R Brenton Driscoll
Tax Alerts

A checklist of items for review and what to bring in when its time to do your taxes.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.