Filing previous years income tax returns in Canada (2016 and beyond)

By law you are only required to file income taxes in Canada if you owe money to the tax man. Nonetheless, even if you are in the clear with the CRA, it might make sense to file a return, because in some cases you can get a refund or credit while doing so.

If you realize that you need to file back a return, simply find a tax filing software for the corresponding tax year and proceed with the filing.

I have used TurboTax for the last 3 years and I can vouch for the simplicity and quality of this software. You can either use the online version or the desktop version. I don’t like the idea of having my tax information stored in a website; which is why I prefer the desktop version.

You can get TurboTax from Amazon or directly from the provider.

If you are in a situation in which you do owe money to the government because you failed to file a prior tax return, then you should consider getting some legal tax advice in order to sort this out with the CRA.

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How to Request to Reduce Tax Deductions at Source?

There is a withholding tax applied to each paycheck of salaried employees in Canada. By law your employer or payer is required to withhold a portion of your pay and send it directly to the government. The idea is that you will be paying off your income tax liabilities throughout the year and that upon income tax filling time you would owe zero tax dollars to the government. 

There are situations however in which it might be the government the one owing you money. A very common example of this is when people contribute to their own RRSPs with after tax dollars. RRSP contributions are tax deductible which means they don’t count for the purpose of calculating your income tax liabilities. In a case like this you would have paid too much tax to the government and once your income tax return is assessed; you should receive a cheque paying you back the excess tax.
 
Most people are quite happy with this arrangement, but it is not financially wise. Why would you wait the whole year to get your money back? It is actually better not to have paid the excess tax at all. If you pay more tax than you should, you are actually giving the government an interest free loan. 

Why do you think the government withholds the tax to begin with? Well, because they can put that money to “work” immediately. You can do the same: you can choose not to overpay in taxes throughout out the year. By doing this your cash flow will increase as if you would have gotten a raise (really, your paycheck almost magically increases).

You might be wondering at this point how you can prevent your employer (payer) from withholding taxes from your income. Well, you cannot just “tell” your employer to stop sending Ottawa the tax, because the law requires this tax to be withheld.  

You can Request to Reduce Tax Deductions at Source. To do this, you need to fill form T1213 and mail it by postal mail to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA has the authority to tell your employer to withhold less tax from your salary. 

So, upon receiving your filled form T1213 (and other supporting documents), the CRA will issue a Letter of Authority that you can pass along to your employer effectively reducing the amount of income tax deducted from your remuneration.

The CRA can also decline to issue the Letter of Authority if it determines not enough tax will be withheld to cover your tax liabilities for the tax year or if there’s something wrong with the documentation mailed to them. In this case, you will still get a letter explaining your request was denied.

I went through this process myself and I got the Letter of Authority with no issues. The process of filling the form T1213 is different for everybody, but as an example I will quickly describe what I did in my case.

First some context:

 
I am a full time salaried employee and my employer withholds some tax from my pay. 

On top of that, I make some extra money from this blog. No tax is withheld from the income produced by the blog because it does not come from an employer. 

In addition to this, I set up a Pre authorized deposit (PAD) agreement with Questrade to fund my RRSP. The PAD was arranged in such a way that a fix amount of money is taken from my bank account on the same day I receive my paycheck and used to fund my RRSP at Questrade. 

Let’s make some numbers up to illustrate the above. Let’s imagine the PAD takes $300 biweekly from my bank account and contributes that amount to my Questrade RRSP.  The year has 52 weeks which means a total $7,800.00 (52 x $300 /2) will be contributed to my Questrade RRSP via the PAD. Finally let’s imagine I make $2,800.00 from my blog.

Start by filling the Identification section: provide your First Name, Last Name, Social Insurance Number, Address, City, Province or Territory, Postal Code, Residence and Business Telephone (Business Telephone if applicable).

Then proceed to the Employer/Payer section and type in your employer’s Name, Contact person and Telephone and fax numbers (I left the fax number empty since I don’t think my company has one). I think it is wise to provide a Contact person in the Payroll or HR department of the company. It is also wise to let this person know about your intention to use him/her as Contact person for this application.

Then move to the section Request to reduce tax on. In this section I just checked the Salary checkbox.  I am not familiar with the other option: Lump Sum, but I did not care since it does not apply to me. If the Lump Sum option applies to you and you want to share your insights about it, please drop us a line in the comments section below.

Next you move to the Deductions from income and non-refundable tax credits section. Using the numbers from our example, you will enter:
  • Registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions (Line 1): $7,800.00
  • Total amounts to be deducted from income (Line 12): $7,800.00
  • Subtract income not under tax deductions at source (interest, net rental or self-employed income) (Line 13): $2,800.00
  • Net amount requested for tax waiver (Line 14): $5,000.00
There are other deductions and non-refundable tax credits that you can use to reduce your withholding tax at the source. Those are listed from line 2 to 11. Leave empty all the lines that do not apply to you. 

Line 12 is calculated by adding of all the numbers you have entered from line 1 to 11. In this particular example, I only filled Line 1; which is why the value of Line 12 matches the value of Line 1

Line 14 is calculated by subtracting the values in Lines 12 and 13.

Finally move to the Certification section and proceed to sign and date the form.

I mailed this application to the address specified at the end of the form T1213. Depending on where you live, the address will be different. Check the table at the end of the form T1213 to find out which address you need to send the application to.

My application included:
  1. My filled and signed form T121.
  2. My Pre authorized deposit (PAD) agreement with Questrade.
  3. A letter of my own explaining that the number I entered in Line 13 was just an “estimate”. (See the To Whom It May Concern letter at the end of the post). As you can imagine, I could not say exactly how much money I would make by blogging; so I just estimated the amount to enter in Line 13 to the best of my ability and I let the CRA know this was just an estimate.
I sent the whole application to the CRA on September 30th, 2017 and I got the Letter of Authority in the middle of November. You want to send the application well before the end of the year so that you give enough time to the CRA to assess you request and issue the Letter of Authority.

The Letter of Authority actually states that should you want to renew this application, a new form T1213 should be submitted each year by November 1st, thus giving enough time for the CRA to reply back.

If you have some questions drop me a line in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer. You should not consider this to be legal advice of any kind. Should you use the information given in this post, you do so at your own risk.

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To Whom It May Concern:

September 30th, 2017

Dear Sir/Madam, 

I attached CRA Form T1213  (Request to reduce tax deductions at the source for year 2018). I also enclosed separate sheets containing further information about my employer’s contact person and a copy of the payment arrangement contract (RRSP pre-authorized deposit via Questrade).

Note that the value entered in row 13 ($2800.00CAD) of T1213 is an estimate done to the best of my ability. This portion of my income is variable (not fixed) and it is not subject to tax deductions at the source.

Sincerely,
--------------------------------
Yanniel Alvarez Alfonso

Are dash cams legal in Canada?

Two questions came to my mind when I first entertained the idea of buying a dashboard camera (a.k.a. black box or dash cam) for my car:
Fortunately, anyone in Canada can take pictures or record videos in public places. There is no Canadian law preventing you from doing that. Moreover, dash cam footage has helped the police with ongoing investigations, including collisions and hit-and-runs. Also, voluntarily submitted dash cam footage is helping the police to crack down on bad drivers. So, no doubts here, dash cams are legal in Canada. 

I read somewhere on the Internet that drivers commuting through the US-Canada border sometimes get some grief about the dash-cam from the US border agents. It seems the American border agents don’t appreciate you recording the Points of Entry to the US. If you are in this case, it might be best if you unmount the camera from your dashboard before heading to the US. 

As for my second question, consider reading my thoughts here: Dash cams for cold weathers and snowy winters.

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Cheap cartridges for my Xerox WorkCentre 6015 printer

I bought a fancy Xerox WorkCentre 6015 printer a few years back at a Best Buy store in Toronto, Canada.
Xerox WorkCentre 6015
My Xerox WorkCentre 6015 and my wife's teddies
I was happy with the acquisition until the day I had to replace the toner cartridges for the first time. The Best Buy prices for the cartridges were outrageous.

I gave Best Buy the finger and acquired the cartridges online.

Initially, I found a seller on eBay and I bought from him/her a couple of times. The first time the cartridges served me well; but in my second eBay purchase the cartridges were smaller and although I could use them, they emptied faster than they did in the past.

Lately I have been acquiring the cartridges at Amazon; both the quality and price are pretty decent. This is the link to the specific product I have been purchasing: TONER4U® 4PK Xerox New Compatible 6000/6010/6015 Toner Cartridges Combo Set for Xerox Phaser 6000/6010/6015 106R01627/106R01628/106R01629/106R01630.

Whatever you do, don’t buy the cartridges from Best Buy; that is a plain and simple rip-off.

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How much money does this blog make?

This blogs has exactly 96 posts (this one included) at the time of writing. I complement the traditional Google AdSense with Infolinks. The later complements AdSense by using more of the “blog real estate”; which would otherwise be left unused.

I also run various affiliates programs for which I get paid when a customer redirected by this blog ends up making a purchase. I have come to the realization that affiliate programs in general are a better way to monetize your content. You just need to find a product/service niche that you could target. In this category, I use Amazon Affiliates US, Amazon Affiliates Canada and Ding.

Up to the end of last month (January 2017-September 2017) I made the following:
I hope this article gives you a realistic idea of how much you can make by blogging. I would appreciate if you share with us the monetization systems that you use and any tips about blogging monetization. Please, drop a line in the comments section just below.

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Renting vs Owning a Condo in Toronto – the math exposed

Most people in Toronto (and Canada for that matter) think renting Real Estate is synonym with throwing away your money. I disagree: I think nowadays in the GTA renting is superior to owning from the financial point of view.

I have always liked math, because math is proof. For my own sanity I did some calculations to objectively measure the financial appeal of renting vs owning a Condo.

A Condo? What about the other forms of Real Estate property? Well, I am focusing on a Condo, because that’s where I am planning to live for the next few years. You can do similar calculations if you wish for other types of properties (detach, semi, townhouse, etc.)

I went to Condo.ca and found a unit of my liking (see image below with all the details). This particular unit I can rent for $1,950 a month. The only other money I will need to pay as a renter for this unit is hydro (electricity), since air conditioning, heat, water and parking are already covered by the rental price. If I pay $150 monthly for hydro; then the grand total for renting this unit will be $2,100.00.

Now let’s see how much it will cost me to own this place:

The unit size is 875 square feet (SQ.FT) and the average price per SQ.FT at The Station Condos at this moment is $603; which means the price of this unit is around $527,625.00 ($603 x 875 SQ.FT). 

If I put down 20%, then the mortgage amount would be $422,100.00. RBC, my bank, is currently offering a 5 Year Fixed rate at about 2.8% per year. The monthly interest is equal to the outstanding mortgage times the mortgage rate, divided by 12 months in a year: $422,100.00 x 0.028 = $11,818.80 / 12 = $984.90 per month. (This does not include the payment of the principal, it just includes the interest payments of the mortgage) 

Mortgage Rates - RBC - April 1st, 2017
Mortgage Rates - RBC - April 1st, 2017
Now let’s calculate the implicit rent. Say what!?!? "The amount of income you haven’t earned because you have owned your home instead of investing in other things is implicit rent." This is a very interesting concept and it is not trivial to grasp. It is very well explained in The Wealthy Renter – Chapter 4

To calculate the implicit rent we have to look at the equity we have in our property. Assuming that we just bought with a 20% down payment; then the equity is $105,525.00. We estimate the implicit rent by multiplying the equity by the yield of an alternative investment and dividing by the twelve months of the year. Let’s say my alternative investment is the S&P/TSX Dividend Aristocrats Index. The Yield on this index is about 4%. The implicit rent is $105,525.00 x 0.04 = $4,221.00 / 12 = $351.75.

Currently the monthly maintenance fee (a.k.a. Condo fee) at The Station Condos is $0.52 per SQ.FT. That means the monthly maintenance bill for this unit should be around $455.00 ($0.52 x 875 SQ.FT)
“For homes owned through a condominium corporation, most of the costs of maintenance (but not all) are covered by the condo fee. Still the condo corporation might underestimate the costs of maintenance and end up raising condo fees to make up for deferred maintenance. Or, if they wait too long, they might take a special assessment (a large one-time fee charged to all unit owners) to cover a major repair.” - The Wealthy Renter by Alex Avery.
In the City of Toronto the Property Tax for multi-residential housing is in the range from 0.5% - 1.5% of the assessed value of the property. Let’s assume the property tax for this condo unit is 1% (the middle point in that range) and let’s also assume that the asking price matches the assessed price $527,625.00. That means the annual property tax on the condo unit is about $5,276.25 or about $439.69 on a monthly basis.

The owner of this unit will also have to pay for hydro; all the other utilities are included. Let’s say the cost of hydro is $150 per month (the same amount as if we were renting)

For simplicity I won’t consider other fees like home insurance, title insurance or CMHC insurance (if you buy with less than 20% down payment). 

Now let’s put all together:
  • Mortgage Interest Payments: $984.90
  • Implicit rent: $351.75
  • Condo fee: $455.00
  • Property Tax: $439.69
  • Utilities (just hydro): $150.00
  • Grand total: $2,381.34
Finally, let’s compare: renting $2,100.00; owning: $2,381.34. Renting beats owning. You might think the difference is not much, but notice that this number does not include the payments towards the mortgage principal (you still have to pay for that as part of your monthly mortgage payments).

Also, consider what happens if the interest rates move a little higher. Today we live in a world of very low interest rates, which is not normal. As the US FED hikes the rates, the Bank of Canada will eventually hike the interest rates as well. And what that means is that you can expect higher mortgage rates down the road. 

Also, as a renter you have the flexibility to move in order to chase career opportunities in a moment’s notice or simply move because the neighbor next door is a pain in the derriere. 

Also, the renter is not buried in debt. Many (most?) homeowners are buried under a mountain of debt. The funny thing is that many homeowners don’t see the mortgage as debt. Well, I have news: mortgage is debt and it comes with risks; risks a renter does not have.

If you want to dig a little deeper into this topic, consider buying the The Wealthy Renter: How to Choose Housing That Will Make You Rich by Alex Avery. It is a great book on the topic, written as recently as 2016 by someone who (unlike me) is not an amateur. The Kindle version costs less than $5 bucks.

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The Station Condos Facts - Building Values and Trends - March 28th, 2017
The Station Condos Facts - Building Values and Trends - March 28th, 2017

The Station Condos Facts - Amenities - March 28th, 2017
The Station Condos Facts - Amenities - March 28th, 2017

How to calculate the Ontario’s Surtax?

In simple words, the Ontario’s Surtax is a second layer of taxes (on top of the Basic Provincial Income Tax) that residents of the province of Ontario, Canada are obligated to pay to the tax man.

The calculation of the Ontario’s Surtax is a two-step process:

First, you calculate the Basic Provincial Tax on your personal income. Second, you take the Basic Provincial Tax calculated in the first step and do some math (we’ll explain that shortly) to calculate the Ontario’s Surtax. What’s important here to understand is that the surtax is calculated not on your income, but on your Basic Provincial Tax.

In case you are interested, this my personal discount link for TurboTax 2017. You get a 20% discount and I get an Amazon Gift Card. Win-Win :-)

The provincial tax rates and income thresholds for the Province of Ontario for 2016 are follows:

Annual taxable income ($)             Provincial tax rate (%)
0.00 to 41,536.00 5.05%
41,536.01 to 83,075.00 9.15%
83,075.01 to 150,000.00 11.16%
150,000.01 to 220,000.00 12.16%
220,000.01 and over 13.16%

Also, everybody in Ontario is entitled for a basic personal tax credit return. This number can be found in row number 1 of the TD1ON form for the corresponding tax year. This number is $10,011 for tax year 2016.

Knowing the tax brackets above, your personal income and the basic personal tax credit amount, then you can calculate your Basic Provincial Tax in Ontario. We call it “Basic”, because it does not include the surtax amount yet. Your Total Provincial Tax would be the sum of the Basic Provincial Tax plus the Ontario Surtax. 

For example:

A person making $60,000 owes $3,282.00 in the form of Basic Provincial Tax in Ontario. To calculate this number we apply the tax brackets above as follows:

= 0% * $10,011 + 5.05% *  ($41,536 - $10,011)  + 9.15% * ($60,000- $41,536.01)

= 0% * $10,011 + 5.05% *  $31,525  + 9.15% * $18,463.99

= $0 + $1,592.0125 + $1,689.455085

= $3281.467585

= $3282 (rounding up to the nearest integer)

So, $3282 is the Basic Provincial Tax of a person making $60,000 annually.

Doing some similar math we can calculate the Basic Provincial Tax for other incomes. I am not going to do all the calculations again, but they will be awfully similar to the one we just did. I’ll just spit the numbers now but you can double check them later:

Personal Annual Income ($)      Basic Provincial tax (not including the surtax yet)
$60,000 $3,282
$80,000 $5,112
$95,000 $6,724

Now let’s calculate the Ontario Surtax: 

If your Basic Provincial Tax is less than $4,484, then your surtax is $0. That means that a person with a $60,000 income won’t pay any surtax just because its Basic Provincial tax is $3,282 and that number is less than $4,484.

If your Basic Provincial Tax is greater than $4,484 and less than or equal to $5,739, the surtax is 20% of the basic provincial tax payable over $4,484. Let’s break it down: a person making $80,000 owes $5,112 in basic provincial taxes. The surtax will be calculated as 20% * ($5,112 - $4,484) = $125. The key thing here is that the 20% is only applied to the number between $4,484 and $5,112. The initial $4,484 won’t produce any surtax.

If your basic provincial tax payable is greater than $5,739, the surtax is 20% of the basic provincial tax payable over $4,484, plus 36% of the basic provincial tax payable over $5,739. For a final example, let’s consider the person making $95,000 annually. This person would owe $6,724 as Basic Provincial Tax. The surtax will be calculated as follows: 20%* ($6,724 - $4,484) + 36% * (6,724 - 5,739) =$802.

Now that you know how to calculate the Ontario Surtax, we can go ahead and calculate the Total Provincial Tax. Let’s use the following formula:
Total Provincial Tax  =  Basic Provincial Tax + Ontario Surtax
For instance:
  • A person with a $60,000 annual income will owe a Total Provincial Tax of $3,282 = $3,282 + $0
  • A person with an $80,000 annual income will owe a Total Provincial Tax of $5,237= 5,112 + $125
  • A person with a $95,000 annual income will owe a Total Provincial Tax of $7526= $6,724+ $802.
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