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tax matters

Perhaps you heard about the Bank of America ATM in Houston that mistakenly dispensed $100 bills instead of $10 bills this past Nov. 25. When the news got out on social media, quite a crowd gathered at the machine. Turns out that a vendor incorrectly loaded the $100 bills in the $10 bill slot, creating a windfall for some just before Christmas. The bank allowed the customers to keep the extra cash, although it didn’t say how much was withdrawn.

If only pocketing extra cash was as easy as a trip to the bank machine. While it may not be quite that simple, pocketing tax savings in 2019 can be as easy as implementing one or more of the following 10 ideas.

1. Reduce the taxes deducted at work

If you expect a refund when you file your 2019 tax return, perhaps due to registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions, charitable donations, spousal support or other deductions or credits, apply to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) today to have the tax deducted from your pay reduced throughout 2019. Use Form T1213 to make this request.

2. Buy your company car if you can

If your company provides you with a car, you’ll pay tax on a stand-by charge, and an operating cost benefit. If the car has depreciated in value since the company purchased it, consider buying the car from the company early in 2019 to avoid those taxable benefits this year, and to open the door to receiving cash auto allowances – which can be tax-free – from your employer.

3. Give investments to an adult child

Consider transferring an investment to an adult child early in 2019 if that investment has dropped in value (and what hasn’t in recent days?). This will trigger a capital loss that you can use to offset capital gains, and will pass the tax liability on any future growth in the investment to your child. You’ll also minimize probate at the time of death with this idea.

4. Revise your asset location today

Consider the type of income you earned on your portfolio outside of your RRSP or registered retirement income fund last year. If you earned interest income, which is highly taxed, consider restructuring your portfolio so that it’s more tax efficient in 2019 by placing interest-bearing investments in your tax-free savings account or RRSP, and earning capital gains outside those registered plans.

5. Get your information together for an ABIL

You may be able to claim an allowable business investment loss (ABIL) where you invested money in the shares of, or lent money to, a small business corporation which has subsequently become insolvent or bankrupt. An ABIL is equal to 50 per cent of the money you’ve lost, and can be applied to reduce any type of income. Every ABIL claim is reviewed by CRA, so get your supporting documentation ready now for tax season.

6. Make your debt deductible this year

Interest is deductible only if you’ve used borrowed money to earn from investments or a business. Is the interest cost on your debt deductible? If not, and you have investments outside a registered plan, consider liquidating some of the investments (calculate the tax cost first) and using the proceeds to pay down the debt. Then reborrow to replace the investments, which should set you up nicely to deduct your interest costs on the new debt.

7. Make your RRSP contribution soon

You have until March 1 to make a contribution to your RRSP that will entitle you to a deduction on your 2018 tax return. Even if you’re not sure which investments to buy yet, contribute to your RRSP and “park” the cash until you’ve made a decision about what to invest in.

8. Make your HBP repayment on time

If you made withdrawals under the Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP) prior to 2018, you have a repayment due in 2019. This repayment should be made by March 1 of this year. Don’t forget to make this contribution to your RRSP or you’ll face tax on the deficient repayment. Use Schedule 7 on your personal income tax return to identify the repayment under the HBP.

9. Track your motor vehicle use

If you use your car for work, you may be able to claim a deduction for a portion of all your vehicle-related costs in 2019. But you’ll need to track your business use of the vehicle all year. This is easier than ever with apps available for your phone. I use one called MileIQ that takes all the work out of the task.

10. Pay interest on loans by Jan. 30

Ensure that any interest that you are to pay on a loan from your employer or on a spousal loan is paid by Jan. 30 for last year’s interest charge. This will reduce any taxable interest benefit you may otherwise face for 2018 from your employer, and will avoid tax in the hands of the lending spouse by preventing attribution of income back to that spouse.

Tim Cestnick, FCPA, FCA, CPA(IL), CFP, TEP, is an author, and co-founder and CEO of Our Family Office Inc. He can be reached at