How to simplify your tax prep

With April just around the corner, you may have already started organizing your documents in preparation for your 2016 tax filing. While doing so, it’s a good time to set some practices in place now to make your 2017 filing as easy as possible. In addition to keeping the usual copies of any tax slips and receipts relevant to deductible expenses, here are some ways to cut down on next year’s prep time and ensure you don’t miss out on any savings.

Donations

If you make donations on a regular basis throughout the year, you might find it helpful to keep a spreadsheet with the name of the charity, the month in which the donation was made and the amount you gave. If you make donations online, most charities will now issue you an electronic receipt almost immediately. Print them out and add them to your tax file once received. This way, you’ll already have most of your receipts by tax time and may only have to track down a few slips in the beginning of the next year.

Medical Expenses

If you have insurance coverage for most, but not all, of your medical expenses, keep copies of any receipts you have for expenses that were not covered by your insurance. If you plan to claim a medical expense for attendant care on your tax return, ask your doctor for a letter now that describes the medical condition of the individual, and states that the patient requires attendant care. To ensure that you haven’t missed any claimable expenses that were not covered, ask your pharmacist for a printout of all prescriptions purchased during the year.

Disability Tax Credit

If either you or a family member has been physically incapacitated during the year, you may be eligible for the Disability Tax Credit. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for this. Your doctor will have to complete form T2201 for you, and then you will need to submit it to the CRA for approval. It can take up to six months for the CRA to approve the form. It’s important to note that if you claim the credit on your tax return before receiving the approval, the credit will be denied.

Moving Expenses

If you plan to move more than 40 kilometres for work or school this year, there are several expenses that you can deduct on your tax return. Keep all of your receipts for these expenses in one place so it will be easier to identify which of your overall deductible expenses fall under this claim. Some of the moving expenses that you may be eligible for are:
– Travel (such as vehicle and accommodation expenses)
– Meals and temporary housing (for up to a maximum of 15 days)
– Costs incurred when cancelling the lease for your previous tenancy contract
– Changing your address on legal documents and replacing your driving license
– If your house will be vacant for a time after you move, you can deduct up to $5,000 of the cost to maintain the home. Expenses such as interest, property taxes, insurance premiums and the cost of heat and utilities would be deductible. In addition, you can deduct the costs involved with selling your old home and buying a new one. This includes expenses such as commissions, legal fees and mortgage penalties.

Car Expenses for Employed or Self-Employed Individuals

If you use your car for both work and personal reasons, either as an employee or a self-employed individual, you need to keep track of the kilometres you drive for both personal reasons and business trips. The CRA will ask you for a log of these trips if you are ever audited, so keep a notebook in your car at all times to record every trip. Alternatively, there are now several apps available to help you track business-related driving on your smartphone.

Adjusted Cost Base for Capital Gains

If you are a do-it-yourself investor, it is your responsibility to keep track of the adjusted cost base of your investments. Don’t wait until you sell an investment to calculate how much it cost you. Keep a spreadsheet with the description of the investment, the date of the purchase, the number of shares and the cost per share. If you purchased an investment in a foreign currency, make note of the exchange rate that was used at the time. If you have investments that include a return of capital in their distributions, you need to include this in your spreadsheet as any return of capital will decrease your cost base and increase your capital gains.

Ontario Tax Credits

For Ontario residents who plan to apply for the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit (OEPTC) or the Ontario Senior Homeowners’ Property Tax Grant (OSHPTG), you will need to have proof that you paid property tax, rent, accommodation in a public long-term care home, or home energy costs for a principal residence on a reserve in Ontario. Keep your property tax assessments and the receipts from any long-term care homes. If you pay rent, ask your landlord to write you a letter that states the address of your residence and how much rent you paid in the current tax year.

With a little extra effort now, you can minimize time spent on next year’s tax prep and feel reassured that you haven’t forgotten to include any claims that could save you money. If you’re looking for other tax strategies to help maximize your savings, we can help.

Marcy Ages is a passionate, detail-driven provider of financial planning services, including investment management and tax preparation. As founder of The Care Network, Marcy also works with other service professionals to support high-net-worth individuals with their estate planning and assisted living issues.

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