working hard perfecting their processes since the end of the last tax reporting season and have been working through the summer putting any necessary changes in place and gearing up for the next tax season – which all begins next month in November for many top organizations.

Since issuing organizations are gearing up, so should you, the investor, start getting ready to file your income tax returns and to do that, it really helps if you have an idea as to which slips your investment(s) will generate and when you can expect them.

Of course, even if you do get all your slips, as expected, there could always be amended slips sent to you as well resulting from an error or late directional change from the company / fund.  Even the CRA sometimes are required to make changes to their tax forms, or to the calculations contained therein and there is nothing you, nor your tax preparer can do, let alone the poor folks issuing your tax slips.  You have a slip, assume it to be correct and file to the CRA with it only to find out it’s incorrect when another version comes, with a letter, to be used instead.

Take 2010, for example… The CRA changed the dividend tax rate by something like 0.0007% and they did that 5 days before they expected T5 slips to have been received by holders and in actual fact, most of the T5’s were already issued with the incorrect rate before the CRA realized what they had done.

Since the CRA determined that the rate change would be adjusted internally, there was a communication fired out industry-wide notifying those who received T5’s that no further actions would be taken on the holder side and that they should not need to go back to their bank, financial institution or transfer agent to have it amended.  I remember a few individuals demanding their slips being amended for a total change of $7.00.  But this is what you do – with a smile when you’re in that industry.

Back to the topic.

One of the most common frustrations during tax preparation time comes from those holders who are eager to file but are unsure of what they are getting and when, roughly, it should arrive.

Due Dates

Keeping tabs on due dates can be quite difficult, especially if you’re getting them from an organization which has not fully embraced social media and are unable to provide you with a timeline, or expected dates per slip depending on what you should be receiving.

For example, T4 and T5 tax slips must be mailed out by February 28th whereas, tax slips for mutual funds, flow-through shares, limited partnerships and income trusts are not due until March 31st.

When there are late deadlines, like March 31st, a lot of pressure is then placed on your accountant as it creates a heavy backlog in April, when accountants must rush through the preparation of personal tax returns for their clients – sadly unable to give each return the care and oversight that they deserve.

I just don’t understand why all slips are not made available on the web or by email all by say March 10th in order to allow time for issuing organizations to prepare better their processes to allow for additional oversight and for time to correct errors.  This way organizations preparing the slips will have to begin auditing the slips traditionally due in February for errors and get the March ones completed – have them all merged together in the same file and made available sooner rather than later for the holder.  In addition, with a fixed deadline, the CRA or MRQ would then know when they can or cannot change slips or information on slips.

Let’s look a little closer at some issues and potential solutions;

Year-end trading summaries

Banks and brokerages use year-end trade summaries to report proceeds and commissions on each sale. However, the proceeds reported are sometimes net of commissions, which can lead investors to erroneously deduct the reported commission number a second time.  In addition, many banks issue multiple slips for each investment account, but send a consolidated summary of the slips to the CRA, which causes havoc when there is a missing slip or a question regarding one of them.

By keeping track of the totals or having them all come in March would allow the issuing organization time to audit and compare the slips to the summary before issuing to ensure they balance.

Another solution is for the issuing organization to make the slips available on their investor website and then holders can wait for the year-end summary to post – which of course would balance – and then before a holder does anything with their slips they can be comfortable that they balance.

An additional bonus would be for the issuing organization to also provide the calculations behind the slips on the website so that if there is a discrepancy, the holder can look to see how the slips were calculated and they can also learn more about how taxes are calculated.  It’s a win-win situation.  Accurate reporting and teaching the holder more about taxes.

Gain and loss reports

Many privately managed bank funds prepare gain and loss reports for clients. However, where there are US stock sales, often the cost reflects the US dollar purchase amount at the current year’s exchange rate, rather than at the time of purchase.

Traditionally, the onus is on the holder to figure out the historic exchange rate and the issuing organizations can and should assist by making this information available on their website for ease of balancing.  They should also make sure that there is accurate and complete documentation on their website and on all reports indicating the rate used and the rate needed for reporting.

T3 and T5013 tax slips

These are the two main slips which have a mailing deadline of March 31st because the trust/partnership has to finalize their books and prepare their tax returns in order to know the breakdown of the distributions so that the individual holders can then have their tax returns rushed to them – a high risk process indeed.  So once the T5’s have been received and accounted for, issuing organizations like transfer agents have only a month or less to then prepare the T3 and T5013 slips.

Let’s be honest here, it’s more like 2-3 days, due to the complexity of the partnership returns and one way around this is to ensure that any issuing organization is capable to preparing T5013’s by themselves, or that they have an organization capable of preparing them in an expedited manner.  In addition, the partnership should be contacted to let them know that the quicker they get their books in order, the quicker the rest of the slips can be prepared.  If enough people come forward, I guarantee it will get done faster.

Final Review:

When reviewing your slips before filing your tax return, keep in mind a few small differences;

T4’s vs. T4A’s – A T4 is issued by your employer and reflects the income you earned during the year, as well as showing the amount of deductions you had removed from your pay, such as; CPP, Employment Insurance (EI) and tax.  A T4A, on the other hand, is issued by a pension plan administrator and reflects the pension income you received from a pension source. T4As will not have figures listed for CPP or EI contributions since these are not deducted from pension income.

The T5 investment income slip – identifies the various types of investment income that residents of Canada have to report on their income tax and benefit returns.  T5’s are NOT issued to report income paid to non-residents of Canada, however, if you earned US interest on your investments, it will show up on your T5, with a note at the bottom saying that the interest is in US dollars.

It’s not always clear to the holder that this figure needs to be converted at the average exchange rate for the year, as set out by the CRA.   T5 slips also have both eligible and ineligible dividend boxes, which holders can accidentally reverse on their returns.

Investment loan interest

Most banks do not issue receipts for interest on investment loans unless specifically requested, resulting in a missed deduction for the client.  Borrowers should request receipts well in advance of the tax-filing deadline to ensure they arrive in time.

All in all, it’s best to keep track of investments you have and to check off when they are expected and when they are received in order to ensure you can file at your earliest convenience or reach out and ask your issuing organization / bank / transfer agency to step up and find a solution.

It’s never to early.

Even in October.