Canada: Tax Tips 2010

Last Updated: December 7 2010

Article by Soberman's Tax Practice Group

29 Easily Adaptable Tax Ideas for You and Your Family

Our annual Tax Tips can assist you in your tax planning. It presents some quick ideas and strategies. Please take the time to review your 2010 tax situation and call us for specific recommendations tailored to your needs. We will be pleased to work with you on these and other tax-savings ideas.

Investment Income

1.Tax rates are significantly more favourable for dividend income than interest income.

  • The top personal tax rates in Ontario for 2010 are as follows: 26.57% for eligible dividends (generally, dividends received from public corporations); 32.57% for non-eligible dividends (generally, dividends received from small business corporations); and 46.41% for interest income.
  • Re-evaluate your investment strategy by comparing the pre-tax dividend rates with the pre-tax interest rates using the chart provided in this publication. (Refer to the page number once formatted).

2. Defer tax on interest to the following year by investing funds for a one-year term ending in the next calendar year.

3. Defer purchases of mutual funds until early in the next calendar year to minimize an allocation of taxable income from the mutual fund.

4. Existing holding companies that have built up refundable dividend tax should consider paying dividends to recover this tax. Depending on its year-end, the company may have up to 24 months to enjoy the benefits of the tax refund before the shareholder is required to pay the personal tax on the dividend.

Capital Gains and Losses

5. If you own qualified small business shares or qualified farm and fishing property, you may benefit from the lifetime capital gains exemption of $750,000.

6. Consider realizing accrued losses on investments to shelter capital gains realized this year and in the previous three years (other than for exempt gains on small business shares or farming property as described above). Note that a loss realized from the disposition of an investment may be denied if you repurchase the investment within a short period of time.

7. If you have significant trading activity, your sales of securities may be considered a business for income tax purposes.

  • If your sales of securities is considered a business, your gains will be fully taxable as income (instead of being considered as capital gains taxable at 50%), and your losses will be fully deductible against any other sources of income.
  • If you are concerned about your sales of securities being considered a business, you can file a onetime, nonrevocable election with the Canada Revenue Agency to treat all of your gains from dispositions of Canadian securities as capital gains (and all of your losses as capital losses) for the current year and all future years.

Charitable Donations

8. Consider donating publicly-traded securities instead of cash:

  • A tax-advantaged gift of securities can now be made to a private foundation as well as to public charities. Any appreciation in the value of the securities will not be subject to capital gains tax if the securities are donated to:
    • A registered charity; or
    • A private foundation after March 18, 2007. (Please be aware of special rules that apply to persons not dealing at arm's length with the foundation. For more information, please contact us.)
  • The donation credit (for individuals) or deduction (for corporations) continues to be available for the fair market value of the securities donated.
  • To avoid capital gains tax on the appreciated securities, the actual securities must be transferred to the charity or foundation (i.e., the gift will not qualify for the preferential capital gains treatment if the securities are sold and the cash proceeds are donated.)
  • Similar rules will apply to a capital gain on donated ecologically sensitive land to a conservation charity.

Did you know?

You may obtain access to your tax accounts online by applying for a "My Account" on the Canada Revenue Agency's website. This service allows you to check for your tax refund, obtain your RRSP limit, and change your address, to name a few examples.

For more information, please visit http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/esrvc-srvce/tx/ndvdls/myccnt/menu-eng.html.

Note that on October 4, 2010, all existing user IDs and passwords expired. To log into My Account after this date, you must create a new CRA user ID and password.

Changes to the Canada – U.S. Tax Treaty

The Fifth Protocol to the Canada – U.S. Tax Treaty (the "Treaty"), which amended certain provisions of the Treaty, came into force on December 15, 2008. Americans and Canadians that have cross-border dealings are strongly urged to consider whether the changes to the Treaty will impact them.

Highlights of the changes to the Treaty include:

Elimination of withholding tax on conventional interest payments Withholding tax on cross-border interest payments between arm's length persons is eliminated. The withholding tax rate is reduced to zero for 2010 and later years.

Extension of Treaty benefits to Limited Liability Corporations ("LLCs") The members of US LLCs may now be entitled to benefits under the Treaty. The Protocol effectively allows more flexibility in structuring cross-border businesses and investments in certain cases. However, there may now be a denial of treaty benefits for other entities that previously relied on the Treaty.

Investment Income - A Closer Look...

It may be a good time for you to consider whether your investment income is tax efficient and consider investment alternatives.

The table below has been prepared to assist you in this matter. It assumes that your investment goal is to earn an aftertax rate of return of 5%. It compares what pre-tax yield is required in order to achieve a 5% after-tax rate of return by earning:

  1. Interest income;
  2. Eligible dividends (generally dividends received from public corporations); or
  3. Non-eligible dividends (generally dividends received from small business corporations).

If Your Total Taxable Income is:

The pre-tax rate required to achieve a 5% aftertax rate of return is approximately:

If you receive interest income

If you receive eligible dividends

If you receive non-eligible dividends

Between $1,000 and $41,000

5% - 6.6%

5% - 5.2%

5% - 5.4%

Above $41,000 but below $82,000

7.3% - 8.3%

5.5% - 6%

6% - 6.6%

Above $82,000

8.8% - 9.3%

6.4% - 6.8%

7% - 7.4%

Interest Deductibility

9. Where possible, maximize interest deductions by structuring or arranging your borrowings first for business purposes, second for investment purposes, and last for personal use.

  • Note that the federal government has abandoned the proposed restrictions on the interest deduction on funds borrowed to make investments in foreign affiliates.

10. Where certain business or capital property (e.g., shares, but not real estate or depreciable property) is lost or ceases to earn income, the interest incurred on the related borrowed money continues to be deductible.

Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)

11. Canadian residents 18 years of age and older can each contribute up to $5,000 annually to a tax-free savings account.

  • Contributions to a TFSA are not deductible for income tax purposes.
  • Interest on money borrowed to invest in a TFSA is not tax deductible.
  • Contributions to and income earned in a TFSA are tax-free upon withdrawal.
  • You can give money to your spouse for a TFSA contribution and the income earned on the contributions in your spouse's TFSA will not be attributed back to you.
  • You cannot contribute more than your TFSA contribution room in a given year, even if you make withdrawals from the account during the year. If you do so, you may be subject to a penalty tax for each month that you are in an excess contribution position.

Did you know?

Effective July 1, 2010, Ontario implemented a single sales tax (HST). The HST combines the provincial sales tax with the federal goods and services tax (GST). The impact is that some items previously exempt from provincial sales tax, such as, gasoline, membership fees to clubs and gyms, real estate commissions, etc. will no longer be exempt from provincial sales tax.

Pensioners, Retirees and Pre-Retirees

12. Income splitting opportunity: Individuals receiving pension income that qualifies for the pension credit can allocate up to half of this income to their spouse or common-law partner. A determination of the optimal allocation should be considered in tandem with the couple's continued ability to qualify for Old Age Security payments and certain personal tax credits.

13. The age limit for maturing Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP) and Registered Pension Plans has been extended by two years. An individual's RRSP now must be converted to a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) or be used to acquire a qualifying annuity by the end of the year in which the individual turns 71.

  • An individual who turns 71 in 2010 can make RRSP contributions by the end of 2010, where contribution room is available.
  • An individual can continue to make a contribution to a spousal RRSP until the end of the year in which his or her spouse turns 71, where contribution room is available.

Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)

14. An RDSP is a savings plan that is intended to help parents and others save for the long-term financial security of a person who is eligible for the Disability Tax Credit.

  • Contributions to an RDSP are not tax deductible and can be made until the end of the year in which the beneficiary turns 59 years of age.
  • Contributions that are withdrawn are not included in the income of the beneficiary, although the Canada disability savings grant, Canada disability savings bond, and investment income earned in the plan will be included in the beneficiary's income for tax purposes when paid out of the RDSP.
  • There is no annual limit on amounts contributed to an RDSP of a particular beneficiary, but the overall lifetime limit is $200,000.
  • The 2010 federal budget proposes that a deceased individual's RRSP or RRIF can be transferred tax-free into the RDSP of a financially dependent infirm child or grandchild.

If You Have Young Children

15. Consider saving for your child's or grandchild's education with a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP).

  • An RESP is a trust arrangement that earns tax-free income to be used to fund the cost of a child's or grandchild's post-secondary education. Contributions to an RESP are not deductible for tax purposes and withdrawals of capital from the RESP are not taxed. The beneficiary is taxed on the income portion when withdrawn from the RESP for the purpose of funding his or her post-secondary education. While at school, the child or grandchild tends to have relatively low sources of other income, and, thus, the income is usually taxed at lower rates, if at all.
  • For RESP contributions in 2010:
    • There is no annual contribution limit;
    • The lifetime contribution limit is $50,000 per beneficiary; and
    • A federal government grant of 20% of annual RESP contributions is available for each beneficiary under the "Canada Education Savings Grant". The maximum annual RESP contribution that qualifies for the federal government grant is $2,500.

16. Maximize child-care expense deduction and consider the federal Children's Fitness Tax Credit and the new Ontario Children's Activity Tax Credit.

  • If you have a child under the age of 16 enrolled in a program of physical activity, you may be able to claim up to $500 of related expenses under the non-refundable federal children's fitness tax credit. Costs eligible for the credit include costs for administration, instruction, rental of required facilities, and certain uniforms and equipment.
  • The maximum amounts deductible for child-care expenses are $10,000 for a disabled child, $7,000 for children under age seven, and $4,000 for other eligible children (generally, children age 16 and under). In most cases, the spouse with the lower net income must claim the child-care expenses against their earned income.
  • You will not be able to claim the expenses incurred for the child's physical activity program for both the child-care expense deduction and the children's fitness tax credit.
  • If you have a child enrolled in a qualifying activity, you may be able to claim up to $500 of eligible expenses under the refundable Ontario children's activity tax credit. You may receive a refundable tax credit worth up to $50 per child under 16 years of age, or up to $100 for a child with a disability under 18 years of age. This tax credit covers eligible fitness and non-fitness activities.

17. Remember to apply for the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) program:

  • Under this program, families will receive up to $1,200 per year for each child under the age of six, paid in installments of $100 per month per child.
  • The application form is available by visiting the following website address: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pbg/tf/rc66/README.html.
  • Please note that the UCCB payments that your family receives will be taxable to the lower income spouse.
  • The 2010 federal budget proposes that a single parent can designate the amount of the UCCB payments received to be included in the income of a child to tax advantage of the child's lower tax rates.

Income splitting opportunity: If you decide to transfer the UCCB payments to a child, any income earned on the payments by that minor child will be taxable to the child, not the parent. If the child's taxable income is below $8,943 in 2010, the income will not be subject to federal or Ontario tax.

18. It is also important to apply for the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB):

  • Apply as soon as the child is born, as the CRA makes retroactive payments up to only 11 months prior to the application.
  • The application form is available by visiting the following website address: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pbg/tf/rc66/README.html. Note that the application form is the same form that is used to apply for the UCCB.

The CCTB is a tax-free monthly payment for children under the age of 18.

If you have your own corporation

19. Consider your optimum salary/dividend mix to achieve less overall tax:

  • Salary will qualify you and other family members active in the business for RRSP contributions, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, and child-care deductions. Dividends will not qualify an individual for these contributions or deductions.
  • Dividends, on the other hand, may cost the family unit less in current taxes. Each family member, over 17 years of age and receiving dividend income of approximately $37,500 or less of noneligible dividends, or $50,000 or less of eligible dividends, from taxable Canadian corporations, will pay little or no income tax, but will pay a small Ontario Health Tax premium. The tax on split income eliminates the tax benefits of paying dividends to children under 18 years of age.
  • Consider accessing funds from the corporation that can be withdrawn tax-free. For example, repay shareholder loans, return capital to shareholders up to the lesser of the paid-up capital and the adjusted cost base of the shares, or roll in personal assets with a high cost base to the corporation on a tax-free basis to extract the cost base of the assets on a tax-free basis.

20. Consider installments for 2011:

  • The threshold above which corporations must pay income tax, GST and source deductions installments is $3,000. The threshold will be based on 2010 tax amounts payable.
  • Certain Canadian-controlled private corporations are allowed to make quarterly, instead of monthly, income tax installments. To qualify, certain conditions must be met, including criteria relating to the 2010 taxation year:
    • The corporation was entitled to the small business deduction;
    • The taxable income of the associated group did not exceed $500,000; and
    • The taxable capital of the associated group did not exceed $10 million.

Installment planning for 2011 can be addressed during 2010 by meeting the conditions where applicable.

If You are Self-Employed...

21. If you have a home office and you meet certain conditions, you can deduct eligible home office expenses, including a portion of your mortgage interest, home insurance, property taxes, utilities, and minor repairs.

22. Consider the potential benefits of incorporating your business.

If You Are Employed...

23. Reduce tax withheld at source:

  • If you will have large tax deductions available to you (e.g., RRSP contributions, tax shelters, interest, business losses, work related car expenses, or alimony), apply in advance to the CRA for a reduction of the payroll withholdings that are withheld from your salary.
  • You may also arrange for a reduction in tax withholdings if you are entitled to the Child Tax Credit of $2,101 for each child.

24. Minimize taxable employee benefits:

  • Arrange to receive non-taxable benefits from your employer instead of taxable benefits where possible. Examples of non-taxable benefits include: employer contributions to a registered pension plan (the pension is taxable when you receive it, therefore you must assess the tax benefit); and contributions to a "private health services plan", such as those covering medical expenses, hospital charges and drugs not covered by public health insurance, and dental fees.
  • If you received interest-free or lowinterest loans from your employer, the loans will generally result in a taxable benefit.
    • Some of the benefit can be offset by an "interest" deduction if the loans are used for certain purposes. If not deductible, be sure to pay any interest payable on the loan for 2010 by January 30, 2011, to reduce or eliminate your taxable benefit.
    • Consider renegotiating any home purchase loans from your employer in order to minimize taxable benefits by "locking in" the loan at a lower prescribed interest rate for a fiveyear term.

If Your Employer Provides You With an Automobile...

25. The taxable benefit is based on original cost of the automobile and does not decrease as the car ages. Consider purchasing the car from the company by way of an interest-free loan from your employer and personally claiming depreciation on the car.

  • Avoid employer-owned vehicles costing over $30,000.
  • You can reduce the taxable benefit if your automobile is used primarily (generally, greater than 50%) for business purposes and by keeping your personal use to less than 20,000 kilometers per year.

Working in the U.S.

26. A Canadian resident who works in the U.S. may deduct contributions made to a U.S. pension plan, under certain circumstances, up to the taxpayer's RRSP deduction limit.

  • This will reduce the individual's unused RRSP contribution room.

Income Splitting With Family Members – Other Opportunities

Consider the following legitimate means of shifting income to family members whose taxable income is below the minimum tax rate level of approximately $ 41,000. This will allow them to take advantage of certain non-transferable credits, as well as lower tax rates.

27. Income splitting with children over the age of 17 ("adult children"):

  • Shift investment income by gifting money to your adult children, or to a trust for their benefit if you wish to maintain control.
  • Lend funds to, or purchase shares in, a corporation whose shareholders are your adult children.

28. Income splitting with adult or minor children:

  • Purchase appreciating assets in the names of your children regardless of their ages. Capital gains will be taxed in their hands, not yours.
  • Lend money to your children with actual interest payable at the prescribed rate. Earnings in excess of this rate will be taxed in their hands.

29. Income splitting with your spouse or common-law partner:

  • Lend money to your spouse or common-law partner to earn business income.
  • Have the higher-income spouse or common-law partner incur all household expenses, thus allowing the lower income person to acquire investments which could be taxed at a lower rate.
  • Lend money to your spouse or common-law partner with actual interest payable at the prescribed rate. Earnings in excess of this rate will be taxed in your spouse or common-law partner's hands.

Quickfacts for 2010

The maximum RRSP contribution limit is $22,000.

The amount of earned income required in 2010 to maximize your 2011 RRSP contribution room is $124,722 (the maximum RRSP contribution limit for 2011 is $22,450).

The small business deduction limit is $500,000.

Losses in an RRSP or RRIF that were incurred after the annuitant's death can be carried back to offset the annuitant's year of death RRSP income inclusions.

About Soberman LLP

As a public accounting firm, Soberman LLP is committed to going beyond tax returns and financial statements. We provide exceptional services designed to meet the special and on-going needs of our clients. Today, we are ranked as one of the premier chartered accounting firms in Canada.

Our services include Assurance & Advisory, Business Diagnostics Solutions, Business Valuation, Claims Valuation, Corporate Recovery & Insolvency, Corporate Workout & Turnaround Strategies, Due Diligence & Forensic Investigation, Estates & Trusts, Litigation Support, Management Services, Media Services, Mergers & Acquisitions, Personal Insolvency, Succession Planning, Technology Assurance and Taxation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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