Tips for Tax Time

Help for you at tax time

After Conservatives said that budget cuts would have no effect on frontline services for Canadians, service cuts and sweeping changes at the CRA have left Canadians confused about how to access the basic information they need to file their taxes.

Last year, without warning, the Canada Revenue Agency announced that it would no longer be mailing the T1 general tax package and cancelled the TELEFILE service used by hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Changes to NETFILE have triggered major privacy concerns.

CRA payment and enquiry counter services and face-to-face outreach sessions have been discontinued, and every CRA service counter in Canada closed in 2013.

The CRA has effectively closed its doors to the public. Seniors and people living in remote or rural areas are concerned about access to basic tax forms.

New Democrats are opposing these devastating cuts and seeking answers to your questions in order to ensure that you have the information you need to file your taxes with ease and on time.

People who are not using the NETFILE option have been encouraged to download their forms from the CRA website or pick up a tax package at their local Canada Post or Service Canada location.

Please be aware that you are entitled to receive your documents by mail, but the CRA will send a package only to those who specifically request it. If you would like a tax package mailed to you, please call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281 (English-language line) or 1-800-959-7383 (French-language line)  as soon as possible.

Our office has put together a list of volunteer tax clinics in the Victoria Area to assist you:

http://murrayrankin.ndp.ca/volunteer-tax-clinics-victoria

Please contact our office should you have any further questions or concerns.

Below is a list of tax credits and benefits you may be eligible for.

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Tax credits for students

Interest paid on student loans can be eligible for a 15% non-refundable tax credit. It is also possible to carry the interest forward and apply it to a return for any of the next five years. This measure can offer relief to new graduates for several years. Lines of credit, personal loans, student loans that have been combined with another kind of loan, or student loans from another country are not eligible for this credit. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/319-eng.html)

Make sure you claim your tuition fees and education amounts.The education amount enables students to claim a non-refundable credit of $400 per month of full-time study and $120 per month of part-time study. The student needs to be enrolled in a qualifying program at a designated educational institution. Additionally, eligible tuition fees can be claimed as a non-refundable credit. Make sure you get your tuition form from your educational institution.

The amount for textbooks may be claimed by those who also claim the amount for education. For 2013, an eligible student can claim $65 for each month of full-time study and $20 for each month of part-time study. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pub/tg/p105/p105-13e.pdf, p. 33)

Tip: make sure that you get the full benefit out of your credits. If you have used the amount for tuition fees, education and textbooks to reduce your own taxes, the unused part of your credit could be carried forward to a future year or transferred to your parent, grandparent, spouse or common-law partner. The amount can also be transferred to your spouse or common-law partner’s parent or grandparent.

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Tax credit for public transportation

Canadians who use public transportation are eligible for a non-refundable tax credit of 15% of the cost of monthly passes valid for unlimited travel on local buses, street cars, subways, commuter trains, commuter buses or local ferries. The growing number of people who use electronic payment cards can also claim this amount if they have used them to make at least 32 one-way trips during a consecutive period of 31 days. You can also claim the public transit amount for your children if they were younger than 19 years old on December 31, 2013. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns360-390/364/menu-eng.html)

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Tax benefits for working people

The working income tax benefit is a refundable tax credit intended to provide tax relief for eligible working low-income individuals and families who are already in the workforce and to encourage other Canadians to enter the workforce. Eligible individuals can apply for advance payments for this credit.

(Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/bnfts/wtb/menu-eng.html)

Artists can also deduct expenses they paid to earn employment income for artistic activities they engaged in. You could be eligible for this deduction if you composed a dramatic, musical or literary work; performed as an actor, dancer, singer or musician in a dramatic or musical work; or created an original painting, print, etching, drawing, sculpture or similar work of art. The amounts and types of expenses employed artists can deduct are listed on the CRA website. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns206-236/229/rtsts/menu-eng.html)

Employed tradespersons may be able to deduct the cost of eligible tools purchased in 2013. An eligible tool is a tool that (1) you bought to use in your job as a tradesperson and was not used for any purpose before you bought it; (2) your employer certified as being necessary for you to provide as a condition of, and for use in, your job as a tradesperson; and (3) is not an electronic communication device (like a cell phone) or electronic data processing equipment (unless the device or equipment can be used only for the purpose of measuring, locating or calculating). Apprentice mechanics can qualify for this deduction. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns206-236/229/trds/menu-eng.html)

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Tax credits for families

The children’s fitness tax credit allows parents to claim up to $500 per child under 16 years of age for registration or membership fees paid toward a prescribed program of physical activity. A few conditions need to be met for a program to qualify for this credit: it needs to be at least eight weeks long (or five days for camps), be supervised, be suitable for children and require significant physical activity. Examples of activities that could qualify include games like hockey or soccer; activities such as golf lessons, horseback riding, sailing and bowling; as well as other activities that require a similar level of physical activity. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/fitness/ )

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The children’s arts amount. You can claim to a maximum of $500 per child the feespaid in 2013 relating to the cost of registration or membership for your or your spouse’s or common-law partner’s child in a prescribed program of artistic, cultural, recreational or developmental activity. The child must have been under 16 years of age at the beginning of the year in which an eligible arts expense was paid. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns360-390/370/menu-eng.html)

Note: Activities eligible under the children’s arts amount are far broader than its name suggests. Activities that meet just one of the following criteria could be eligible: (1) it has a substantial focus on the natural environment and wilderness; (2) it includes structured interaction among children where an instructor teaches or helps children develop interpersonal skills; (3) it develops and uses particular intellectual skills; (4) it provides tutoring in academic subjects; or (5) it contributes to the development of creative skills or expertise in an artistic or cultural activity. To qualify for this credit, the program has to be at least eight weeks long (or five days for camps), be supervised and be suitable for children.

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Claim your medical expenses

You can claim eligible medical expenses paid in any 12-month period ending in 2013 and not claimed for 2012. Generally, you can claim all amounts paid, even if they were not paid in Canada. The list of eligible expenses is long and is available from the Canada Revenue Agency. You can claim medical expenses for yourself, your spouse or common-law partner, as well as your spouse’s or common-law partner’s children born in 1996 or later. Depending on your situation, it could be more advantageous to claim your medical fees on your spouse’s or common-law partner’s return. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/330/lgbl-eng.html)

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The caregiver amount can be claimed if you lived alone or with another person and maintained a dwelling where your or your spouse’s (or common-law partner’s) dependent lived. The dependent must have been 18 years of age or older and dependent on you due to an impairment in physical or mental functions. If the dependent is your or your spouse’s  (or common-law partner’s) parent or grandparent, that person must have been born in or before 1948. Certain individuals are also eligible to claim the family caregiver amount, which amounts to $2,040. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/315/menu-eng.html and http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/fmlcrgvr-eng.html)

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If you supported your spouse or common-law partner you could be eligible for a non-refundable tax credit if that person’s income was less than $11,038 (or $13,078 if you claimed the family caregiver amount for that person). (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/303/menu-eng.html)

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You can deduct eligible moving expenses if you moved and established a new home to work or carry on a business at a new location, or if you move to study courses as a student in full-time attendance at a university, college or other educational institution that offers courses at a post-secondary school level. To qualify, your new home must be at least 40 kilometres (by the shortest usual public route) closer to the new place of work or educational institution. A comprehensive list of eligible expenses is available from the CRA, but includes  travel expenses (e.g., vehicle and meal expenses), storage and transportation of household goods, temporary living expenses for up to 15 days, the cost to cancel a lease and the cost to sell your old residence (e.g., real estate commission) or purchase a new one. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns206-236/219/menu-eng.html )

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The home buyer’s tax credit amounts to $750 and can be claimed by certain buyers who acquired a qualifying home. You can claim this amount only if you did not live in another home owned by you or your spouse or common-law partner in the year of acquisition or in any of the four preceding years. To qualify, the home must be registered in your name and/or your spouse’s or common-law partner’s name and be located in Canada. Single-family houses, semi-detached houses, townhouses, mobile homes, condominium units and apartments in duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes or apartment buildings can qualify. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns360-390/369/menu-eng.html)

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The pension income amount provides for a 15% federal tax credit on up to $2,000 of eligible pension income. In 2014, this amounts to a maximum of $300. Individuals who meet certain conditions may split their pension income with a spouse or common-law partner. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/314/menu-eng.html and http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/pnsn-splt/menu-eng.html).

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The age amount allows seniors who were 65 years of age or older on December 31, 2013, to claim a 15% non-refundable tax credit of up to $6,854 if their income was less than $80,256. (Source: CRA at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pub/tg/5000-g/5000g-13e.pdf , p. 34)

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A disability amount of $7,697 could be claimed by a person with a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions.  To be eligible for the credit, a person needs to have form T2201 filled by a qualified practitioner such as a medical doctor, physiotherapist, psychologist, speech-language pathologist, an optometrist, audiologist, or an occupational therapist.  The form then needs to be approved by the Canada Revenue Agency.  An additional amount can be claimed by people under the age of 18.  A person may be able to transfer all or part of the disability amount to a common-law partner, spouse or other supporting person.

http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/316/menu-eng.html