Last summer, my brother and sister-in-law, Judi and Ned, were on a road trip with the kids when they paused at a rest stop along the way. After getting back on the road, they travelled for an hour before noticing that Ned wasn't with them. He was still at the rest stop trying to reach Judi, whose phone was on silent. He finally reached her by posting a message on Facebook (she was not driving when she read it).
'Tis the season for families to get together and share stories. You can bet I'm going to find out more about Judi and Ned's trip when we see them this month. Family can be good for laughs – and tax savings. There may be some last-minute tax tips for the family to think about. Try these on for size.
Split income with family
Implementing one or more income-splitting strategies before year-end will set you up to save tax as a family in 2017. You can, for example, lend money to a lower-income spouse to be invested. Your spouse – not you – will pay the tax on income earned on those investments provided you charge the prescribed rate of interest (currently just 1 per cent) on the loan. Other strategies include transferring investments to an adult child for the funds to be invested in his or her name, or investing for capital growth in-trust for a minor child (capital gains can be taxed in the minor child's hands). You can also lend or gift money to a child or spouse to earn business income, with no concern about income being attributed back to you to be taxed in your hands.
Plan the timing of your move
You'll face tax in the province in which you were resident on Dec. 31 each year. If you're planning a move this year to a province with higher tax rates, consider delaying the move until January so that you can take advantage of the lower tax rates in your current province for one more year. Conversely, if you are moving to a province with lower tax rates, you may want to make that move before year end.
Pay child-care expenses
You can claim qualifying child-care expenses on your 2016 tax return if those costs are paid in 2016. Consider paying adult children (18 or older in the year) before year-end for any time in 2016 during which they looked after the younger children (16 or younger throughout the year) to allow you to be at work earning an income. A deduction will be available to you, and your adult child will face the tax on the payments (although they may pay little or no tax depending on his or her other income). This is a great income-splitting strategy.
Review trust income
If you've set up a family trust in the past, you should determine how much income the trust earned in 2016, and work with a tax professional to decide who should pay tax on that income – the beneficiaries or the trust. It may be possible to have the beneficiaries pay the tax by making the income payable to them by year end. This often makes the most sense since inter-vivos trusts (trusts created during your lifetime) are taxed at the highest marginal tax rate. Also, beginning this year, testamentary trusts and estates (created upon the death of an individual) are being taxed at the highest marginal tax rate too (with a few exceptions). If you're a trustee, be sure to speak to a tax pro about how to minimize the tax bill for 2016 given these new rules.
Claim the Home Accessibility Tax Credit
Starting this year, a new home accessibility tax credit can be claimed, if you qualify, for up to $10,000 of eligible expenditures incurred to improve the accessibility of your principal residence. To make a claim in 2016, you'll have to complete the work and pay for it in this calendar year. If the costs are expected to exceed $10,000, consider deferring a portion of the renovations to 2017 to make a claim next year for the excess (if it's safe to defer those improvements).
Purchase life insurance or annuities
On Jan. 1, 2017, there are new rules related to life insurance and annuities that are coming into force. In many cases, these changes will make life insurance policies applied for, or annuities purchased, in 2016 and earlier years more attractive than those after 2016. If you're considering the use of insurance or annuities, speak to your insurance adviser today to determine the impact of the new rules for you.
Tim Cestnick, FCPA, FCA, CPA(IL), CFP, TEP, is an author and founder of WaterStreet Family Offices.