With winter's worst (hopefully) behind us, tax season is here, and there are many changes that families will want to be aware of.
Tax time is never fun, but it's even worse when you miss out on credits or deductions you may have qualified for. Complicating matters this year are several taxation changes due to a Liberal overhaul of several Harper-era measures.
"I've seen more changes this year than in the past three years," says Lisa Gittens, a tax expert at H&R Block.
Here are eight things families will want to be aware of when filling out their 2016 return.
1. Last chance on certain tax credits
The government is phasing out a handful of tax credits and focusing on larger benefits. The children's arts and fitness tax credits will be halved for the 2016 tax year, and cut completely next year, meaning families will no longer be able to defray costs for things like swimming lessons, ballet and tutoring. For post-secondary students, the education and textbook credits are being eliminated in 2017, although education amounts carried forward from previous years will still be claimable.
2. No more income splitting
Also gone is the Family Tax Cut, which lets the higher-earning spouse transfer up to $50,000 of income to the lower-earner. During the 2015 election, the Liberals promised to cut it, calling it a "tax break for the wealthy."
With the benefit gone, Gittens recommends a spousal RRSP, which allows the higher-earner to contribute to the lower-earning spouse's RRSP and claim the tax benefit. "You may have an RRSP set up, but you haven't thought about setting it up for your spouse. This is an ideal time to use that strategy," she says.
3. Changes to child benefits
The Canada Child Benefit was a signature feature of the 2016 budget, replacing the old Universal Child Care Benefit and the Canada Child Tax Benefit. It's non-taxable, so you don't have to claim it. However, in order to continue to receive the benefit, both parents must file a return, even if one doesn't generate any income, says Gittens.
Also keep in mind that the benefit started in July, so you still have to claim the taxable UCC for the first six months of the year.
4. New tax rates
New tax rates mean you may or may not be pleasantly surprised by the size of your tax bill this year. If you're in the meaty middle that earns between $45,000 and $90,000, your rate will come down to 20.5 percent from 22 percent.
"Most Canadians will be receiving more money at the end of the day than they were under the old system," says Jamie Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning at CIBC Wealth Strategies Group.
However, high-income earners will be paying more due to a new 33 percent bracket for people earnings more than $200,000.
5. Child care expenses
Childcare costs are usually the biggest deduction available for families, says Golombek. But what many people don't realize is that it goes beyond simply daycare. If you have a nanny, you can claim that expense, but also babysitting, if it's during the day, and summer or day camp.
6. Disability tax credit and family caregiver amount
If you have family members with a disability there are certain credits that may be available to you. The Disability Tax Credit is available to people with disabilities to reduce their taxes. For children under age 18, a parent or caregiver may be able to claim the unused amount.
If you're a caregiver to a family member with physical or mental impairments, you may also be able to claim an additional $2,121, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.
7. Selling your principal residence
Selling your home has typically not been something you've had to report on your taxes, because usually Canadians don't get taxed for capital gains on their principle residence. But starting with the 2016 tax year, individuals who sold their principal residence during the year must report the sale. The government is ostensibly doing this to crack down on people who try to pass off income-generating homes as their principal residence.
8. eFile early, get your refund early
Tax deadline is April 30, but if you want to get ahead of the game, file early, before the government is inundated with last-minute returns. You can still file the old paper return, but Gittens says you'll be looking at a turnaround time of anywhere up to eight weeks, versus 10-14 days for a return filed early and electronically.
Salt and Pepper Steak Rub
Photography by Ryan Brook Image by: Salt and Pepper Steak Rub <br /> Photography by Ryan Brook
Instead of reaching for the phone, try these takeout recipes you can make at home.
Always check packaged food labels for gluten, including ketchup (Heinz is gluten-free), sriracha, fish sauce and broth (homemade stock is best – and safest).
Everyone needs a fried rice recipe in his or her repertoire, because it's great for using up leftovers.
Serve these burgers to people who don't like lentils and they'll soon be converted!
Sub in different vegetables depending on what you have in your crisper to make unique brown rice sushi.
East meets West in these tasty little bites. We've doubled up on the spring roll wrappers, which provides extra crunch and prevents the filling from bursting out.
This recipe can easily be left to simmer away in a slow cooker for eight hours before adding the chicken.
Roasting all but one of the garlic cloves pumps up flavour to the max without having the overpowering taste of raw cloves.
No need for messy, greasy deep-frying with these crunchy baked wings. They make a fun meal for two – just add some sliced baby cukes, carrots and cherry tomatoes for a crunchy, fresh side.
Put down that takeout menu! This healthy spin on beef and broccoli will leave you feeling full and guilt-free.
This Vietnamese favourite is easy to make and is just as suitable for a main course as it is for an appetizer.
The essence of this Vietnamese pho lies in the long-cooking, rich beef broth which forms the base of the soup - the slow cooker is the ultimate tool for the task.
Our foolproof dough delivers the most amazing pizza crust you'll ever taste. The long rising time results in a lovely texture and extra-rich flavour.
This twist on a takeout favourite is made with sautéed chicken instead of greasy fried beef.
There's no need to dial up dinner when you can make this takeout classic – better, cheaper and faster – at home.
Even kids who hate fish with devour these fish fingers, and our Sweet Potato Oven Fries provide enormous amounts of vitamins A and C.
The best way to minimize stress? Escape the busy trap
A quarter of Canadian women feel stressed out only a daily basis. And no wonder, when you consider what we're juggling: work, kids, household chores... Here's how busyness impacts our health, and what you can do about it.
Hilary Letwin finds it nearly impossible to silence the nagging voice once it starts, usually in the middle of the night. That's when her bottomless to-do list begins to creep into her consciousness. "I try not to let those feelings overwhelm me, because that can be quite paralyzing," says Hilary, as she struggles to meet the demands of running a household and raising a 3 1/2-year-old while working from home as a research writer.
The "busy trap" that plagues Hilary is maddeningly familiar to many Canadian women who feel as if they're being pushed to the brink as a result of jam-packed work schedules, family obligations, household chores and the self-imposed pressure to continually take on more.
Kathryn Lavallee, 33, is caught in the same trap. The sense that she's always on the run starts as soon as she opens her eyes in the morning. She's immediately checking email for any urgent work-related issues to handle. Next, it's down to the kitchen to make breakfast and pack lunches for her five- and eight-year-old sons before walking them to school. "I feel like there's always something else to do," says the single mom. "There are days when I get a little panicky."
After dropping her kids off at school, Kathryn, who lives just outside of Regina, heads back home, where she runs her own website full time. And after she picks up the boys, she starts the nightly ritual of snacks, karate or Scouts, meal preparation, cleaning and bedtime. Even then, Kathryn often finds herself typing away at her computer late into the night.
Finding ways to cope
Research on the long-term negative effects of stress is leading women like Kathryn and Hilary to realize that this busy trap is about more than momentary angst—it can seriously affect their health. While it's unlikely that many of the obligations keeping Canadian women so busy will disappear any time soon, there are effective coping mechanisms that can help minimize stress and promote a healthier life.
For Hilary, who lives in Port Moody, B.C., daytime list-making is a useful tool for managing stress. Once she wrestles tasks onto paper, the 36-year-old mom feels one step closer to getting them done. Hilary and her husband also make a conscious effort not to overcommit to social events or engagements—taking a pass on after-work functions and too many kids' activities—that could leave them scrambling to get everything else done.
Karen Duncan, work-life balance expert and associate professor at the University of Manitoba, says that, beyond a simple list, the key to escaping the busy trap is figuring out your priorities. Many people believe they can achieve a perfect balance between work and home life if they just work hard enough, she says. "It's setting people up to fail."
Instead, Duncan suggests giving careful thought to what you can and can't control. "Putting in this work in advance to identify your real priorities can give you a more realistic idea of what you can take on and achieve without feeling burned out and also help you focus on areas where change is within your control," she says. "Yes, we may be able to manage stress, but it's so much better if we can understand the cause of that stress and eliminate it if possible and, if not, adjust our expectations accordingly so we meet our priorities."
For Jody MacArthur, the juggling act of life itself seems like the cause. A 40-yearold mother of two young daughters, Jody runs a public relations and social media management business from her house near Halifax. Though working from home affords her flexibility, it also means Jody is never far from the demands of the office. Once she and her husband are finished making meals, shuttling the girls to activities and looking after household chores, Jody often ends up finishing her work after the kids are in bed. She finds herself limping toward the end of the school year and using summer holidays to recharge her worn-out batteries. But she also acknowledges that she brings on some of the tasks that keep her in high gear.
Thankfully, as a culture, we're starting to discuss the lure—and perils—of our busy ways. Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, says that society places too much value on being busy. "There is a certain amount of pride when we show how much stuff we can cram into our calendars," she says. It's hard for women to shed this mindset, given that it's increasingly easy to compare ourselves to the Pinterest crafting brigade and the Facebook humble braggers.
Schulte says that letting go of those unrealistic expectations is critical. When women—who so often carry dual workhome roles—recognize that the default in modern society is to aspire to be busy all the time, it's easier to let go. "You can't control time, but you can control your expectations, and you can control your priorities," says Schulte.
Jody hears that advice loud and clear. Lately, she's been making the effort to check her expectations and to clear her schedule so the family can enjoy more downtime. They find themselves taking spontaneous outings to the movies, something that once seemed impossible. "It feels a lot healthier than it did; it feels a lot slower. For us, that works," she says.
Erin Chrusch, 36, agrees that the busy trap is often self-inflicted. "You make choices about what you want for your family," says the Calgary wife and mother of two, aged five and seven. She catches herself when she complains about her crowded schedule, because many of the things that keep her family busy—taking the kids to dance or hockey—are privileges. But it's still a mad dash for the working parents, especially when one of the kids is sick or childcare falls through.
Striking a balance
Scott Schieman, researcher on work, stress and health and a University of Toronto sociologist, says pressures faced by families are often caused by rigid work hours and the "technology creep," which makes many employees reluctant to stop checking email. Schieman believes employees should be able to talk to their managers about schedules and have more flexibility when it's needed. And he argues that employers should be prepared to offer more of their workers arrangements that fit their lives.
In that regard, Erin is lucky. Her boss, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, understands she has obligations outside the office. "It's good to have a work environment that allows me to do what I need to do," she says. "It makes me feel like I can balance it all."
Back in Regina, Kathryn has been learning to say no when she's stretched too thin. She goes out for dinner once a week to give herself a break from cooking and to prevent busyness-induced stress. "You're away from all of that pressure," she says. "It's hugely helpful."