Written by Wayne Karl
It's February, folks, and you know what that means. Taxes... Yeah, yeah, Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, 2016 leap year and all that.
But it's also the time of year when people wake up to the fact that, oh crap, tax deadlines are looming, and that they better get their act together to reduce their tax bill -- not to mention their stress level.
And as we all know (but prefer not to think about), nothing is certain but death and taxes.
We've simplified the matter with our list of four helpful 2016 tax hacks, for which we enlisted the help of tax expert George Dube, CPA and CA, of BDO Canada.
1. DEADLINES, DEADLINES
Filing: This year, you get a couple of extra days -- sort of. The deadline for filing your personal tax return is usually April 30, but this year that day falls on a Saturday, so the deadline for your 2015 return is actually Monday, May 2.
Self-employed: If you are self-employed, your filing due date is June 15, but any balance of tax owing for the year is due by May 2.
RRSP contributions: The deadline for contributing to your RRSP (registered retirement savings plan) is Febraury 29.
2. GET WITH THE PLAN - A PLAN, ANY PLAN
Here's an idea: In January of each year, consider reviewing how you did the previous year, as well as your goals for the coming year. Weigh this against your overall plan and make adjustments as needed.
For example, you might want to look at reviewing insurance coverage or making changes to any investments that may be under-performing. And, of course, look at your overall plan and structure from a tax and accounting perspective. If necessary, see a tax specialist for advice.
Better yet, make it a priority to meet with your advisor at some point during the year - more than once, if you need to. Present them with your existing finances and goals, your accounting system and expectations for minimizing taxes and maximizing savings.
In addition, consider getting a tax estimate to help with your cash flow planning.
3. SAVE THE DATE
Consider using a tax calendar -- yes, a tax calendar -- if you have investments such as an income property, or own or operate a small business. Incorporating deadlines into your personal tax calendars (such as year-end tax deadlines and HST deadlines) can be an extremely helpful tool.
Using a tax calendar will make it easier to meet your filing requirements for Canada Revenue Agency, which can save you money and ensure you receive less attention from the CRA by meeting its deadlines and paying on time.
(Here's a sample tax calendar.)
4. GET ORGANIZED
Early in the new year is the perfect time to ensure you are as organized as possible. Tweak your banking, accounting and filing systems as needed to ensure they work smoothly. If you are still swamped with paper and working from a shoebox, one of the biggest things you can do to reduce your stress is to get a system in place. To have the right plan and meet your CRA filing requirements, you must get your bookkeeping in order. This means:
- Your accountant, if you use one, should receive your information in a timely manner, and in turn prepare the financial statements and tax returns on time
- You can better analyze what's going on with your finances, and make any necessary changes
Read more here.
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