Getting a head start on your tax planning

National Post


For some of us, Halloween means trick-or-treating and jack-o'-lanterns. But for tax geeks, it means there are just two months left until December 31 and time to get a head start on some yearend tax planning. Here are ten things to think about this week, as you eat your candy.

1. Tax-loss selling Tax-loss selling involves selling investments with accrued losses at year end to offset capital gains realized elsewhere in your portfolio. Any net capital losses that cannot be used currently may either be carried back three years or carried forward indefinitely to offset net capital gains in other years.

In order for your loss to be immediately available for 2018 (or one of the prior three years), the settlement must take place in 2018. To complete settlement by December 31, the trade date must be no later than December 27, 2018.

2. Tax gain donating Gifting publicly-traded securities, including mutual funds, with accrued capital gains to a registered charity or a foundation not only entitles you to a tax receipt for the fair market value of the security being donated, it eliminates capital gains tax too.

3. Delay RRSP withdrawals under the HBP or LLP You can withdraw funds from an RRSP without tax under the Home Buyers'Plan (up to $25,000 for firsttime home buyers) or the Lifelong Learning Plan (up to $20,000 for post-secondary education). With each plan, you must repay the funds in future annual instalments, based on the year in which funds were withdrawn. If you are contemplating withdrawing RRSP funds under one of these plans, you can delay repayment by one year if you withdraw funds early in 2019, rather than late in 2018.

4. Take TFSA withdrawals If you withdraw funds from a TFSA, an equivalent amount of TFSA contribution room will be reinstated in the following calendar year, assuming the withdrawal was not made to correct an over-contribution.

If you are planning a TFSA withdrawal in early 2019, consider withdrawing the funds by the 31st of December 2018, so you would not have to wait until 2020 to re-contribute that amount should new funds become available.

5. Pay investment expenses Certain expenses must be paid by year end to claim a tax deduction or credit in 2018. This includes investment-related expenses, such as interest paid on money borrowed for investing and investment counselling fees for non-registered accounts.

6. Convert your RRSP to a RRIF by age 71 If you turned age 71 in 2018, you have until December 31 to make any final contributions to your RRSP before converting it into a RRIF or registered annuity.

It may be beneficial to make a onetime overcontribution to your RRSP in December before conversion if you have earned income in 2018 that will generate RRSP contribution room for 2019. While you will pay a monthly penalty tax of one per cent on the overcontribution (above the $2,000 permitted overcontribution limit) for the one month of December 2018, new RRSP room will open up on January 1, 2019 so the penalty tax will cease in January 2019. You can then choose to deduct the overcontributed amount on your 2019 (or a future year's) return.

7. Convert a portion of your RRSP to a RRIF at age 65 While you don't have to convert your RRSP to a RRIF (or registered annuity) until the end of the year you turn 71, some investors may wish to convert a portion at age 65 to take advantage of the $2,000 federal pension income amount, assuming you have no other source of pension income. RRIF withdrawals qualify for the credit once you're over 65, while RRSP withdrawals do not.

8. Use a prescribed rate loan to split investment income If you are in a high tax bracket, it might be beneficial to have some investment income taxed in the hands of family members (such as your spouse, common-law partner or children) who are in a lower tax bracket; however, if you simply give funds to family members for investment, the income from the invested funds may be attributed back to you and taxed in your hands, at your high marginal tax rate.

To avoid attribution, you can lend funds to family members, provided the rate of interest on the loan is at least equal to the government's "prescribed rate," which is two per cent until at least the end of 2018. If you implement a loan before the end of the year, the two per cent interest rate will be locked in and will remain in effect for the duration of the loan, regardless of whether the prescribed rate increases in the future. Note that interest for each calendar year must be paid annually by January 30 of the following year to avoid attribution of income for the year and all future years.

9. Make RESP contributions RESPs allow for tax-efficient savings for children's post-secondary education. The federal government provides a Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) equal to 20 per cent of the first $2,500 of annual RESP contributions per child or $500 annually.

If you have less than seven years before your child or grandchild turns 17 and haven't maximized RESP contributions, consider making a contribution by December 31 to maximize CESGs available.

10. Contribute to an RDSP RDSPs are tax-deferred savings plans open to Canadian residents eligible for the Disability Tax Credit, their parents and other eligible contributors. Federal government assistance in the form of Canada Disability Savings Grants (CDSGs), which are based on contributions, and Canada Disability Savings Bonds (CDSBs) may be deposited directly into the plan up until the year the beneficiary turns 49. The government may contribute up to a maximum of $3,500 CDSG and $1,000 CDSB per year of eligibility, depending on the net income of the beneficiary's family. Eligible investors may wish to contribute to an RDSP before December 31 to get this year's assistance.

Starting from 2008 (the year RD-SPs first became available), there is a 10-year carry forward of CDSG and CSDB entitlements. For beneficiaries who have been DTC-eligible since 2008, some CDSG and CSDB entitlements may be lost after 2018.