For 2009, here are my 10 resolutions for saving more taxes:
Resolution #1: Open a TFSA The new tax-free savings account, launched Jan. 1, is the ideal place to put up to $5,000 of savings and earn tax-free income and/ or gains for life. Any withdrawals are not taxed, do not negatively affect eligibility for government-tested benefits and can be re-contributed the following calendar year.
Resolution #2: Maximize RRSP contributions The RRSP limit for 2009 is the lesser of 18% of 2008 earned income or $21,000. Get a head start on your 2009 contribution today.
Resolution #3: Set up a spousal RRSP The primary benefit of a spousal RRSP is that funds withdrawn can generally be taxed in the hands of the (hopefully) lower-income spouse.
Resolution #4: Earn tax-efficient investment income For those who have maxed out their RRSP and TFSA contributions, consider tax-efficient investment income outside of these tax-sheltered plans by investing in Canadian dividends, which are eligible for the dividend tax credit, and capital gains, which are only half-taxable.
Resolution #5: Open up RESPs for kids Don't forget to make at least $2,500 of contributions to each child's registered education savings plan (RESP) this year to take advantage of the $500 Canada Education Savings Grant. You may also be able to catch up on missed CESGs from prior years.
Resolution #6: Investigate pension splitting If you've received pension income in 2008, be sure to investigate whether splitting up to half of that income with your spouse or partner makes sense when you file your 2008 tax return this spring.
Resolution # 7: Consider income splitting A spousal income-splitting strategy whereby the higher-income spouse or partner loans funds to the lower- income spouse or partner to invest may be ideal given the record low prescribed rate, which is set at 2% this quarter.
Resolution # 8: Donate "in kind" to charity When planning your charitable giving for 2009, consider donating appreciated securities directly to your charity of choice and eliminating all tax on any accrued capital gains.
Resolution # 9: Plan now to avoid a tax refund If you regularly get a large tax refund each spring, consider applying for a reduction of tax at source using CRA Form T1213. This needs to be repeated each year.
Resolution # 10: Consider opening an RDSP for a disabled person If you or someone you care about has a disability, consider opening up a registered disability savings plan. Contributions to RDSPs, limited to $200,000 over the disabled beneficiary's lifetime, may be augmented by up to $90,000 in Canada Disability Savings Grants and Bonds.
Late last month, the government extended the deadline for opening an RDSP, making contributions and applying for the 2008 Grant and Bond to March 2.
Next week: More on RDSPs.