Key Deductions and Tax Credits for Persons Older Than 65-Years of Age

With the 2014 Tax Filing season rapidly approaching, I think it is important to keep track of key deductions and credits that Canadians older than 65-years-old should be thinking about when they file their Canadian tax returns this year and all years going forward.

The Canada Revenue Agency set up their own webpage dedicated just to this very topic: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/seniors/ which I recommend bookmarking, but I have summarized their points below for ease of access.

Common credits which may be claimed by seniors

  • Age amount
  • Pension income amount
  • Disability amount (for themselves)
  • Amounts transferred from a spouse or common-law partner
  • Medical expenses

Age amount

You can claim this amount if you were 65 years of age or older on December 31, 2013, and your net income (line 236 of your return) is less than $80,256. If your net income was:

It is important to remember to enter your date of birth in the “Information about you” area on page 1 of your tax return.

Remember to claim the corresponding provincial or territorial non-refundable tax credit to which you are entitled, on line 5808 of your provincial or territorial Form 428.

Tip: You may be able to transfer all or part of your age amount to your spouse or common-law partner or to claim all or part of his or her age amount. See line 326 – Amounts transferred from your spouse or common-law partner, for more information.

Pension income amount

You may be able to claim up to $2,000 if you reported eligible pension, superannuation, or annuity payments on line 115, line 116, and/or line 129 of your return.

Eligible pension income does not include the following income amounts:

  • any foreign source pension income that is tax-free in Canada because of a tax treaty that entitles you to claim a deduction at line 256;
  • income from a United States individual retirement account (IRA); or
  • amounts from a RRIF included on line 115 and transferred to an RRSP, another RRIF or an annuity.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP) income does not count as eligible income here.

Pension income splitting

If you qualify to claim the pension income amount, discussed above, then you are often able to report up to one-half of that pension income on your spouse or common law partner’s tax return, which will save you tax as a couple if your spouse is in a lower tax bracket.

Amounts transferred from your spouse or common-law partner

If your spouse or common-law partner does not need to claim some or all of certain non-refundable tax credits to reduce his or her federal tax to zero, you may be able to transfer those unused amounts to your return.

Split CPP income

If you and your spouse are at least 60 years of age, and one or both of you receive CPP benefits, each spouse may be able to apply to split their benefits with the other (i.e., report half on each other’s tax returns), which can save tax if one of you is in a lower tax bracket.

CPP contributions

If you are 60 to 70 years of age and employed or self-employed, you have to make CPP or Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) contributions, even if you’re receiving CPP or QPP benefits.

You can claim a tax credit for these contributions. However, if you’re at least 65 but under 70 years of age, you can elect to stop making contributions (use Form CPT30, the applicable part of Schedule 8 to your tax return, or Form RC381, whichever applies), but don’t just stop making the contributions without that election!

Medical expenses (for self, spouse or common-law partner, and your dependent children born in 1996 or later)

On line 330 of your personal tax return you can claim the total eligible medical expenses you or your spouse or common-law partner paid for:

  • yourself;
  • your spouse or common-law partner; and
  • your or your spouse’s or common-law partner’s children born in 1996 or later.

Medical expenses for other dependents must be claimed on line 331.

Tip:

You may be eligible to claim a variety of medical expenses, perhaps even previously unclaimed amounts, as long as the expenses were incurred in any 12-month period that ended in 2013. The list of eligible expenses has continued to expand slowly over the past few years.

It is wise tax-strategy to claim medical expenses on the lower-income spouse’s return to maximize your tax relief.

Disability amount (for self)

You can claim the disability amount of $7,697 on line 316 once you are eligible for the disability tax credit (DTC).

Tip:

If you were eligible for the DTC for previous years but did not claim the DTC when you filed your return, you can request adjustments for up to 10 years under the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief Provisions. To claim the disability amount for prior years, you will need to file Form T1-ADJ, T1 Adjustment Request, for each year you need to amend.

If you or anyone else paid for attendant care, or for care in an establishment, special rules may apply. For more information, see Attendant care or care in an establishment.

If you have a severe and prolonged physical or mental impairment, you may be eligible to claim $7,697 if a qualified practitioner certifies, on Form T2201 – Disability Tax Credit Certificate, that you meet certain conditions.

Public transit amount

You can claim the cost of monthly (or longer duration) public transit passes for travel on public transit within Canada for 2014. The cost of electronic payment cards can also be claimed when conditions are met.

Work force credits

If you’re still working, even part time, you may be eligible to claim the Canada employment amount (maximum $1,117) and the Working income tax benefit (see Schedule 6 of your return).

Registered plans

You’re entitled to make contributions to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) until the end of the year in which you turn 71-years-old.  Don’t forget to claim a deduction if you have made a contribution for 2014.

And if you’re eligible for the disability tax credit it is possible to make contributions to a registered disability savings plan (RDSP) to shelter income on those contributions from tax.

OAS clawbacks

Some seniors must pay back all or a portion of their Old Age Security (OAS) benefits if their income exceeds $70,954 (for 2013). If you’re in this boat, examine the types of income you’re earning to see if you can change the type of income earned to reduce the impact of these clawbacks going forward.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) also administers the Ontario Trillium Benefit (OTB) which is the combined payment of the Ontario energy and property tax credit, the Northern Ontario energy credit, and the Ontario sales tax credit. The annual OTB entitlement is usually divided by 12 and the payments issued monthly. Your 2015 OTB payments, which are based on your 2014 income tax and benefit return, will be issued on the 10th of each month, starting on in July 2015.

Exceptions:

Starting with your 2014 income tax and benefit return, you can elect to receive your 2015 OTB in one payment at the end of the benefit year. If your annual 2015 OTB entitlement is over $360 and you make this election, you will get it in one payment in June 2016 instead of receiving monthly payments from July 2015 to June 2016.

If your 2014 OTB annual entitlement is $360 or less, it will be issued in one lump-sum payment in the first payment month (usually July).

 

These items often changes and some situations may be applicable to you, while other’s may not.  Please speak to your accountant or tax professional to be sure they apply.  If you claim a credit you are not entitled to, the CRA will disallow the credit and charge you interest from the date the returns were due.

 

#inTAXicating

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On the Fence about FATCA? Canada and U.S. Sign Intergovernmental Agreement on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act

Ever since  I caught wind of  the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, back in 2010, FATCA has been near the top of my radar.  For those of you who are unaware what FATCA is, The Foreign Account Tax dept of financeCompliance Act (FATCA) requires citizens of the United States (present, past, those with citizenship who do not live there, those who worked there a specific number of day, and those who received “accidental” citizenship through birth), to report their financial assets held outside of the United States to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  If providing that information means that the IRS would be taxing you and you have been trying to hide these assets, FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to report your information to the IRS.  The intent of FATCA was to combat offshore tax evasion and to recoup federal tax revenues.   FATCA is a portion of the 2010 Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act.

As the tax manager at Computershare Investor Services and the Assistant Vice President of Tax for CitiGroup (CitiFund Services) I got to know FATCA very intimately and at one point or another became the Canadian lead on information dissemination and compliance.  After almost 11-years of interpreting legislation at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) deciphering this text came second nature and thus taking the FATCA regulations and translating them into English was not a difficult task, but more something that I had to do in order to teach myself the requirements so I could pass along that knowledge to my employers and to my clients.

The interesting thing about FATCA from a Canadian side was that with over a million “US Persons” here in Canada (probably much more now) I don’t believe the IRS understood that the majority of them were paying taxes in Canada and since the Canadian tax rate is higher than the US rate, there was some hesitation on the Canadian side to provide all this data to the IRS for no net gain.  Other countries rushed to sign intergovernmental agreements with the IRS to meet deadlines which have now been pushed out again as a result of the July 2014 start date for FATCA, but Canada did not.

The Canadian government was hesitant to force Canadian financial institutions to provide the very detailed information on Canadian citizens for fear that they would be double taxed, something the Canada-US Treaty strove to avoid.   In addition, the Canadian side wanted the Canada Revenue Agency included so that information could pass through secure channels and potential breaches of security and privacy could be avoided.  There was even talk that Canada refused to sign an agreement with the IRS, instead forcing the IRS to seek their own tax cheats from their own side of the border.

Then something changed.

The IRS began ramping up their search for US Persons via every mean possible – whether it was checking Facebook accounts to see where people are born, cross-checking it with school records – or by allowing people who had no previous knowledge of FATCA some amnesty when catching up on their delinquent tax returns, but then hammering them on their filing of the Report of Foreign and Financial Assets to the tune of $10,000 per late return – with no maximum.

People became scared, and when scared you have two choices to make.  Either flee or fight.  In this case it’s either comply or pray.

Those who chose to file had to wade through unclear rules and regulations and a lot of unclear information floating around on the Internet.  Is there penalty, is there not?  Will I be charges criminally, or will the IRS understand that I was not aware of my obligations.  Do I have to file 3-years of past-due returns or 10 years?  When are FBAR’s due?  Should this cost me $10,000 or $100,000?

Many questioned the over-reach on the US side while others commented that as an US citizen, the requirements were there and you should have known.

But with all that being said, on February 5th, 2014, Canada and United States announced that they have reach an agreement on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

The intergovernmental agreement lays out the details of how the US will be using FATCA to track down the Canadian financial activities of US persons to make sure they are paying required taxes to the IRS.

Under the terms of the agreement Canadian financial institutions will send some of the information they collect on their US clientele to the Canada Revenue Agency and the CRA will transmit the information to the IRS.

The agreement can be read in it’s entirety on the Canadian Department of Finance website.

My take from reading the release is that the Canadian government realized their hands were tied, however they were not going to allow the IRS to demand information which violates Canadian privacy laws and thus allowed the IRS to pursue their legitimate tax-base with the assistance of the CRA much in the same way the CRA and IRS work together to collect tax debts – through information sharing and not the actual collecting of debts for the other country.

Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, the Minister of National Revenue said; “This is strictly a tax information-sharing agreement. This agreement will not impose any U.S. taxes or penalties on U.S. citizens or U.S. residents holding accounts in Canada. The CRA does not collect the U.S. tax liability of a Canadian citizen if the individual was a Canadian citizen at the time the liability arose. This includes dual Canada-U.S. citizens. That will not change under this agreement.”

Changes to the FATCA legislation under this agreement include, but are not limited to;

  • Certain accounts are exempt from FATCA and will not be reportable, including Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP), Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF), Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP), Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA), and others yet to be released.
  • Smaller deposit-taking institutions, such as credit unions, with assets of less than $175 million will be exempt from FATCA compliance.
  • The 30 percent FATCA withholding tax will not apply to clients of Canadian financial institutions, and can apply to a Canadian financial institution only if the financial institution is in significant and long-term non-compliance with its obligations under the agreement.

This intergovernmental agreement is only the beginning.  Recent G-8 and G-20 commitments agreed upon in September 2013, intended to fight tax evasion globally and to improve tax fairness, provide for an automatic exchange of tax information as the new global standard.  This agreement signaled an intention to begin exchanging information automatically on tax matters among G-20 members by the end of 2015.

So like it or not, FATCA is just the beginning of a world-wide crack down on tax evasion.

Still on the fence?

inTAXicating Tax Services works with several Canadian tax-preparation firms who specialize in US taxes, and FATCA compliance.  If you wish to get caught up, please feel free to reach out to us at info@intaxicating.ca.  If, you have further questions and wish to discuss your requirements, you can email, or call us at 416.833.1581.  If you wish to comment, you may do so below.