Golden Girl Finance
 
Marcy Ages - T.E. Wealth
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Tax

How to simplify your tax prep

February 28th, 2017 by

Don't wait until the last minute to get your tax information together

 
 

With April just around the corner, you may have already started organizing your documents in preparation for your 2016 tax filing. While doing so, it’s a good time to set some practices in place now to make your 2017 filing as easy as possible. In addition to keeping the usual copies of any tax slips and receipts relevant to deductible expenses, here are some ways to cut down on next year’s prep time and ensure you don’t miss out on any savings. 

Donations

If you make donations on a regular basis throughout the year, you might find it helpful to keep a spreadsheet with the name of the charity, the month in which the donation was made and the amount you gave. If you make donations online, most charities will now issue you an electronic receipt almost immediately. Print them out and add them to your tax file once received. This way, you’ll already have most of your receipts by tax time and may only have to track down a few slips in the beginning of the next year.

Medical Expenses

If you have insurance coverage for most, but not all, of your medical expenses, keep copies of any receipts you have for expenses that were not covered by your insurance. If you plan to claim a medical expense for attendant care on your tax return, ask your doctor for a letter now that describes the medical condition of the individual, and states that the patient requires attendant care.

Disability Tax Credit

If either you or a family member has been physically incapacitated during the year, you may be eligible for the Disability Tax Credit. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for this. Your doctor will have to complete form T2201 for you, and then you will need to submit it to the Canada Revenue Agency for approval. It can take up to six months for the CRA to approve the form. It’s important to note that if you claim the credit on your tax return before receiving the approval, the credit will be denied. 

Moving Expenses

If you plan to move more than 40 kilometres for work or school this year, there are several expenses that you can deduct on your tax return. Keep all of your receipts for these expenses in one place so it will be easier to identify which of your overall deductible expenses fall under this claim. Some of the moving expenses that you may be eligible for are:

  • Travel (such as vehicle and accommodation expenses)
     
  • Meals and temporary housing (for up to a maximum of 15 days) 
     
  • Costs incurred when cancelling the lease for your previous tenancy contract
     
  • Changing your address on legal documents and replacing your driving license

If your house will be vacant for a time after you move, you can deduct up to $5,000 of the cost to maintain the home. Expenses such as interest, property taxes, insurance premiums and the cost of heat and utilities would be deductible. In addition, you can deduct the costs involved with selling your old home and buying a new one. This includes expenses such as commissions, legal fees and mortgage penalties.

Car Expenses for Employed or Self-Employed Individuals

If you use your car for both work and personal reasons, either as an employee or a self-employed individual, you need to keep track of the kilometres you drive for both personal reasons and business trips. The CRA will ask you for a log of these trips if you are ever audited, so keep a notebook in your car at all times to record every trip. Alternatively, there are now several apps available to help you track business-related driving on your smartphone. 

Adjusted Cost Base for Capital Gains

If you are a do-it-yourself investor, it is your responsibility to keep track of the adjusted cost base of your investments. Don’t wait until you sell an investment to calculate how much it cost you. Keep a spreadsheet with the description of the investment, the date of the purchase, the number of shares and the cost per share. If you purchased an investment in a foreign currency, make note of the exchange rate that was used at the time. If you have investments that include a return of capital in their distributions, you need to include this in your spreadsheet as any return of capital will decrease your cost base and increase your capital gains.

Ontario Tax Credits

For Ontario residents who plan to apply for the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit (OEPTC) or the Ontario Senior Homeowners’ Property Tax Grant (OSHPTG), you will need to have proof that you paid property tax, rent, accommodation in a public long-term care home, or home energy costs for a principal residence on a reserve in Ontario. Keep your property tax assessments and the receipts from any long-term care homes. If you pay rent, ask your landlord to write you a letter that states the address of your residence and how much rent you paid in the current tax year.   

Keep it simple

With a little extra effort now, you can minimize time spent on next year’s tax prep and feel reassured that you haven’t forgotten to include any claims that could save you money. If you’re looking for other tax strategies to help maximize your savings, we can help.   

Personal Finance

4 financial tips to start off 2017

January 19th, 2017 by

Boost your income this year with these financial tips

 
 

So, you’ve made it through another holiday season and the New Year has begun. If you’re like most people, you probably spent a little more than you would have liked to so the last thing you want to think about is your finances. Good news. Here are some tax-saving tips to help boost your income and better your financial position in 2017.

4 tips for a wealthier 2017

  • Donations

If you usually write a cheque or use your credit card when making donations during the year, keep in mind that you can actually donate shares instead of cash. This includes shares acquired by exercising company stock options as well. Any gain that is realized on the donation of the shares will not be taxable. In addition, the benefit that is realized when exercising options will not be taxed. In the case of stock options, be aware that you must donate the security in the year that it was acquired, and not more than 30 days after you exercised the options in order to benefit from the tax savings.

  • Automatic Savings Plan

The TFSA contribution limit for 2017 is $5,500 once again. If you are able to make a lump sum payment in the beginning of the year, this is your best option. In addition, if you can calculate what your RRSP contribution limit is for 2017, the sooner you are able to contribute the better. If you would like to contribute to an RESP and maximize the government grant, you will need to make a $2,500 contribution per child. If you are not able to make all of these contributions at once, now is the time to set up an automatic savings plan with your financial institution. Calculate what you can reasonably afford to save and then determine the priority of your contributions. For example, if you are going to be in a low tax bracket this year, you might be better off making your TFSA contributions first.

  • RRSP Con​version to RRIF

If you are turning 71 this year and have any type of RRSP (or LIRA), you will have to convert it to a RRIF (or LIF), among other options, by the end of the year. Before you convert your RRSP to a RRIF, you should make your final RRSP contribution. You can also make another contribution in December before you convert your RRSP or LIRA, if you know what your limit will be in 2018. You will have to pay the 1% a month penalty for December, but will still end up ahead long term. Also, if you are going to continue to have RRSP room and your spouse is younger than you, consider setting up a spousal RRSP for them so that you can continue to contribute to an RRSP after you turn 71.

  • OAS and CPP

If you are turning 60 this year and have not applied for your CPP yet, take a look at the numbers to determine if it makes sense for you to apply for it now or at age 65. Some factors to consider are cash flow, life expectancy and tax implications. If you decide to take it at 60, your pension will be reduced by 0.6% for each month that you receive it before age 65. Or you may choose to defer it to as late as age 70, as every month of deferral will increase your CPP by 0.7% per month. So if you choose to wait until age 70, your CPP will increase by 42%.

You also have the opportunity to delay your Old Age Security until age 70. It will increase by 0.6% per month, up to 36% if you choose to defer it until age 70. Talk to your financial planner about what makes the most sense for you, since your OAS may be clawed back because of other income you are receiving right now. In both cases, if you choose to start your payments at age 65, you should send in your application at least six months before your 65th birthday.

Be proactive

Start the year off by being proactive, and talk to your financial planner about which of these tips you could benefit from most.

Personal Finance

Five ways to help you reach your retirement goals

November 14th, 2016 by

Make your retirement dream a reality with these helpful tips.

 
 

For many us, it’s a long-held dream to retire early enough to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labour. But it’s one thing to say that you want to retire comfortably by a certain age, and another to actually do it. To do so, you need to set goals for yourself along the way, such as paying down your debt, saving a certain amount of money and possibly working at your job for an amount of time that will net you the best pension possible. Here are a five ways to help you make your retirement dream a reality.  

1. Manage your mortgage

  If you have a mortgage, you may need to shorten the amortization period to be debt-free by retirement. Your payments will go up but you’ll save a significant amount of money on interest by doing this. Or, you can make lump sum payments when allowable according to the terms of your mortgage. Many institutions will let you pay down fifteen to twenty percent of the principal once or twice a year.   

2. Take the free money!

  This one seems like a no-brainer, yet many people do not take advantage of their company’s programs that match contributions to registered plans or company stock savings plans. This is free money that will boost your retirement fund over time.   

3. Maximize your RRSPs

  Maximize all registered plan contributions if you are able. If you don’t make enough money to contribute to both an RRSP and a TFSA, choose the one that will give you the best tax advantage both now and in the future. You might start off contributing to a TFSA when your income is low and then switching to an RRSP when you reach a higher tax bracket. You might also choose to use your income tax refund from your RRSP contribution to pay down your mortgage or to make next year’s RRSP contribution.

4. Know your retirement budget

  Make a list of what your expenses will be in retirement. Will the income from your assets and other sources of income such as CPP and OAS be enough to cover these expenses?  Is there a large gap or a small one? You may be able to cut certain expenses in retirement by travelling off season, taking advantage of seniors’ discounts, or joining a seniors’ association such as CARP. If there is a significant difference between your projected income and expenses in retirement, you may have to retire later or work part time.   

5. Protect yourself in the event of an illness

 If you’ll only have enough retirement income to cover your regular expenses, purchase long-term care insurance now while the premiums are cheaper. As people live longer in retirement, there is a greater chance that at some point you will need care either at your home or an assisted living facility. This can be a significant drain on your resources which may affect not only you financially, but your immediate and extended family as well.  

For a more comprehensive review of how to achieve your retirement goals in a way that fits with your unique financial situation, speak to your financial planner.   

Estate Planning

How to maximize the value of your estate

September 29th, 2016 by

Tips for leaving your loved ones as much of your estate as possible

 
 

So, you finally have a Will and have made sure that your loved ones are well taken care of. Or so you think. What you might not have considered is the impact of probate fees and income taxes on the final value of your estate. These could significantly reduce the remaining inheritance available to your beneficiaries. Here’s what you need to know. 

Probate Fees

In each Canadian province or territory, the ministry charges a fee to validate the Will of a deceased person - also known as a probate fee. If you have a large estate, these fees can be sizeable. For instance, if your Will is probated in Ontario, the fee is .5% on the first $50,000 of assets, and then 1.5% on the remaining value of the estate. See a complete list of probate fees in each region here http://blog.taxresource.ca/tax-rates/probate-fees-by-province/.   

Income Tax

In addition to the mandatory probate fee, the deceased’s estate may be subject to a tax on income and/or capital gains.  On his or her final tax return, the full value of any RRSPs or RRIFs must be included as regular income. If the deceased was single, you must include a deemed disposition of all non-registered accounts on the final tax return. This could result in a large capital gain if the assets have been held for a long period of time. If the deceased earned a significant amount of income in their last year, it is possible that all of this extra income will be taxed at the highest marginal rate for their province or territory.  

Tips for maximizing your estate’s value

  Keeping in mind that everyone’s situation is unique, here are a few general tips to help you maximize the value of your estate:   

• To minimize probate fees, make sure to name beneficiaries on all of your registered accounts and life insurance policies. When you convert your RRSP to a RRIF, the beneficiary on your RRSP will not be automatically assigned to your RRIF. So don’t forget to name a beneficiary again.

• Where possible, hold certain assets such as your home and non-registered investment accounts in joint name with rights of survivorship. 

• Assets that are held in trust are not subject to probate fees. If you are 65 or older, it may be beneficial for you to place your non-registered assets in an Alter Ego Trust or a Joint Partner Trust. There is no deemed disposition on the assets at the time of transfer in this case. 

• Apply  capital loss carryforwards on the final tax return against capital gains that occur as a result of the deemed disposition.  If you think that your income will be much higher in the future, consider withdrawing more than the minimum payment from your RRIF now. Individuals are allowed to roll over their non-registered assets at cost to their surviving spouse. However, it can make sense in certain cases to elect to do a deemed disposition if some of the investments are at a loss. These losses can be used to wipe out some or all of the gains.

• Claim all eligible medical expenses on the final return. Normally, you can only claim charitable donations up to 75% of an individual’s net income. In the year of death, you can claim up to 100%. And any amount over that can be applied to the previous year’s tax return. 

• If you have a sizeable estate and would like to see your beneficiaries enjoying some of their inheritance now, consider gifting them a partial inheritance in cash - not equities. Any gift of equities will result in a deemed disposition to you, and may result in a tax liability.  

Before exercising any of these options, consult with your financial advisor to ensure it’s the right solution for you. He or she can also suggest ways to further increase the value of your estate.     

Personal Finance

4 tips on how to prepare for a financial setback

June 2nd, 2016 by

Four ways to reduce your stress in the event of a financial crisis

 
 

In a recent post by my colleague, Karen Hall, she covered some best practices for http://www.tewealth.com/blog/after-disaster-strikes-financial-recovery-tips/ handling your finances when a natural disaster strikes. To expand on this idea, I’d like to offer a few points on what to do in the event of an unexpected financial setback, such as a job loss or long-term illness.    Here are four ways you can reduce stress should you be faced with an unforeseen, and undesirable, financial circumstance.  

Liquidity

Make sure you have enough funds in a liquid investment to cover between three and six months of expenses. If you’re unable to save this much, you should have a line of credit that you can draw on and then repay once you regain employment. If you own your home, set up a secured line of credit now so that your interest rate will be lower than a regular line of credit.  

Know what your expenses are

If possible, keep a monthly record of your expenses. Identify the fixed (e.g., mortgage/car payments) versus variable (e.g., groceries/clothing) costs. This will make it much easier to cut certain expenses should the need arise.   

Debt Payments

Educate yourself about the payment options for your mortgage. You may be able to skip a payment or two when the need arises. You may also be able to increase a payment now so that, if necessary, you can take a payment holiday later. If you are making payments on a car or line of credit, find out what happens if you can’t make your payments.   

Insurance

Review you insurance coverage in the event of an illness or disability. Make sure you will have enough after-tax income to replace your regular income, or enough to cover your expenses. If you don’t have adequate coverage through work, consider purchasing a private policy. If you have a critical illness insurance policy, your lump sum payout will not be taxable and this can make a big difference.

If you’re paying the premiums for disability insurance, any payments that you receive in the future will not be taxed. However, if your company is paying the premiums, the income will be taxed.

Many disability insurance policies have a waiting period whereby payments will not start until after a set amount of time. People sometimes choose this option to reduce their premium payments. Make sure you have enough savings to use during this time. Keep all of these issues in mind when calculating how much income will be available to you.

These are just a few ways you can make sure you’re prepared for a financial setback. Speak with your financial planner to create a more detailed strategy that will ensure you’ve covered all the bases.