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Most Canadians have now filed their individual income tax return for the 2018 tax year and received a Notice of Assessment 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 up 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 2020. 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.


It’s the financial “achievement” no one wants to have, but Canadians keep setting new records when it comes to the size of their household debt. And, as of the last quarter of 2018, they did so again.

The most recent release of “Mortgage and Consumer Credit Trends” issued by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows that the debt-to-income ratio of Canadians reached 178.5% as of the fourth quarter of 2018. In other words, Canadian households were carrying, on average, $1.78 in debt for every $1 of household income. Just fifteen years previously, in 2005, Canadians held less than $1 of debt for every dollar of household income — the debt to household income ratio was then 93%.


It would be entirely reasonable for Canadians seeking to buy their first home to feel that the odds are very much against them, for a number of reasons. Many of them, especially those in their twenties and thirties, must put together an income from short-term contracts and/or multiple part-time jobs, making it almost impossible to have any certainty of income, over either the short or the long term. Mortgage lenders are understandably reluctant to lend to those who don’t know what their income will be for the current year, much less for future years. As well, increases in home prices over the last decade mean that the average home price in Canada is now $470,000, meaning that a minimum 5% downpayment is just under $25,000, and those who can put together such a down payment will be carrying a mortgage of just under $450,000. The interest rate levied on that mortgage has steadily increased over the past 18 months, with changes in the bank rate. Finally, as of April 2018, the federal government imposed a new mortgage “stress test”, which requires prospective borrowers to qualify for a mortgage at rates in excess of current rates. All in all, there is a “perfect storm” of factors in place which keep younger Canadians from attaining that elusive first step on the property ladder.


By May 20, 2019, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had processed just over 27 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2018 tax year. Just under 17 million of those returns resulted in a refund to the taxpayer, while about 5.5 million resulted in the required payment of a tax balance by the taxpayer.


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


Although virtually no one looks forward to the task, the vast majority of Canadians do file their tax returns, and pay any taxes owed, by the applicable tax payment and filing deadlines each spring. There is, however, a significant minority of Canadians who do not file or pay on a timely basis and, for some, that’s a situation which can go on for years.


As every Canadian driver knows, gas prices seem to rise every spring, seemingly in lockstep with the warmer weather. This year, that annual trend has been given an extra push by the implementation of federal and provincial carbon taxes. As of the end of April, gas prices ranged from $1.19 to $1.56 per litre, depending on the province, and most forecasts call for those prices to increase over the summer.


The deadline for payment of all individual income taxes owed for the 2018 tax year was April 30, 2019. For all individuals except the self-employed and their spouses, that date was also the filing deadline for tax returns for the 2018 tax year. (The self-employed and their spouses have until June 17, 2019 to file.)


For the majority of Canadians, the due date for filing of an individual tax return for the 2018 tax year was Tuesday April 30, 2019. (Self-employed Canadians and their spouses have until Monday June 17, 2019 to get their 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.


Both changes in the job market and increases in real estate prices over at least the past decade have made the goal of home ownership an elusive or even impossible one for many Canadians, especially younger Canadians.


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 2018 must be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on or before Tuesday, April 30, 2019 — no exceptions and, absent extraordinary circumstances, no extensions.


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 first quarter of 2019 (January to March 2019), that maximum monthly benefit is $601.45. 


For many years now, there has been a persistent tax scam operating in Canada in which Canadians are contacted, usually by phone, by someone who falsely identifies himself or herself as being a representative of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The taxpayer is told that money — sometimes a substantial amount of money — is owed to the government. The identifier for this particular scam is that the caller insists that the money owed must be paid immediately (usually by wire transfer or pre-paid credit card) and, if payment is not made right away, significant negative consequences will follow, including immediate arrest or seizure of assets, confiscation of the taxpayer’s Canadian passport, or deportation.


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


Each new tax year brings with it a listing of tax payment and filing deadlines, as well as some changes with respect to tax planning strategies. Some of the more significant dates and changes for individual taxpayers for 2019 are listed below.


When the Canada Pension Plan was launched in the mid-1960s, both the working lives and the retirements of Canadians looked a lot different than they do in 2018. Fifty years ago, most Canadians were able to work at a single full-time job, often held that job for most or all of their working lives and, in many cases, benefitted from an employer sponsored defined benefit pension plan which guaranteed a certain level of income in retirement.