Tag Archives: tax credits

A first-time homebuyer’s guide to Canadian government programs and incentives

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Photos: James Bombales

Whether you want to stop paying skyrocketing rental rates, start building equity, or own property that can be passed down to your children, purchasing a home is likely a long-term goal of yours. However, with rising home costs and the mortgage stress test introduced in 2018, achieving that goal can be a challenge for many Canadians. Fortunately, there are a number of programs and incentives offered by the federal government that first-time homebuyers can apply for.

“First-time homebuyers in Canada have the opportunity to take advantage of some great federal government programs to assist them when purchasing their first home,” says Michael Therriault, Financial Advisor at Scotiabank. “They can apply for multiple programs as long as they are eligible, so it is strongly recommended for potential first-time homebuyers to meet with a financial advisor at their bank to go over their individual circumstances and to help determine the best program(s) for them.”

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1. Home Buyer’s Plan

Early withdrawals from an RRSP are usually considered taxable income, but with the Government Home Buyer’s Plan, you can apply your RRSP savings toward the price of your home — tax free.

“The Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP) is a program that allows you to withdraw up to $25,000 ($50,000 per couple) in a calendar year from your registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or for a related person with a disability,” says Olga Coulter, Senior Account Manager at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). “To be eligible, you must be a first-time homebuyer (ie. you haven’t purchased a home or lived in a spouse’s home within the last four years) and have a written agreement to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or for a related person with a disability.”

However, it’s important to note that that these funds must have been in your account for at least 90 days before the purchase of your home and they do have to be paid back within a 15-year timeframe. “Essentially, you are ‘borrowing’ these funds from your RRSP as they need to be repaid over a 15-year period beginning the second calendar year after the withdrawal,” adds Therriault.

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2. First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit

Introduced in 2009, the First-Time Home Buyers’ (FTHB) Tax Credit helps to make purchasing a home more affordable by allowing Canadians to claim a portion of their home purchase on their personal tax return that same year. This helps to offset expenses like legal fees, home inspections and other closing costs.

“The FTHB Tax Credit offers a $5,000 non-refundable income tax credit amount on a qualifying home acquired after January 27, 2009,” says Coulter. “For an eligible individual, the credit will provide up to $750 in federal tax relief.”

To be eligible, you, your spouse or common-law partner must have acquired a qualifying home (a unit located in Canada purchased after January 27, 2009) and cannot have lived in another home you or your partner owned in the year of acquisition or in any of the four preceding years.

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3. GST/HST New Housing Rebate

If you are purchasing a new construction home, performing substantial renovations to an existing home, or rebuilding a home that was destroyed by fire, you will want to apply for the GST/HST New Housing Rebate. Filling in this form can save you thousands of dollars, as it recovers a portion of the goods and services tax (GST) or the federal part of the harmonized sales tax (HST) if all eligibility conditions are met.

“You may qualify for a rebate of part of the GST or HST that you paid on the purchase price or cost of building your new house, or on converting a non-residential property into a house,” explains Coulter. “You may also be eligible if you are doing substantial renovations or have hired someone to complete substantial renovations to an existing home, such as an addition.”

CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance Programs

In addition to tax-related programs, first-time homebuyers have access to several CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance Programs that can help them achieve the dream of homeownership. Listed below, these programs offer flexible terms and conditions to meet a variety of financing needs and are available throughout the country.

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4. CMHC Purchase

While it’s ideal to put at least 20 percent down, home prices in cities throughout Canada are rising faster than many homebuyers can save. “CMHC Purchase can help open the doors to homeownership by enabling homebuyers to buy a home with a minimum down payment of 5 percent,” says Coulter. “The premiums can either be paid up front in a lump sum or incorporated into an applicant’s mortgage loan payments.”

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5. CMHC Improvement

With such tight housing markets throughout the country, homebuyers may be interested in purchasing a fixer-upper that needs a little TLC. “CMHC Improvement allows the purchase of an existing residential property with improvements and new construction financing,” explains Coulter. “Features include flexible financing options with the option for CMHC to manage up to four advances at no cost to the borrower.”

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6. CMHC Newcomers

Obtaining a mortgage can be especially difficult for newcomers to Canada. If you’re a permanent resident with a strong credit rating you may be able to qualify for a typical bank mortgage, however, if you don’t meet all the criteria, the CMHC Newcomers program can help.

“We have helped newcomers with permanent resident status become homeowners with a minimum down payment starting at 5 percent – regardless of how long they have been in Canada,” says Coulter. “Non-permanent residents can also purchase a home with a minimum down payment of 10 percent of the value of the home.”

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7. CMHC Self-Employed

Homebuyers who are self-employed may have difficulty qualifying for a mortgage given that their monthly income may be less predictable. CMHC’s Self-Employed program allows business owners with proper documentation to access mortgage loan insurance under the same criteria and insurance premiums as those with more calculable income.

“Self-employed Canadians make up about 15 percent of Canada’s labour force,” says Coulter. “CMHC facilitates access to mortgage loan insurance for business owners by providing enhanced flexibility for satisfying income and employment requirements for all self-employed borrowers at no additional cost.”

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8. CMHC Green Home

“CMHC Green Home encourages homebuyers to choose more energy-efficient housing options to increase comfort and healthier living, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” says Coulter. “The program offers a partial premium refund of up to 25 percent directly to borrowers who either buy, build or renovate a home to make it more energy-efficient using CMHC insured financing.”

The amount of the refund varies depending on the level of energy-efficiency achieved by your home as assessed by Natural Resource Canada (NRCan). Condo buyers are also eligible for the CMHC Green Home refund if the building is built to the LEED Canada New Construction standard.

Source: Livabl.com –  

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7 ways the tax man is watching you

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CRA is scouring your social media & donning disguises

Whether it’s through a photo on social media or a casual conversation with a friend, the Canada Revenue Agency is always watching and listening. And their investigators will pursue you tirelessly if they think you’ve been lying on your tax return. Their subject of choice? These days, it’s anyone and everyone.  “We always think it’s only the rich who the tax man is interested in but it’s the little fish they like the best,” says Paul DioGuardi, a senior tax lawyer and author of The Taxman is Watching. “The Internet is becoming a favoured weapon for the CRA to find and analyze all kinds of data so they can watch people they think are cheating on their taxes.”

Here’s five ways the CRA may be watching you that you probably weren’t aware of.

1. Your social media

Any of your open social media accounts are publicly accessible and some posts could prompt a CRA investigation into your financial life. From the CRA’s point of view this is a legitimate practice on their part because posts on social media really aren’t private. How does this work? Say you just bought a new $85,000 sail boat and are boasting about it by posting a photo of it on Facebook. The CRA could see this and then check it against what you declared as income last year. “If you declared $40,000 in annual income, or a modest amount, they’re going to be suspicious and come calling,” says DioGuardi.

2. Your sales and purchases on Kijiji, Etsy and Ebay

Is your passion for vintage furniture really a hobby? Or are you running a small business from your living room and not declaring the profits on your tax return? “To compare this data would take years in the old days,” says DioGuardi. “Now the CRA can data-mine these non-traditional sources of info in a heartbeat pretty much whenever they like. They are a collection agency with police-like powers.”

3. Your small business’s sales data

Cheating on your company sales numbers by declaring lower revenue than is actually the case?  Don’t. The CRA is able to use data to plow through years’ worth of your credit card transactions with the aim of matching your stated sales with electronic data they’re able to access.

4. Bank accounts and investments

To spot undeclared, taxable interest, dividend and capital gains income, the CRA has access to info from all Canadian financial institutions. They can also determine if you’ve exceeded your TFSA and RRSP contributions and penalize you accordingly.

5. Capital gains from condo and real estate sales

“In the old days I had to go to the registry office to find out when a piece of real estate had been bought and sold,” says DioGuardi. “Not anymore. The Internet changes the game.” Now, the CRA can look at all real estate transactions and easily flag suspicious transactions. What are they looking for? Condo flippers and real estate sales where the owner hasn’t declared capital gains and paid the appropriate taxes. Multiple property ownership where the taxpayer isn’t also declaring rental income is another trigger for investigation.

6. Your income and pensions

The CRA is hunting for disparities in retirement income. It can access info on your bank account balances and income and match it with previous tax returns. If there’s a wide discrepancy, be prepared to answer more questions.

 7. Mystery shopping

Don’t be surprised if CRA agents show up at your restaurant or other small business, in disguise to eat a meal with the intention of rooting out suspicious financial behaviour. The agents could pose as a couple out for a meal to see how your business works and what the count is for people frequenting your business to ensure it is aligned with what you have reported in previous tax returns. “It’s a big job and I think they will sub-contract a lot of this out in future,” says DioGuardi.

What does all of this mean? That the shift of responsibility is really shifting to the taxpayer and not the tax collector. In the past, the tax man simply told you what you owed.  These days it’s completely up to you to declare what you should be paying, and they have the means to check that what you’re saying is absolutely accurate. “Remember, they can search anything, put liens on your property and slap you with penalties and late fees,” says DioGuardi. “My suggestion is to always give full and complete disclosure on your annual tax return. With data mining the way it is today, if you don’t, then believe me, they will find you.”

Source: MoneySense.ca – by  

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Tax credits and rebates for homeowners

Owning a home costs money, but there are tax credits and rebates specifically for Canadian homeowners. Here are a few to get you started.

New home perk

If you just bought a house and you haven’t owned a home in the four previous years, you can get the Home Buyers’ Tax Credit. Enter the amount of $5,000 on line 369 of your tax form and you’ll get a 15% credit.

Reduces tax load by $750

Assess the abode

Before starting a major renovation, get an ecoENERGY assessment from a certified energy advisor. You’ll pay about $1,000 for before-and-after audits, but provincial rebates can reimburse these costs.

Rebates up to $500

Cash in on rebates

Rebates depend on where you live but can include:

Improve insulation— Up to $3,250
Ductless heat pump— $800
Install ventilation fan— Up to $50
Draft-proof your home— Up to $500
Install a gas fireplace— $300
Replace windows & doors— Up to $500
Replace appliances— (each) $50+
Do more than three upgrades— $750

Save up to $7,000

Build safer—and save

Renos that make a home safer or more accessible for seniors and the disabled—including installation of grab bars and hand rails, the construction of walk-in or wheel-in showers,widening doorways and lowering cabinets­—qualify for a new tax credit that offers a rebate of 15%.

Save up to $10,000 (max.)

More income, less tax

Rent out your basement or turn a hobby into a home-based business. Both allow you to deduct expenses, including mortgage, utilities,property tax and insurance. Claim the deductions against income generated on your tax return.

Source: MoneySense – by
March 2nd, 2017

Sources: Natural Resources Canada, Canada Revenue Agency, BC Hydro, Union Gas, Enbridge Gas, FortisBC, Prince Edward Island Government

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