A mid-year check-up on your taxes for 2024

June 3, 2024by Akmin

Many (if not most) taxpayers think of tax planning as a year-end exercise, one to be carried out in the last few weeks of the year, in order to take the steps needed to minimize the tax bill for that year. And it’s true that almost all strategies needed to both minimize the tax hit for the current year and to ensure that there won’t be a big tax bill come next April must be put in place by December 31 (the making of registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions being the notable exception). Nonetheless, there’s a lot to recommend carrying out a mid-year review of one’s tax situation for the current year. Doing that review mid-year, instead of waiting until December, gives the taxpayer the chance to make sure that everything is on track and, especially, to put into place any adjustments needed to help ensure that there are no unpleasant tax surprises when the return for 2024 is filed next spring. And, while the deadline for implementing most tax saving strategies may be December 31, it’s also the case that opportunities to make a significant difference to one’s current-year tax situation diminish as the calendar year progresses.

Mid-year is also a good time to check up on current year taxes because nearly all of the information needed to do so is readily available to the taxpayer. By the beginning of June, most Canadians have filed their individual income tax return for the 2023 tax year and received a Notice of Assessment outlining their tax position for that year. Those who receive a refund will celebrate that fact or, less happily, those who receive a tax bill will pay up the amount owed. And, although the taxpayer’s reaction to one or the other of these outcomes will be very different, the fact is that a large tax bill owing or a large tax refund arise from the same cause – and that is that the amount of tax paid throughout the year was incorrect. While most taxpayers are delighted to receive a tax refund (often viewing it, incorrectly, as “free” money from the government), the fact is that a large refund means that the taxpayer has overpaid their taxes for the previous year and has essentially provided the Canada Revenue Agency with an interest-free loan of funds that could have been put to better use in the taxpayer’s hands. The other outcome – a large bill – means that taxes have been underpaid for the previous year and that could mean paying interest charges to the CRA. Either way, it’s in the taxpayer’s best interests to ensure that tax paid throughout the year is sufficient to cover their taxes, without overpaying or underpaying. The best-case scenario, from a tax and personal finance perspective, is to file a tax return and receive a Notice of Assessment which indicates that there is neither a substantial refund payable nor any significant amount owing.

For most Canadians, income and available deductions and credits don’t vary significantly from one year to the next. Where that’s the case, the amount of tax owed by the taxpayer for 2023 (a figure that can be found on Line 43500 of the Notice of Assessment) is likely to be very close to one’s tax liability for 2024.

After finding out how much tax was paid for 2023, the next step in doing a review is to get a sense of how much income tax has already been paid for the 2024 tax year. There are two ways of paying income taxes throughout the year. The majority of Canadians (including all employees) have income taxes deducted from their paycheques and remitted to the federal government on their behalf – a process known as source deductions. Taxpayers who do not have income tax deducted at source – which would include self-employed individuals and, frequently, retired taxpayers – make tax payments directly to the federal government (four times a year, in March, June, September, and December) through the tax instalment system.

Using the tax payable figure for 2023 as a guide, it’s necessary to figure out whether income tax payments made to date, either through deductions made from the taxpayer’s paycheque, or through instalment payments of tax, match up with that tax liability figure, recognizing that by this point in the year, approximately one-half of taxes for 2024 should already have been paid. If they haven’t, and particularly if there is a significant shortfall which would mean a large balance owing when the tax return for 2024 is filed next spring, the taxpayer will need to take steps to remedy that.

Where the individual involved pays tax by instalments, the solution is simple. They can simply increase or decrease the amount of remaining instalment payments made in 2024 so that the total instalment payments made over the course of this year accurately reflect the total tax payable for the year. The only caveat in that situation is that the individual should err on the side of caution to ensure that there isn’t a shortfall in instalment payments, which could result in interest charges being levied by the CRA.

The situation is a little more complex for employees, or anyone who has tax deducted at source. Often when such individuals discover that they are overpaying taxes through source deductions, it’s because deductions which they claim on their return for the year – for expenditures like deductible support payments, child care expenses, or contributions to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or first home savings account (FHSA) – aren’t taken into account in calculating the amount of tax to deduct at source. The solution for employees who find themselves in that situation is to file a FormT1213 – Request to Reduce Tax Deductions at Source with the CRA. That form is available on the CRA website at T1213 Request to Reduce Tax Deductions at Source – Canada.ca. On the T1213, the taxpayer identifies the amounts which will be deducted on the return for the year and, once the CRA verifies that those deductible expenditures (like child care expense costs or RRSP contributions) are being made, it will authorize the taxpayer’s employer to reduce the amount of tax which is being withheld at source to take account of that deduction.

Where it’s the opposite situation and a taxpayer finds that source deductions being made will not be sufficient to cover their tax liability for the year (meaning a tax bill to be paid next spring), the solution is to have those source deductions increased. No one likes paying more taxes, but where taxes are owed, the only choice involved is to pay them now or pay them later. Spreading out that payment over the rest of the tax year is much less painful than being hit with a large tax bill (as well as interest charges when that tax bill can’t be paid in full and on time) when the return for the year is filed next spring.

Take, for example, an employee who found out, after filing the return for 2023, that an additional $2,000 in taxes was owed. Assuming that their income and the amount of tax deducted from their paycheque doesn’t change, it’s likely that a similar amount will be owed when the return for 2024 is filed. If that taxpayer is paid biweekly, there will be about 13 paycheques between the end of June and the end of the year. Increasing the amount of tax deducted from those paycheques by about $75 per paycheque will mean that the $2,000 in taxes owing is paid to the Canada Revenue Agency by the end of the year – thereby avoiding a large tax bill when the return for 2024 is filed in the spring of 2025.

To increase the amount of tax deducted from their paycheque, the employee needs to obtain a TD1A form for their province of residence for 2024. That form can be found on the CRA website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/td1-personal-tax-credits-returns/td1-forms-pay-received-on-january-1-later.html. On the reverse side of that Form TD1, there is a section entitled “Additional tax to be deducted”, in which the employee can direct their employer to deduct additional amounts at source for income tax, and can specify the dollar amount which is to be deducted from each paycheque on a go-forward basis.

No one particularly likes thinking about taxes, at any time of year, but ignoring the issue definitely won’t make it go away. The investment of a few hours of time now, and putting in place any needed adjustments, can mean avoiding a nasty surprise in the form of a large tax bill which must be paid when the return for 2024 is completed and filed next spring.

The information presented is only of a general nature, may omit many details and special rules, is current only as of its published date, and accordingly cannot be regarded as legal or tax advice. Please contact our office for more information on this subject and how it pertains to your specific tax or financial situation.