Saturday, April 15, 2006

Don't pay more tax than you have to

Apr. 12, 2006. 06:45 AM
ELLEN ROSEMAN

What do tax tips and spring flowers have in common? They pop up in April.
I've gone through my garden of money-saving tax advice and picked some of the prettiest blooms for your inspection"

Don't pay interest on top of interest.

If you owe money, the government will charge daily compound interest on your debt. This means you pay interest not only on the original amount you owe, but also on the interest that starts adding up.

"If you can't pay the amount that's due, talk to your financial institution about a loan or a line of credit that charges a lesser interest rate than the Canada Revenue Agency," says lawyer Stanley Kershman, author of Put Your Debt on a Diet (Wiley).

Ottawa can also charge you a late-filing penalty — and interest on the penalty. So, you should file your return on time to avoid penalties, even if you can't pay the amount due.

Work out your tax factor.

This is important to know when you're making financial decisions, says Dale Ennis, editor of Canadian Moneysaver magazine.

Let's take Joe, an Ontario taxpayer with $35,596 in employment income. His marginal tax rate — what he pays on the last dollar of income earned — is 31.15 per cent.

If you divide 100 by 100 minus 31.15, you get 1.45. This is Joe's tax factor. It means he must earn about $1.45 in before-tax dollars to have $1 for his personal use.

Joe carries personal debt at 10 per cent interest. Multiply by 1.45 and you find his after-tax interest rate is 14.5 per cent.

Now let's take Sally, an Ontario taxpayer with $71,191 in income. She has a marginal tax rate of 37.16 per cent and her tax factor is 1.59.

Sally has to earn $1.59 in before-tax income to have $1 for her personal use. And a 10 per cent loan actually costs her 15.9 per cent after tax.

Know your break-even formula for investments.

You should try to come out ahead after taxes and inflation when investing your money outside a tax-sheltered retirement account.
Ennis has done some calculations on the break-even rate when inflation is running at a rate of 4 per cent.

Divide 4 by 100 minus your marginal tax rate. This will give you the break-even formula for an interest investment.
Joe has a marginal tax rate of 31.15 per cent. So, he needs to earn 5.81 per cent. to break even on his interest investments.
Sally has a marginal tax rate of 37.16 per cent. Her break-even rate for interest investments is 6.37 per cent.

Dividends are taxed at a lower rate than interest. Joe needs to earn 4.75 per cent to break even on dividends, while Sally's break-even rate for dividends is 5.52 per cent.
Capital gains have the lowest tax rate. Joe needs 4.74 per cent to break even on stocks and equity funds, while the rate Sally needs for capital gains is 5.11 per cent.

Claim tax credits for disabled family members.

Substantial tax credits are available for anyone with a severe or prolonged disability that is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
To claim the disability amount, you have to get a medical practitioner to sign form T2201 (the disability tax credit certificate).
The tax credit can be transferred to a family member if the disabled person has no tax to pay.

"This is possibly one of the most lucrative, yet most missed, provisions on the tax return," says author Evelyn Jacks in her self-published book, Essential Tax Facts.
"Note that if a person was diagnosed with cancer in September and the condition of the disease became debilitating by the end of the year, the amount would be claimable for the whole year."

Claim tax credits for post-secondary students.

If you have children going to college or university, you can use any tax credits the children can't use.

Students are allowed to claim their tuition and $400 for each month they're enrolled full-time (or $120 a month for a part-time student).

Any unused credits can be carried forward indefinitely by the student. Or the credits can be transferred to a parent, grandparent, spouse or common-law partner. The maximum tax credit available to transfer is $800.

To claim the fees, you have to get form T2022A (tuition and education amounts certificate).
This tax form is provided by the educational institution, but not necessarily in the mail. You may have to go online, using the student's user name and password, and print out a copy.

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