Newsletters

Tax Alerts

By the beginning of August almost every Canadian has filed his or her income tax return for the previous year and has received the Notice of Assessment issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with respect to that filing. Most taxpayers, therefore, would consider that their annual filing and payment obligations for the year are now in the past.


Canadian businesses should be aware that, while many programs which provided payroll or expense supports for businesses during the pandemic ended on May 7, 2022, there is still a program in place to help employers with payroll costs. As well, even for programs which ended on May 7, applications can still be made for relief for claim periods prior to that date.


Since 2009, Canadians have been living (and borrowing) in an ultra-low-interest-rate environment. Between January 2009 and January 2022, the bank rate (from which commercial interest rates are determined) was (except for a brief period in 2018) never higher than 1.50% – and was almost always lower than that.  Effectively, adult Canadians who are now under the age of 35 have had no experience of managing their finances in high – or even, by historical standards, ordinary – interest rate environments.


By the time August 2022 arrives, virtually all individual Canadians have filed their income tax return for the 2021 tax year, have received a Notice of Assessment from the tax authorities with respect to that return, and have either received their refund or reluctantly paid any balance of tax owing.


As pandemic restrictions ease, the option of sending kids to summer camp is once again a realistic one and, for both kids and parents, the possibility of doing so must be particularly welcome this year.


At a time when Canadian households are coping simultaneously with rising interest rates and an inflation rate which recently hit its highest point in nearly four decades, every dollar of income counts. And where that income can be obtained with minimal effort, and received tax-free, then it’s a win-win for the recipient.


When a public health emergency was declared in March of 2020, the focus for the federal government was getting pandemic benefits into the hands of eligible recipients as quickly as possible, to help mitigate the sudden financial crisis faced by so many Canadians. To that end, three decisions were made with respect to program administration. First, eligibility for benefits would be determined by “self-attestation” – in other words, applicants would certify, based on the information provided to them online, that they met the eligibility criteria for a particular benefit. Such self-attestations were accepted at face value, without documentation or other verification methods. Second, application for the same benefit – the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB – could be made to either the Canada Revenue Agency or Employment Insurance/Service Canada, depending on the circumstances of the applicant. Finally, in at least in the initial round of CERB payments (which were received by over 8 million Canadians), no income tax was withheld from payments issued, although the CERB itself was taxable income.


If Canadians have the feeling that they are being squeezed from all sides when it comes to household finances, it’s because they are. In 2022 Canadian consumers have been hit by a double whammy of three successive interest rate hikes since March (with more increases almost certainly on the horizon) while dealing at the same time with increases in the cost of everyday goods to an extent that has not been seen, in some cases, for as much as forty years.


Many, if not most, taxpayers think of tax planning as a year-end exercise to be carried out in the last few weeks of the year, with a view to taking the steps needed to minimize the tax bill for the current year. And it’s true that almost all strategies needed to both minimize the tax hit for the year and to ensure that there won’t be big tax bill come next April must be taken by December 31(the making of registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions being the notable exception). Notwithstanding, there’s a lot to recommend carrying out a mid-year review of one’s tax situation for the current year. Doing that review mid-year, instead of waiting until December, gives the taxpayer the chance to make sure that everything is on track, and especially to put into place any adjustments needed to help ensure that there are no tax surprises when filing one’s tax return for 2022 next spring. As well, while the deadline for implementing tax saving strategies may be December 31, the window of opportunity to make a significant difference to one’s current year tax situation does narrow as the calendar year progresses.


While recent increases in interest rates have put something of a damper on home sales, the Canadian real estate market was booming in the first quarter of 2022. According to Canadian Real Estate Association statistics, there were over 650,000 residential sales transactions in the first quarter (January to March) of this year.


Of the 27 million individual income tax returns already filed with the Canada Revenue Agency for the 2021 tax year, no two were identical. Each return contained its own particular combination of types and amounts of income reported and deductions and credits claimed. There is, however, one thing which every one of those returns has in common. For each and every one, the CRA will review the return filed, determine whether it is in agreement with the information contained therein, and, finally, issue a Notice of Assessment (NOA) to the taxpayer summarizing the Agency’s conclusions with respect to the taxpayer’s tax situation for the 2021 tax year.


Over the past several years, would-be buyers in the Canadian residential real estate market have been faced with two realities. First, the cost of homes continued to increase significantly in virtually every market across Canada. At the same time, however, the cost of borrowing to finance a home purchase had almost never been lower.


Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the federal government has provided a wide range of pandemic benefit programs for individuals. In the main, those programs have acted to replace income lost where employment income was no longer available as businesses closed during lockdowns, or individuals were unable to work because of illness or because they were at home with young children when schools closed to in-person learning.


Canada’s retirement income system has three major components – private savings through registered retirement savings plans or registered pension plans, and two public retirement income plans – the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security program. The last of those – the Old Age Security program – is the only aspect of Canada’s retirement income system which does not require a direct contribution from recipients of program benefits. Rather, the OAS program is funded through general tax revenues, and eligibility to receive OAS is based solely on Canadian residency. Anyone who is 65 years of age or older and has lived in Canada for at least 40 years after the age of 18 is eligible to receive the maximum benefit. For the second quarter of 2022 (April to June 2022), that maximum monthly benefit is $648.67.


The difficulties faced by younger Canadians in buying a first home almost anywhere in Canada, owing to both the spiraling cost of real estate and, more recently, increases in interest rates, is a major concern for those individuals and their families. Not surprisingly, then, the issue of housing affordability was a major focus of the recent federal budget, and the following measures to address that problem were announced.


For the majority of Canadians, the due date for filing of an individual tax return for the 2021 tax year was Monday May 2, 2022. (Self-employed Canadians and their spouses have until Wednesday June 15, 2022 to get that return filed.) When things go entirely as planned and hoped, the taxpayer will have prepared a return that is complete and correct, and filed it on time, and the Canada Revenue Agency 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 derailed in any number of ways.


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


It is a sad fact that, every year, thousands of Canadians become the victims of scams in which fraud artists claim to be representatives of the federal government. Equally sadly, in most cases the money lost is never recovered.


Most taxpayers sit down to do their annual tax return, or wait to hear from their tax return preparer, with some degree of trepidation. In most cases taxpayers don’t know, until their return is completed, what the “bottom line” will be, and it’s usually a case of hoping for the best and fearing the worst.


Our tax system is complex and, understandably, its myriad rules and exceptions are a mystery to most Canadian taxpayers – and most are happy to leave it that way. There is however, one rule in the Canadian tax system which doesn’t really have any exceptions and of which most Canadian taxpayers are all too well aware. That is the rule that says individual income tax amounts owed for any tax year must be paid – in full – on or before April 30 of the following calendar year. This year, that means April 30, 2022 – although, since April 30, 2022 falls on a Saturday, the Canada Revenue Agency is providing an administrative concession by allowing taxpayers until Monday May 2 to pay their taxes without incurring any interest charges.


Most Canadians don’t turn their attention to their taxes until sometime around the end of March or the beginning of April, in time to complete the return for 2021 ahead of the May 2, 2022 filing deadline.


Each year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) publishes a statistical summary of the tax filing patterns of Canadians during the previous filing season. Those statistics for last year show that the vast majority of Canadian individual income tax returns — just over 90%, or just over 28 million returns — were filed online, using one or the other of the CRA’s web-based filing methods. About 2.8 million returns — or just over 9% — were paper-filed.


The Canadian tax system provides individual taxpayers with a tax credit for out-of-pocket medical and para-medical expenses incurred during the year. Given that such expenses must be incurred at some time by virtually every Canadian, that credit is among the most frequently claimed on the annual return. Unfortunately, however, the rules governing such claims are detailed, somewhat complex, and frequently confusing.


While the requirement that Canadians file an income tax return each year never changes, the actual content of that return is never the same year to year. While many of the changes — like inflation-related increases to income tax brackets and credit amounts — happen automatically and don’t require any particular awareness or action on the part of the taxpayer, this is not the case with all tax changes. In some cases, taxpayers who aren’t aware of the changes can miss out on newly available or expanded tax deductions or credits, even if they are using tax preparation software to prepare their return. While the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will usually catch arithmetic errors made on a return, the Agency does not (and cannot) ensure that a taxpayer has made all of the claims which are available to him or her. And perhaps the only thing worse than having to pay a tax bill is paying one that is higher than it needs to be because available deductions or credits were missed.


The list of financial assistance programs that have been provided by the federal government to support individual Canadians through two years of the pandemic is lengthy, detailed, and sometimes confusing. Unfortunately for the Canadian taxpayer, however, every one of those programs has one thing in common — benefits received are taxable income which must be reported on the return for the year in which they were received, and on which tax must be paid.


Sometime during the month of February, millions of Canadians will receive mail from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). That mail, a “Tax Instalment Reminder”, will set out the amount of instalment payments of income tax to be paid by the recipient taxpayer by March 15 and June 15 of this year.


Income tax is a big-ticket item for most retired Canadians. Especially for those who are no longer paying a mortgage, the annual tax bill may be the single biggest expenditure they are required to make each year. Fortunately, the Canadian tax system provides a number of tax deductions and credits available only to those over the age of 65 (like the age credit) or only to those receiving the kinds of income usually received by retirees (like the pension income credit), in order to help minimize that tax burden. And, in most cases, the availability of those credits is flagged, either on the income tax form which must be completed each spring or on the accompanying income tax guide.


If there is one invariable “rule” of financial and retirement planning of which most Canadians are aware, it is the unquestioned wisdom of making regular contributions to one’s registered retirement savings plan (RRSP). And it is true that for several decades the RRSP was only tax-sheltered savings and investment vehicle available to most individual Canadians.


As the pandemic continued past 2020 and through 2021, it is likely that employees who were able to work from home spent at least part of the 2021 tax year doing just that. And, as was the case in 2020, those workers may be entitled to claim a deduction on their 2021 tax return for home office expenses incurred.


The Employment Insurance premium rate for 2022 is unchanged at 1.58%.


The Quebec Pension Plan contribution rate for 2022 is set at 6.15% of pensionable earnings for the year.


The Canada Pension Plan contribution rate for 2022 is set at 5.7% of pensionable earnings for the year.


Dollar amounts on which individual non-refundable federal tax credits for 2022 are based, and the actual tax credit claimable, will be as follows:


The indexing factor for federal tax credits and brackets for 2022 is 2.4%. The following federal tax rates and brackets will be in effect for individuals for the 2022 tax year.


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


The past 18 months have been characterized by a steady stream of mostly bad news, relating to the pandemic and its harmful consequences. The human cost of the pandemic, in terms of illness and death, is paramount. But the reality is also that much economic and financial harm resulted, at an individual, community, and national level, as businesses closed and individuals lost jobs or saw their hours — and consequently their income — reduced.


Getting a post-secondary education, especially where that education includes graduate school or professional training, is an expensive undertaking. According to Statistics Canada, the average undergraduate tuition cost for the 2020-21 academic year was $6,580. Costs for graduate programs, particularly professional training, can go much higher, reaching as much as $50,000 per year. And those costs don’t factor in necessary expenditures on textbooks and other ancillary costs, to say nothing of general living expenses, like rent, transportation, and food.


There are a number of income sources available to Canadians in retirement. Those who participated in the work force during their adult life will have contributed to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and will be able to receive CPP retirement benefits as early as age 60. Earning employment or self-employment income will also have entitled those individuals to contribute to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP). A shrinking minority of Canadians will be able to look forward to receiving benefits from an employer-sponsored pension plan.


To win elections, politicians need votes. And to run the election campaigns needed to garner those votes, they need an organization, volunteers, and money — a lot of money. To wage the current federal election, the major political parties will need to raise and spend millions of dollars. Their task of raising that money is undoubtedly made somewhat easier by the fact that Canadian taxpayers who donate money to political parties or candidates can obtain some tax benefit from doing so.


Although it’s doubtful that anyone does so with any great degree of enthusiasm, each spring millions of Canadians sit down to complete their annual tax return for the previous calendar year (or, more often, they pay someone else to do it for them).


Canadian drivers are used to seeing gas prices rise each spring as the weather gets warmer and more people take to the road for day trips, weekends at the cottage, and annual holidays. This year, that trend is accelerated for several reasons. The first, of course, is that as pandemic restrictions ease and the economy opens up, there are more and more reasons to be on the road. As well, employees who have worked from home for the past 16 months are starting to return to the daily commute, either part-time or full-time.


By the time August arrives, nearly all Canadians have filed their income tax returns for the previous year, received a Notice of Assessment from the tax authorities with respect to that return, and either spent their refund or, more grudgingly, paid any balance of tax owing.


One or two generations ago, retirement was an event. Typically, an individual would leave the work force completely at age 65, and begin collecting Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits along with, in many cases, a pension from an employer-sponsored registered pension plan.


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


There’s a lot that is still unknown about the upcoming 2021-22 academic year for post-secondary students. It may be that such students will be back on campus, living in residence and once again attending classes in lecture halls. Less optimistically, they may (again!) be learning online and living off campus, or still at home with their parents. Most likely, they will be experiencing some combination of the two.


As Canada begins to (slowly) transition back to a pre-pandemic way of life, one of the many opportunities which did not exist last summer is once again a possibility — that of sending the kids to summer camp. In most cases, Canadian children of school age have not had the opportunity to interact with their peers on a regular basis for nearly a year and a half. At the same time, parents across Canada have been coping with a situation in which they must work from home while simultaneously helping the kids with online learning. For both kids and parents, the possibility of going to summer camp must be particularly welcome this year.


Between February 8 and June 21 of this year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) received and processed just under 29 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2020 tax year. The sheer volume of returns and the processing turnaround timelines mean that the CRA does not (and cannot possibly) do a manual review of the information provided in a return prior to issuing the Notice of Assessment. Rather, all returns are scanned by the Agency’s computer system and a Notice of Assessment is then issued.


According to Statistics Canada there were, as of July 2020, just under 7 million Canadians over the age of 65. While the age at which an individual retires can vary a lot (from “Freedom 55” to those who are still working in their 70s), it’s reasonable to assume that a significant percentage of those 7 million Canadians is fully or partially retired. It’s also a reasonable assumption that retirement looks a lot different for them than it did for their parents.


Pandemic notwithstanding, the Canadian real estate market is booming, in terms of both house prices and sales activity. According to Canadian Real Estate Association statistics, the number of sales in March 2021 were at the highest level ever recorded — and the MLS Home Price Index rose by 23.1% in April 2021, as measured on a year-over-year basis.


By the beginning of June, most Canadians have filed their individual income tax return for the 2020 tax year and received a Notice of Assessment (NOA) outlining their tax position for that year. Those who receive a refund will celebrate that fact or, less happily, those who receive a tax bill will pay the tax amount owed. Both groups of taxpayers are then likely to forget about taxes until it’s tax filing time again in the spring of 2022. The fact is, however, that mid-year is very good time to assess one’s tax position for the current year and is particularly a good idea for taxpayers who have received a large refund or a bill for tax owing.


Over the past decade, the rules governing mortgage lending in Canada have been repeatedly amended, each time to impose more stringent requirements on would-be mortgage borrowers. The latest such change is to the “mortgage stress test”, which imposes income and creditworthiness requirements on would-be borrowers, with the goal of ensuring that they will be able to manage (and repay) their mortgage debt, now and in the future. The change is effective as of June 1, 2021.


By now, most Canadians have filed their income tax returns for the 2020 taxation year. Specifically, by May 17, 2021, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had processed just under 27 million individual income tax returns filed for 2020. Just over 16 million of those returns resulted in a refund to the taxpayer, while about 6.6 million taxpayers received a bill for additional taxes owed.


It is a sad fact that, every year, thousands of Canadians become the victims of scams in which fraud artists claim to be representatives of the federal government. Equally sadly, in most cases the money lost is not recovered.

Figures compiled by the Canada Anti-Fraud Centre show that, during 2020, just over 42,000 Canadians became victims of fraud, losing over $100 million. And the pace of such activity is accelerating. In the first three months of 2021, nearly 15,000 Canadians have already become victims of fraud and those individuals have lost, cumulatively, around $50 million. Scams relating solely to the pandemic and pandemic benefits are estimated to have cost Canadians over $7 million. Based on those figures alone, telephone and e-mail scams are clearly big business in Canada.


At the beginning of the pandemic, when states of emergency were declared across Canada, the federal government introduced a number of programs to provide financial relief and assistance to individuals and to businesses.

As the pandemic has worn on, those programs have been extended and revisions have been made to accommodate changing social and economic circumstances. In the recent federal Budget, additional changes like these were made, and an entirely new program was announced.


The Old Age Security (OAS) program is the only aspect of Canada’s retirement income system which does not require a direct contribution from recipients of program benefits. Rather, the OAS program is funded through general tax revenues, and eligibility to receive OAS is based solely on Canadian residency. Anyone who is 65 years of age or older and has lived in Canada for at least 40 years after the age of 18 is eligible to receive the maximum benefit. For the second quarter of 2021 (April to June 2021), that maximum monthly benefit is $618.45.  


For the majority of Canadians, the due date for filing of an individual tax return for the 2020 tax year was Friday April 30, 2021. (Self-employed Canadians and their spouses have until Tuesday June 15, 2021 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 go “off the rails” in any number of ways.


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


Most taxpayers sit down to do their annual tax return, or wait to hear from their tax return preparer, with some degree of trepidation. In most cases taxpayers don’t know until their return is completed what the “bottom line” will be, and it’s usually a case of hoping for the best and fearing the worst.


Our tax system is, for the most part, a mystery to individual Canadians. The rules surrounding income tax are complicated and it can seem that for every rule there is an equal number of exceptions or qualifications. There is, however, one rule which applies to every individual taxpayer in Canada, regardless of location, income, or circumstances, and of which most Canadians are aware. That rule is that income tax owed for a year must be paid, in full, on or before April 30 of the following year. This year, that means that individual income taxes owed for 2020 must be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on or before Friday April 30, 2021. No exceptions and, absent extraordinary circumstances, no extensions.


By the time most Canadians sit down to organize their various tax slips and receipts and undertake to complete their tax return for 2020, the most significant opportunities to minimize the tax bill for the year are no longer available. Most such tax planning or saving strategies, in order to be effective for 2020, must have been implemented by the end of that calendar year. The major exception to that is, of course, the making of registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions, but even that had to be done on or before March 1, 2021 in order to be deducted on the return for 2020.


When the pandemic was declared just over a year ago, the federal government announced a wide range of benefits to help mitigate the financial stress experienced by those who lost jobs or saw their hours (and income) reduced.


While the obligation to file a tax return recurs annually, that return form is never exactly the same from year to year. Tax brackets and allowable deduction and credit amounts change each year and, more significantly, new deductions are provided for and new credits allowed or eliminated.


Each year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) publishes a statistical summary of the tax filing patterns of Canadians during the previous filing season. Those statistics for the 2020 filing season show that the vast majority of Canadian individual income tax returns — nearly 90%, or almost 28 million returns were filed online, using one or the other of the CRA’s web-based filing methods, or by telephone. The remaining 10% of returns were paper-filed.


Income tax is a big-ticket item for most retired Canadians. Especially for those who are happily free of the requirement to make mortgage payments, the annual tax bill may be the single biggest annual expenditure they are required to make. Fortunately, the Canadian tax system provides a number of tax deductions and credits available only to those over the age of 65 (like the age credit) or only to those receiving the kinds of income usually received by retirees (like the pension income credit), in order to help minimize that tax burden. And, in most cases, the availability of those credits is flagged, either on the income tax form which must be completed each spring or on the accompanying income tax guide.


Over the past month, millions of Canadians have received what was probably an unexpected (and unwelcome) communication from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), in the form of a T4A slip. That T4A slip lists the amount of pandemic benefits which were received by the individual in 2020 and represents, more significantly, the amount which must be reported on that individual’s income tax return for 2020 — and on which tax must be paid.


Sometime during the month of February, millions of Canadians will receive mail from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). That mail, a “Tax Instalment Reminder”, will set out the amount of instalment payments of income tax to be paid by the recipient taxpayer by March 15 and June 15 of this year.


One of the biggest pandemic-related changes in the day-to-day lives of Canadians was the abrupt change to work-from-home arrangements. While such arrangements aren’t new — employees and the self-employed have been working from home for decades, ever since the available technology made such arrangements feasible — what changed in 2020 was the sheer number of Canadians who were working from home for the first time.


Under Canadian tax law, the general rule is that all amounts paid by an employer to his or her employees are treated as taxable income. That rule holds whether those amounts are paid as cash remuneration, or in the form of non-cash benefits. However, in some circumstances, that general rule is altered to permit employees to receive certain non-cash benefits on a tax-free, or tax-advantaged, basis.


For most taxpayers, the first few months of the year are a seemingly unending series of bills and payment deadlines. During January and February, many Canadians are still trying to pay off the bills from holiday spending. The first income tax instalment payment of 2021 is due on March 15 and the need to pay any tax balance for the 2020 tax year comes just 6 weeks after that, on April 30. Added to all of that, the deadline for making an RRSP contribution for 2020 falls on March 1, 2021.


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


The Employment Insurance premium rate for 2021 is unchanged at 1.58%.


The Quebec Pension Plan contribution rate for 2021 is set at 5.9% of pensionable earnings for the year.


The Canada Pension Plan contribution rate for 2021 is set at 5.45% of pensionable earnings for the year.


Dollar amounts on which individual non-refundable federal tax credits for 2021 are based, and the actual tax credit claimable, will be as follows:


The indexing factor for federal tax credits and brackets for 2021 is 1.0%. The following federal tax rates and brackets will be in effect for individuals for the 2021 tax year.