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.

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Some basics of Canadian Investing; Mutual Funds, Eligible Dividends and Deferred Tax

Here is a brief introduction to the absolute basics of investing Canada. If you know this, you really just know the basics.  If you do not know much about Mutual funds, Eligible dividends, income trusts, and deferring taxes owing then trust me, this is the tip of the iceberg.  The Investment Fund Institute of Canada (IFIC) has a mutual fund course as probably does the Canadian Securities Institute (CSI).  Both are sought after for entry into the financial sector.

At the very basic, here are the 2 main types of tax-sheltered investments you probably have heard about – RRSP or RRIF.  In both cases, you put money away into these investments which are NOT taxed at year-end.  you pay taxes when you withdraw or remove the funds after certain milestones, such as age 65. 

Investments that generate capital gains or Canadian source dividends are taxed more favourable than interest income because interest income earned from investments such as T-Bills, bonds, and GIC’s are generally taxed at the highest marginal tax rate.
• Dividends earned from a Canadian Corporation are taxed at a lower rate than interest income.  This is because dividends are eligible for a dividend tax credit, which recognizes that the corporation has already paid tax on the income that is being distributed to shareholders.
o This only applies to dividends from a Canadian corporation.
o Dividends paid from a foreign corporation are not eligible for the dividend tax credit.

As of 2006 there are now two types of dividends, eligible and non-eligible dividends, and they are treated differently from a tax perspective.
• Eligible dividends include those received from a public Canadian corporation and certain private, resident corporations that must pay Canadian tax at the general corporation rate. As a result, they have a federal tax credit of 18.97% and are grossed up by 145%.
• Non-eligible dividends include those received from Canadian-controlled private corporations not subject to the general corporate tax rate.  They have federal tax credit of 13.33% and are grossed up by 125%.

This change was introduced by the government of Canada in order to present a more balanced tax treatment between corporations and income trusts as Canadians were investing more and more in income trusts and less and less in corporations and why wouldn’t they, since prior to 2006 income trusts were not taxed on any income allocated to unit holders, whereas dividends paid by a Canadian corporation are paid out of after tax earnings. 

To combat this, many corporations began to restructure their operations to become income trusts.  Something had to be done.

In a typical income trust structure, the income paid to an income trust by the operating entity may take the form of interest, royalty or lease payments, which are normally deductible in computing the operating entity’s income for tax purposes.  These deductions reduce the operating entity’s tax to nil.   

The trust “flows” all of its income received from the operating entity out to unitholders.  The distributions paid or payable to unitholders reduces a trust’s taxable income, so the net result is that a trust would also pay little to no income tax, which is never a good thing in the government’s eyes.

So who then gets hit with the tax bill??  The net effect is that the interest, royalty or lease payments are taxed at the unitholder level;
1. A flow-through entity whose income is redirected to unitholders, the trust structure avoids any possible double taxation that comes from combining corporate (T2) income taxation with shareholders’ dividend taxation
2. Where there is no double taxation, there can be the advantage of deferring the payment of tax.  When the distributions are received by a non-taxed entity, like a pension fund, all the tax due on corporate earnings is deferred until the eventual receipt of pension income by participants of the pension fund.
3. Where the distributions are received by foreigners, the tax applied to the distributions may be at a lower rate determined by tax treaties, that had not considered the forfeiture of tax at the corporate level.
4. The effective tax an income trust owner could pay on earnings could actually be increased because trusts typically distribute all of their cashflow as distributions, rather than employing leverage and other tax management techniques to reduce effective corporate tax rates.  It’s easier to distribute all the funds out and show nothing being retained that it is to implement strategies to reduce corporate tax owing which is the path most often taken. 

Where can a holder find their dividends reports?  Dividends are usually shown on the following CRA slips:
• T5, Statement of Investment Income
• T4PS, Statement of Employees Profit Sharing Plan Allocations and Payments
• T3, Statement of Trust Income Allocations and Designations
• T5013, Statement of Partnership Income
• T5013A, Statement of Partnership Income for Tax Shelters and Renounced Resource Expenses

When completing a Canadian tax return, where should a holder enter their dividend information?

Enter on Line 180 the taxable amount of dividends (other than eligible dividends) as follows:
• box 11 on T5 slips
• box 25 on T4PS slips
• box 32 on T3 slips
• box 51-1 on your T5013 or T5013A slips.

Enter on Line 120 the taxable amount of all dividends from taxable Canadian corporations, as follows:
• boxes 11 and 25 on T5 slips
• boxes 25 and 31 on T4PS slips
• boxes 32 and 50 on T3 slips
• boxes 51-1 and 52-1 on your T5013 or T5013A slips.

What do I do if I did not receive an information slips?

Ignore it and the CRA will let me off the hook?  No chance.  If you did not receive an information slip, you must calculate the taxable amount of other than eligible dividends by multiplying the actual amount of dividends (other than eligible) you received by 125% and reporting the result on line 180.  You must also calculate the taxable amount of eligible dividends by multiplying the actual amount of eligible dividends you received by 141%. Report the combined total of eligible and other than eligible dividends on line 120.

So what exactly is a capital gain?

Capital gains occur when you sell an asset for more than you paid for it. This gain is offset by any losses and can be further reduced by any expenses that are incurred by the purchase or sale of the asset – resulting in net capital gain.
Taxation of capital gains: 50% of a net gain is taxable at the appropriate federal and provincial rates.

My accountant advised me I need more “Tax deferral”.  What does she mean?   She means contributing the maximum amount to your RRSP which provides an immediate tax deduction and tax sheltered growth as long as the investment(s) remain in the plan.

Other less commonly used strategies include:
• Universal Life Insurance is a policy that combines life insurance coverage with a tax deferred investment component. Premiums paid are first used to ensure life coverage and the balance accumulates in an investment account where it grows tax deferred.
• Registered Educations Savings Plan (RESP) is a plan where contributions are used to fund a child or grandchild’s post secondary education costs.
o initial contributions are not tax-deductible
o any income earned within the plan is only taxable in the hands of the student at the time of withdrawal.

More is coming in the next few days, weeks and months…