What’s new in taxes?
Here we are once again, folks—tax time (ugh!). The deadline for filing your 2018 return is Tuesday, April 30. Unless you’re self-employed, in which case you have until June 15. As always, there are changes to the code this year, and we’ve compiled an overview of new rules most likely to be of interest to individual filers.
Medical Expense Tax Credit
The tax credit for individuals who require an animal trained specifically to assist them in life has been expanded to include people with severe mental impairments, such as PTSD. The assistance must be associated with the claimant’s impairment, but the expenses are quite broadly defined. For example, if the person needs a dog to be trained, the cost of training is eligible, as are related expenses such as food, veterinary bills and a carrying cage.
Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP)
The government has extended a measure allowing immediate family members to be planholders for individuals who are eligible for RDSPs. This measure is designed for beneficiaries who do not have the legal capacity to establish an RDSP, and who as a result could suffer from the considerable time it sometimes takes to establish a legal representative to act on their behalf. The measure has been extended to 2023, and a qualifying family member can remain as the planholder beyond that date.
Income splitting for veterans
Retirement income security benefits for veterans were previously not eligible for income splitting. That has now changed, and veterans can split these benefits with their spouses retroactive to 2015. The total amount that can be split is capped at $103,056 for 2018.
In previous years, it was possible to apply for a deduction related to taking out a loan when relocating one’s home. This deduction has been eliminated.
Tuition tax credits
Students in New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan can no longer claim a provincial tax credit for their tuition expenses, but they can still claim a credit on their federal taxes. Remember that students can carry on their tax credit to future years, or claim it on their return but transfer it to an eligible family member (such as a parent or grandparent).
Residents of New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are eligible for a carbon-tax offset on their 2018 return.
March is Fraud Prevention Month
The RCMP estimates that fraud costs the Canadian economy over $10 billion annually. And although the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre receives between 400 and 500 complaints a day on average, it’s estimated that fewer than 5% of victims of fraud ever bother to report their losses. Fraud is big business, and March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada. So here is a reminder of some tips to help you protect yourself from being cheated—now, and throughout the year:
- Watch out for prizes! If someone is offering you a valuable prize in exchange for a small purchase, it may well be a scam.
- Check your credit report every year. An unexpected change can be a sign of fraud, and the sooner you report a problem the quicker it can be resolved.
- Buy from reputable vendors. With more and more commerce occurring over the internet these days, it’s vital to know who you are dealing with. Ask for documentation from the seller if you’re in doubt, and never make a purchase until you know the vendor is legitimate.
- Be very conservative in disclosing personal information. Scam artists aren’t just looking for your credit card or bank account details. Sometimes they build a profile of you over time with such information as your address, social insurance number and driver’s license number. Only give out information that is absolutely necessary to divulge, and never reveal information to a business that can’t prove it is legitimate.
- Shred and burn! Financial statements and receipts are a goldmine of information for scammers, so don’t just toss them out. Bank statements, credit card bills, cancelled cheques, applications for credit and old tax returns should all be shredded or thrown in the fire.
- The Canada Revenue Agency will never call and threaten you with a visit from the police or with a lawsuit. These kinds of calls are scams.
- Phone calls or emails offering international bonds, great stock market tips, lottery tickets, money from an overseas bank account, free vacations or hotel stays, or anything that could earn you a lot of money with minimal effort are scams.
Always remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it most probably is. If you’ve been defrauded, report your loss to your local police service, as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501, or through their online reporting tool). The Centre helps law enforcement agencies all over the world by identifying connections among seemingly unrelated cases. Your information could be the tip they need to crack a case.
Getting a handle on food labeling
If there’s one thing you should be reading regularly, it’s food labels. Those handy black-and-white tables on the back of every package are the handiest kind of health “app” you could ask for. But to make the most of them, you have to know how to use them.
How much is too much?
To understand labels, begin with the serving size. For example, if a bag of chips has four serving sizes, you’ll have to quadruple the amounts on the label to get the nutritional information for the whole package. Treats like chips and chocolate come in packages that contain a lot of servings, which is a sign to go easy on them.
The next step is to look at the % Daily Value. This tells you how much of your recommended daily intake of that nutrient is being delivered by the item. This is a very handy tool for deciding whether to buy something or skip it. After all, most people can’t remember how much sodium is recommended for adults (it’s 1,500mg daily), whereas they can decide that a single item delivering 60% of the Daily Value of sodium maybe isn’t such a good choice.
You should also look at the key nutrients of fat, sugar and protein. In general, protein is viewed favourably, whereas sugar has recently acquired a bad reputation as “empty calories”. The conventional take on fat is a bit more mixed. We all need fat in our diet, and many nutritionists have argued that concerns about fat in our food have been overblown, but saturated fat is still viewed with suspicion.
More than just labels
Finally, read the label in conjunction with the other information on the package. Other nutritional claims are optional, but if a package does make them, they have to meet federal guidelines for truth. The most common ones are these:
- Low fat: This means there are fewer than 3 grams of fat in the serving size.
- Source of fibre: Two grams of fibre per serving will qualify for this claim. “High source of fibre” means there are at least 4 grams per serving, while “Very high source of fibre” is reserved for foods with 6 or more grams per serving.
- Cholesterol-free: When you look at the label, you may be surprised to find that these kinds of foods may still have cholesterol in them—up to 2mg. But don’t worry, because that’s a very small amount.
- Sodium-free: Similarly, a sodium-free food may actually have up to 5mg of sodium per serving. But it’s such a small amount that it doesn’t have any nutritional consequence.
Welcome spring with the ZoomerShow
Spring has now officially arrived, and what better way to celebrate than with a visit to the Vancouver ZoomerShow? Canada’s signature lifestyle expo for those 45 and up will be in full bloom in Vancouver on the weekend of April 13 and 14, and you’re invited. Education, entertainment, shopping—it’s all happening at the show, with booths, exhibits and talks covering money, travel, health & wellness, home & fashion and much more. The show will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre, in Canada Place (East Building, Halls B & C). Doors open at 10am on Saturday, and 11am on Sunday, closing at 5pm on both days.
As always, Oaken will be there, so come on down and say hello! We’ll also be holding our regular draw, to be awarded to one lucky person who drops by our booth and enters, with the prize being a $250 Amazon gift card. We look forward to greeting old faces, and of course meeting some new ones too. So just click here for your free tickets to this event, compliments of Oaken!
We’ve put together a few quick articles to read before you head out the door to enjoy the beginning of spring (hopefully!)…
- The CBS with a little more detail on the carbon-tax rebate, which is even higher for people living in rural areas of the eligible provinces.
- CTV news reports that romance scams top the list of 2018’s most damaging frauds, according to the Better Business Bureau.
- The New York Times has advice on reading food labels that’s valid for Canadians too.