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.
Photography by Ariane Laezza
Want to fall in love with cooking? Food and entertaining guru Camille Moore shares her devotion for doing things the long way.
As a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and the culinary expert on CTV's The Social, Camille Moore is passionate about cooking from scratch and helping others find their groove in the kitchen. Like that of Julia Child, her idol while growing up, Moore's enthusiasm is infectious. Her bubbly personality, combined with mad food-prep skills and easygoing recipes, energizes TV viewers to head straight for the fridge, grab whatever's on hand and start creating!
The youngest of four children, Moore fondly remembers spending much of her youth in the kitchen—her childhood playground—cooking for fun. In her early 20s, she began modelling, travelling to Europe and the U.S. for runway shows and photo shoots. But she continued to immerse herself in cooking, and word of her talent spread among friends. That's how, when pondering her next career move, she was asked to cater a party for 60 people as a one-off. Moore immediately said yes, and the event became a turning point—she realized she could take her love of food and cooking for others seriously and make a go of it.
Five years ago, Moore received her Le Cordon Bleu diploma and returned home to Toronto, where she did catering, dabbled in recipe development and even cooked for celebrity chefs' private functions. Since 2013, she has been passing on her culinary skills and inspiring viewers on The Social.
Both in everyday life and when it comes to her cooking philosophy, Moore likes to take a chance, seize the moment and create it herself. Here, she dishes on simple ways to get comfy in the kitchen.
Canadian Living: How do you avoid becoming overwhelmed when cooking for a special occasion?
Camille Moore: Keep it real! You want to enjoy the evening as much as your guests, and entertaining doesn't mean extravagant or difficult; good food can be simply prepared. Focus on doing one thing well. Take tacos—they're unpretentious yet delicious, and everyone loves them. The key is to go the extra mile and source good-quality, authentic ingredients (check out Moore's recipe for Chili Chicken Tacos With Mango Slaw). And remember, a great night isn't just about the food—it's the whole experience that counts. Even if it's a casual evening, don't be afraid to use the good dishes or some special treasure that's usually tucked away. I like to mix old with new. I use an antique crystal carafe with a silver stopper as a water jug. Half the pleasure of eating comes from the beauty of how it's served; it shows your guests they're worth the effort.
CL: You spend your days creating recipes. Do you always follow them?
CM: I like to think of cooking as a conversation. Don't be afraid to change the recipe if you feel inspired in the moment—or to use what you have in the fridge! The best part of cooking is experimenting; it's how you learn. Once you get comfortable with a dish, swap out a few ingredients. Start with small changes: Try spices or fresh ingredients that are similar in taste and texture to whatever you're replacing. And if it doesn't work, that's OK. There's nothing like a good kitchen flop to make you figure out what you'd do differently the next time.
CL: What's your best advice for choosing kitchen equipment?
CM: Take your time and invest in the right tools. Whether it's pots and pans or knives, buy individual items instead of full sets—test-drive what works for you. Like fashion, choose good-quality pieces that will last a long time. You might find you like a variety of brands for different tasks. I recommend starting with three sizes of knives: a chef 's knife for daily chores such as chopping, slicing and dicing; a paring knife for precision tasks and preparing small veggies and fruit; and a bread knife. A serrated blade is essential for breads, but it's also great for cutting tomatoes, oranges and grapefruit. As for pots and pans, begin with one large saucepan with a lid and heavy bottom. And head straight to cast-iron for frying. It's relatively inexpensive and will never let you down! I love how it can go straight from the stovetop to the oven. And because it's so thick and heavy, the pan really holds the heat and puts the best crust on meat or fish when you're searing.
If you suffer from a mental illness and experience anxiety while flying, you may be able to bring an emotional support animal on board to ease the stress. Here's how.
Conquer your closet with clever tips that will allow you to add to your shoe collection without losing your mind.
1. Sliding drawers
Multiple open-face pull-out drawers help compartmentalize items based on season and style, making it easier to keep folded items in check without them spilling over.
2. Custom order
Install an adjustable closet system that allows for modifications (hanging height, shelving and drawer space) and includes a shoe system.
3. Group therapy
To give your closet an orderly appearance, use one style of hangers. Also, group clothing by category, like colour or style.
4. Reach for the top
Rotate wardrobe staples seasonally and designate top-shelf storage for rarely used or offseason pieces. Use up-to-the-ceiling shelves to maximize space and discourage boxes from pooling on the ground.