Sunday, April 21, 2013

Budgeting Pays

Gordon Pape had an article in the Toronto Star recently on budgeting. The average Canadian spends their money on:

27% Housing
19% Transportation
16% Food
12% Household operations and furnishings
12% Recreation, education, reading
6% Clothing and footwear
5% Health and personal care
3% Tobacco and alcohol
based on a 2009 survey from Statistics Canada, using after-tax dollars
Most families seem to fly by the seat of their pants, which may explain why our personal debt has hit record levels. Fresh Statistics Canada data shows the ratio of debt to personal disposable income rose to 152 per cent last quarter, up from 150.6 at the end of 2011.

What’s missing from this list?
Debt Repayment – specifically credit card balances, student loans, line of credit repayments, etc.
Savings – the rule of thumb is you should aim to save 10 per cent of your income in some form or another.
So you need to add both of these items to your list.
If you already have a budget, start by comparing the average percentages to your own household allocations. If you are spending more than you should in some categories ask yourself why. See if there are some savings opportunities available and, if so, make revisions.

If you don’t know what you are spending your money on – now is a great time to start. Send me an email and I can send you a worksheet you can use to track where you are currently spending your money. Once you know where you are spending your money, you can develop a budget that you can live with.

Just remember – your budget must balance – or you end up deeper in debt.

Budgeting can result in your having more money at the end of the month (also you’ll sleep better.) So get started now.  Call me if you need assistance.

Friday, April 19, 2013

2012 Tax Tips

It’s tax time in Canada.  If you are like most people, in March you assemble all of the required pieces of paper so that you can complete your tax filing by the April 30th deadline.  Most people who expect money back, file early, while those who owe money wait until the end of April.

In order to help you get ready, here is a list of tax tips I’ve put together, based on my readings of the “experts” and information from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). 

To ensure that you maximize your deductions, you should always get tax advice from a qualified tax practitioner.

1. Ontario healthy homes renovation tax credit. A new refundable tax credit of 15 per cent of eligible expenses is available for Ontario residents over age 65 who spent money to make their home safer. The deduction is also available to those who live with a family member who is a senior.  
The type of eligible expenses includes changes to make a first-floor or secondary suite for a senior. It also includes grab bars and handrails, wheelchair ramps, walk-in bathtubs, no-slip flooring and hands free taps and hand held showers. Wheelchairs or walkers are not deductible, nor are general repairs incurred to increase the value of the home. 

For more information check this link

2. New Family Caregiver Amount. This is a $2,000 bump to the normal credits if your spouse, child, or other adult dependant has a mental or physical infirmity. Verification is required to indicate when the condition started and its expected duration. Make that appointment quickly to file your returns in time, and remember, if the doctor charges you a fee, claim it as a medical expense.

Additional information can be found on the CRA web site 

3. Are you claiming all of the medical expenses that you are eligible for?  They can be grouped into the best 12-month period ending in the tax year. They can be claimed by the spouse with the lower income, but must exceed the lesser of $2,109 or 3 per cent of your net income.

New medical expense claims. For those who travelled out of their local communities for medical care, a “simplified method” of claiming auto expenses is possible. For a full list of eligible items – check the CRA web site   
4. Your safety deposit box is an often missed tax deduction. It’s not the largest amount. Check out the eligible carrying charges and interest expenses.

5. Disability Tax Credit is a lucrative tax credit. It is claimed by someone who is markedly disabled on a permanent basis, or their supporting individual. Especially vulnerable are those with progressive diseases, like Alzheimer’s or cancer.  A doctor or other qualified healthcare professional must fill in form T2201, the Disability Tax Credit Certificate. In many cases, the information provided by the healthcare professional may indicate several years of impairment. Previous tax returns can be adjusted for the tax credit for each year that the Disability Tax Credit Certificate has been approved by CRA. 

To obtain a Form 2201 to apply for the Disability Tax Credit – click here 

For more information about programs available to people with disabilities – click here 
6. Qualifying moving expenses include real estate commissions, which can run into the five figures are the most lucrative deduction. You have to move 40 kilometers closer to a new work or business location where active income is earned. If your not sure if your eligible   or what expenses you can claim – click here  

A list of tax relief measures for Canadians are listed on the CRA web site – check the list out.
CRA is encouraging Canadians to file electronically, so they have stopped mailing out personalized tax return forms. You can still pick the T1 up at Canada Post or Services Canada or call 1-800-959-8281.

Remember if you Netfile, you must keep all receipts for 6 years.

Where to Find Help with Your Canadian Tax Return

Questions about deciphering the Canada Revenue Agency’s forms? Wondering when you will get your income tax refund or your GST credit? Here is the contact information you need, including toll-free phone numbers, to get the answers you want:

CRA Web site 
  •      Have an income tax question? Call  1-800-959-8281     
  •      Wondering where your refund is? Call   1-800-959-1956   
  •      Waiting for your GST credit? Call     1-800-959-1953   
  •      Waiting for your Canada Child Tax Benefit or Universal Child Care Benefit? Call  1-800-387-1193