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Hi Jeff,

The tax season is right around the corner. Typically, I’m the guy who files his return at 11:30 pm on April 29th. This year, I want to be more prepared – which is why I’m asking if you have any tips to get the most out of my tax return?

Matthew L.
Kitchener, ON

Jeff’s Expert Response

Ah, tax season…that impossible to avoid the time of the year that most of us find tedious, complicated and intimidating. Unless of course you are an accountant or work for the CRA – which, based on your question Matthew, I’m guessing you’re not!

As we get closer to next year’s deadline, many Canadians find themselves preparing in advance.

While tax planning should be a year-round activity for all households, I do commend you Matthew for wanting to get a head start and not leaving things to the last minute this year.

If you’re like most other Canadians, there is a good chance that you are doing some or many of the things that can maximize your tax return. And by starting early you can make sure you don’t leave any of these credits or deductions on the table this year.

Start by getting yourself organized, then follow these tips to make the maximum tax return in Canada – and hopefully find a nice refund this year.

Do you want to learn how to better manage your finances? See how credit counselling can help!

Jeff’s Tips to Maximize Your Tax Return

Get Organized

Being organized is essential to making tax time less painful and expensive. Start by gathering your return from last year, your T4 and T5 slips and any other income-related slips. Also include all your bills and receipts for allowable deductions and claims. Having a file or notebook where you can keep track of your income and expenses will make this job easier.

File on Time

The easiest way to get the most out of your tax return is to file on time. To avoid paying any penalties, or reducing the amount of your return, be sure to file on or before April 30th. Although, I don’t recommend leaving it until the last minute.

Non-Refundable Tax Credits

The federal and provincial governments offer a variety of non-refundable tax credits for Canadians to take advantage of like the enhanced dividend tax credit, Canadian caregiver credit, first-time home buyers’ tax credit, volunteer tax credits, political contribution tax credits etc.

Contribute to Your RRSP

One of the quickest ways to reduce your amount of taxable income is to contribute to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan. While it is too late to contribute, starting today will reduce the amount you pay in taxes and increase your refund next year.

Keep Your Transit Passes

Don’t throw out your used transit passes. If you take public transport every day, you can claim a 15% tax credit for the money spent on transit.

Student Loan Interest

The small silver lining in student loan debt is that you can claim the interest charged on your student loans. You can claim the interest paid on your loan or the preceding five years based on a few conditions.

Claim Your Cell Phone

You can deduct a reasonable amount of your cell phone bill if your employer regularly uses it to call you for work. Just make sure you can trace the percentage used back to your air time.

Claim Your Childcare

Childcare expenses are deductible if a single parent or both spouses are working full-time or where one spouse is attending school for all or part of the tax year. You can claim a maximum of $8,000 for each child under the age of seven. You may also claim $5,000 for each child between the ages of seven and sixteen.

Don’t Lend Your Money to the Government

The tax refund you get year after year is basically YOUR money that the government keeps warm. If you fill out a T1213 Form and hand it over to your employer. They can deduct less of your income. You’ll get more money on your paycheque, but your refund will be significantly smaller come tax season.

Final Thoughts

If you are one of the many Canadian households carrying record-high levels of debt, you want to maximize your tax return. You can then dedicate your refund to paying down your highest interest bills. Otherwise, invest in the future and start planning for your return today. You may also wish to enlist the help of a Certified Accountant. Not only is this a wise decision, but working with a CA may open the door to further tax savings.

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