I'm not quite old enough to remember the original release of the film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. But I did take the time to watch the classic recently. The plot sees three men – a gunslinger, a hitman, and an outlaw – all looking to find a fortune in buried gold during the time of the American Civil War. The movie came to mind this week as I pored over the federal budget tabled by the Liberals. There were many of us locked-up in Ottawa hoping to find some gold nuggets buried in the pages of the budget, with the backdrop of an economic battle the country is waging as a result of lower oil prices.
The budget offered little good news to most taxpayers, but there are some things worth mentioning. Here's a short list of things worth writing home about that appeared in the budget this week.
Canada Child Benefit. The new Canada Child Benefit (CCB) replaces the existing Canada Child Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit. The CCB provides a tax-free maximum annual benefit of $6,400 per child under age six, $5,400 per child for those six through 17, and an additional $2,730 per child who is eligible for the disability tax credit. The benefits are clawed back once "adjusted family net income" exceeds $30,000. The good news? If that income is under about $140,000, you'll generally be better off under the new CCB than the old system. If it has ever paid to have children, now is a good time. The new CCB will pay out beginning in July.
Teacher and ECE tax credit. A new Teacher and Early Childhood Educator School Supply Tax Credit (that's a mouthful) is now available to help eligible educators with the cost of supplies they may pay for personally as part of their work. If you're in this boat, you'll be entitled to a 15-per-cent refundable tax credit on up to $1,000 of eligible supplies that you pay for personally. Your employer may have to certify that you paid for these supplies. Speak to your employer today to ensure they will certify, if necessary, that you've paid for supplies and have not been reimbursed. Keep your receipts for any eligible supplies purchased starting on or after Jan. 1, 2016, and make a claim starting with your 2016 tax return.
LSVCC funds. You might recall labour-sponsored venture capital corporations (LSVCCs) – sometimes called "labour-sponsored funds." These are a form of mutual fund that provide venture capital to small and mid-sized Canadian businesses. In the past, the federal government provided a tax credit for investments made in LSVCCs. These credits were to be phased out over time and were scheduled to disappear in 2017. The budget will restore the federal LSVCC credit to 15 per cent for share purchases of provincially (not federally) registered LSVCCs for 2016 and later years. These funds were purchased by many in the past for the tax credits, which are generous (and may be accompanied by provincial tax credits), but remember that you have to be comfortable with the underlying investment as well.
Children's tax credits. Sports and music fill much time in our household. So, no one was more disappointed than me to see the Children's Fitness and Arts Tax Credit eliminated in this week's budget. These credits are cut in half for 2016 (a $500 eligible amount for fitness and $250 for arts in 2016), and will disappear entirely in 2017.
Education and textbook credits. The budget also eliminates the education and textbook tax credits that students have been entitled to claim. The tuition tax credit remains intact. This change begins Jan. 1, 2017.
There may still be ways to pay for your kids' fitness and artistic activities, and their education, in a tax-effective manner. This might include, for example, using a family trust to earn investment income that can then be taxed in the hands of the kids as beneficiaries (where little or no tax might be paid). That income can then be used to help fund these costs (visit a tax pro to see whether a family trust makes sense for you and to plan for the attribution and other tax rules that might apply). Or you might pay your kids wages from your business; the kids may pay little or no tax on those wages thanks to the basic personal credit, and those dollars can be used to help pay for those activities or education.
There are still the "ugly" provisions in the budget which deserve some attention. I'll speak to those next time.
Tim Cestnick is managing director of Advanced Wealth Planning, Scotia Wealth Management, and founder of WaterStreet Family Offices.