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Murat Yukselir/The Globe and Mail

Families are always changing, whether you’re getting married, having a child, taking more care of a parent or sending a student to university.

The changes can also bring new tax credits and procedures into your life. Tax experts offer some tips for families as they move through different periods of life.

Common-law and marriage will change how much tax you pay

There are tax credits specifically for couples, including one non-refundable tax credit if you have a partner who makes less than you. Because it’s non-refundable, this credit may not increase how much money you get back from the government, but it could reduce how much tax you owe.

Couples can pool their expenses

It’s possible to be strategic when pooling expenses for things such as child care, donations and medical costs, says estate planner Cindy David. Sometimes, such as with child-care costs, these expenses should be filed by the lower-income partner. When it comes to medical expenses, it can also be advantageous for the lower-income spouse to file those costs on their return because of how the tax credit is calculated against income.

Consider life insurance for your family

If you have dependants, then several people could be affected if you lose your income, your ability to work or your life. Not only does life insurance protect your family in this scenario, but estate planner Cindy David says some plans allow you to prepay premiums. These prepayments are then invested in tax sheltered accounts that go above and beyond your RRSP or TFSA limits, and the growth can be passed on to your beneficiaries.

Opening an RESP is a must if you have children

Ms. David says registered education savings plans are a must-have for people with children. The gains are tax-sheltered, and the government provides a 20-per-cent grant for every dollar you contribute up to $2,500 each year. The account is flexible in terms of what kinds of education the funds can be used for. And if your child doesn’t go to university, you can keep the tax-sheltered gains as if it were an extra tax-free savings account – you’ll just have to forfeit the 20-per-cent grants.

Your child’s unused tuition credits can be transferred to you

A student may not use all of their tuition tax credits, perhaps because they haven’t started working yet or made very little income. If that’s the case, then Christine Van Cauwenberghe of IG Wealth Management said they can transfer a portion of tuition or mandatory ancillary fees to a supporting parent, grandparent or spouse up to a maximum of $5,000, minus any income that the student made over the basic personal income tax credit of $14,398.

Students who move for postsecondary education can expense moving costs

If you’ve moved at least 40 kilometres closer to a qualifying postsecondary institution, you can deduct your moving costs.

Dependants can include a wide variety of family members

The Canada Caregiver Credit isn’t just for people looking after their children or aging parents. It can also be used for extended family members who depend on you for food, shelter and care, such as siblings, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, and the children of a spouse.

Are you a young Canadian with money on your mind? To set yourself up for success and steer clear of costly mistakes, listen to our award-winning Stress Test podcast.

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