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Taxes Getting a tax refund? Think twice before blowing it on an Apple Watch

Receiving a tax refund can be a bit like finding money – the temptation to blow it on an Apple Watch or some other indulgence may be strong.

But before you let your tax refund burn a hole in your pocket, financial advisers urge you to take a step back and look at your financial plan.

Tim Cestnick, managing director for advanced wealth planning at Scotiabank, says paying down debt that carries a high interest rate and is not tax-deductible should be a top priority. "It is hard to argue with paying debt."

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Paying off that high-interest debt is like getting an after-tax investment return equal to the interest rate on the amount of debt you're carrying, he added.

Jane Duchscher, a senior vice-president at TD Bank, says if you're not saddled with credit-card debt, the case for making extra payments to pay down lower-interest borrowing such as mortgages and home equity lines of credit is a little more complicated.

"On the flip side of that, you want to weigh out 'what can I get as a possible return,' whether it's on an RRSP, RESP or that tax-free savings account," she said.

According to a survey by TD, 56 per cent of Canadians expect to receive a tax refund this year and 44 per cent of those see it as a boon to both saving and spending.

The survey also suggested the Top 3 ways that Canadians plan to use their tax refund included paying off credit-card debt, contributing to a retirement savings plan or tax-free savings account and adding money to an emergency fund.

For those who have already contributed the $5,500 to their TFSA before last week's federal budget, Ottawa has also given them even more room by increasing the limit to $10,000.

If you have the contribution room, putting your tax refund into your RRSP could also help give your tax refund an extra boost next year, depending on your financial situation.

Other options could include topping up your children's registered education savings plan to ensure you maximize the government's matching grant or making a donation to your favourite charity, Cestnick said.

"If you donate $1,500 or $2,000 to a registered charity, unlike spending the money on yourself, you'll actually get some tax money back from that, so you'll end up with some money in your pocket next year when you file your tax return," he said.

Duchscher, meantime, tells Canadians to make an informed and responsible choice about their tax refund before spending it on a quick trip to Vegas or a new iPad.

"It is about saying: 'What can I do with this money?' and being very thoughtful when you receive it," she said.

Cestnick notes that while receiving a tax refund may feel like a gift from the government, in actual fact it simply means you overpaid your taxes for the year and Ottawa is only just now getting around to returning your money.

"In a perfect world, you'd file your tax return in April and you wouldn't owe anything and you wouldn't receive anything," he said.

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