"There are lies, damned lies and statistics" is the well-worn phrase, but nothing better sums up the recent Fraser Institute scare mongering about taxes being the single largest budget item of Canadian households -- as catchy as the headlines may be, it is alarmist spin. Such biased economic exercises raise a fundamental question: Just what indicators should we be using to keep score on Canada's economic performance?
They're coming first for your devilish Coca-Cola and Pepsi. But they aren't stopping there. They also want taxes on sugary fruit juice (you sinister Sun-Rype suckers!), and anything else that tastes slightly better than water. It won't end -- because big government types truly believe higher taxes can solve every problem -- there's no evidence it will work.
People have always sought out new and innovative ways to reduce or avoid taxes. In estate planning, some of the more traditional methods have included designating a beneficiary directly in an insurance policy or naming a joint account holder with a right of survivorship. Multiple wills are another effective technique and as a result, have become increasingly popular over the last decade.
Albert Einstein once said, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is income taxes." -- you can rest assured that it is not a simple subject. Taxpayers are expected to understand it well enough to be able to make good decisions about our own financial situation. But if understanding basic income tax isn't enough of a headache, the taxes on investment earnings (such as in your RRSP) represent a whole new territory.
When a person dies, their assets are managed by an estate representative. In most cases, that person is the grieving spouse or children. Ontario has the highest Estate Administration Tax (EAT) the country. The EAT was previously called a "probate fee," but in this rare instance of honesty the Ontario government has changed the name to reflect what it really is -- an estate tax. Failure to comply with these new burdensome rules can result in fines starting at $1,000, imprisonment for up to two years, or both.
What makes people sick? Infectious agents like bacteria and viruses and personal factors like smoking, eating poorly and living a sedentary lifestyle. But none of these compares to the way that poverty makes us sick. Prescribing medications and lifestyle changes for our patients who suffer from income deficiency isn't enough; we need to start prescribing healthy incomes. The upstream factors that affect health -- such as income, education, employment, housing, and food security -- have a far greater impact on whether we will be ill or well. Of these, income has the most powerful influence, as it shapes access to the other health determinants.
For the past few years, Canadians have been taking advantage of our dollar being worth about the same as the U.S. dollar. From buying up real estate to cross-border shopping, being on par with the U.S. dollar has had its advantages. However, in the last few months, economic factors have driven the Canadian dollar down. It may be time to regroup and look at some strategies to make the weakening dollar work for you.
If we were running things "like a business," we would be doing something like a cost-benefit analysis. Somehow, we became obsessed with cost and swept the other half of the equation under the rug. Everything that government does, or does not do, has consequences that go beyond the number of tax dollars spent.
The post-secondary years are the ideal time to lock in great habits and fill any gaps in your children's financial education. Regardless of whether there are savings set aside or loans to be taken, managing the dollars matters. It's our young people who gain the most from good advice as they take on increased responsibility.
While the Child Tax Credit was a nice boost for parents at tax time, you had to have earned enough income to benefit from it. As a non-refundable credit, it meant you had to have paid tax during the year in order to claim it. So a low income family may not have been able to take advantage of the credit. They did not actually benefit from it. This will not be an issue with the enhanced UCCB.
Those sparkling Pan Am cars sitting unused in lots under the Gardiner were sparkling for a reason. Instead of collecting dust, these vehicles were treated to regular washes at Big Wax and Imperial Oil. Throughout the games, Pan Am vehicles can be seen regularly rolling through these same car wash facilities.
The CRA conducts random reviews over the summer months to make sure that people are claiming their credits correctly. These requests from the CRA are not audits -- they are simply requests for supporting paperwork. However, some taxpayers will receive a Notice of Reassessment usually with an amount owing.
Canada and its global partners can't keep relying on whistleblowers, snitch lines and investigative journalists to assure the integrity of our tax system. So far, there is little evidence to show that the government has the political will to end this. It is estimated that Canada loses at least $7.8 billion each year from tax haven schemes. The practice hurts both federal and provincial economies. It also undermines public confidence in our tax system. The world of tax havens is a murky one inhabited by the very wily and the cynical.
While the extension is good news for anybody who might have left their tax filing to the last minute, it demonstrates that mistakes can happen fairly easily. If the almighty taxman can miss updating a date on a memo then it's completely fathomable that we might make a few errors when it comes to our taxes. But tax mistakes can be costly.