How retirees can maximize their tax savings
While retirees may be exempt from the morning alarm and the daily grind that follows, they unfortunately aren’t exempt from paying tax – and filing as a retiree can be complicated.
Although there’s no longer employment income to account for, new forms of income from a pension or Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) withdrawals result in different tax obligations as well as new credits and deductions to consider.
For this reason, H&R Block has compiled the top things retirees need to know about filing to ensure they’re keeping their taxes to a minimum while avoiding penalties.
Take advantage of pension income splitting
Splitting income is usually a good idea when one spouse or common-law partner receives a larger pension than the other, as it can help reduce the overall tax burden as a household. Up to 50 per cent of pension income can be transferred from one spouse or partner to another, assuming you both live in Canada and have not split up for more than 90 days at the end of the year. To split the pension income, you’ll have to complete Form T1032 (Joint Election to Split Pension Income).
When reporting pension income, you may also be entitled to the pension credit, which could provide you with a personal amount of up to $2,000 come tax time. What’s even better is that if you and your partner split your pension income you may both be able to claim it.
The tricky part is knowing which pension income is eligible for splitting and which isn’t – as it depends on both age and type of pension received. Unfortunately, CPP (Canadian Pension Plan), OAS (Old Age Security) and QPP (Quebec Pension Plan) are some forms of income that are not eligible for splitting. However, if you’re 65 or older, eligible pension income includes annuity payments under a Registered Pension Plan (RPP), Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or a deferred profit sharing plan (DPSP), and payments out of or under a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF). If you’re under 65, eligible pension income only includes lifetime annuity payments under an RPP and certain other payments received as a result of the death of your spouse or common-law partner.
For example, Mary’s total income for 2018 is $70,000, of which $55,000 is pension income ($15,000 was from other income sources) and qualified for splitting, as she’s more than65 years old. Her spouse, Joe, did not make any pension income that year and made only about $10,000 total through other sources of income. Mary can allocate up to $27,500 of her pension income over to Joe. When they file, Mary will report $42,500 in taxable income and Joe will report $37,500,but both will be able to claim the $2,000 pension income amount.
Know the qualifications for the age amount
It pays to age. If you’re 65 years or older by the end of the tax year, you can claim the federal age amount credit – as long as you earn less than $85,863 per year. The federal age amount is a non-refundable tax credit that allows you to reduce the amount of taxes you owe. The amount decreases as income increases, but if you have an income less than $36,976 you’ll be able to claim the maximum amount, which is $7,333.
Don’t forget, if you’re eligible to claim the federal age amount, you’re also entitled to claim a corresponding provincial age amount, which varies depending on which province or territory you live in.
The great thing about these credits is that they’re also transferable to a spouse or common-law partner, which you may want to do if all or part of the age amount isn’t needed to reduce the amount of taxes you owe to zero dollars. For example, Joe can claim the maximum age amount of $7,333, but does not have any federal tax payable. Since the age amount is non-refundable and cannot be carried forward for use in a future year, this means it’s wasted if he keeps it in his hands. However, he can transfer this amount to his wife Mary to hopefully help offset the amount of taxes she owes to zero. It’s a win-win!
Report foreign property to avoid penalties
If you have assets abroad with a total cost amount of more than $100,000, you’re required to report the details of those assets on Form T1135 (Foreign Income Verification Statement). There are penalties for non-disclosure or late filing of these items of $25 per day, up to $2,500 per taxpayer, so you don’t want to forget about this one.
Foreign property encompasses everything from real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts, shares in foreign companies and bonds. Luckily, there are a couple of exemptions, such as Canadian registered accounts (RRSPs, TFSAs, RRIFs) as well as property overseas solely for personal-use or property used for business. However, as soon as a property is rented, it must be reported as a foreign asset.
Decide when to tap into retirement savings
At some point, you’ll want to convert your RRSP into a RRIF, which will provide you with a steady stream of retirement income. However, this does not have to be straight away. If you have other sources of income, it may be worth holding off and continue contributing to your RRSP for as long as possible – as contributions are deductible and can reduce their tax bill. Everyone has until Dec. 31 of the year in which they turn 71 before they have to convert their RRSP into a form of retirement income.
The bottom line is, you have many avenues in which you can maximize your savings. When it comes time to file, it never hurts to get professional advice from a Canadian tax expert as there are a ton of credits and deductions you won’t want to miss.
Tips provided by H&R Block Canada.