Reducing the 2023 tax bill – some tax filing strategies for those over age 65

April 2, 2024by Akmin

No one likes paying taxes, but for taxpayers who live on a fixed income having to pay a a large tax bill can mean real financial hardship – and the majority of Canadians who live on fixed incomes are, of course, those who are over 65 and retired. Adding to their financial stress is the reality that such individuals have been coping, for the past two years, with inflationary increases in the cost of just about all goods and services, especially food and shelter.

Fortunately, the Canadian tax system recognizes and addresses these realities by providing a number of tax deductions and credits which are available only to those over the age of 65 (like the age credit) or only to those receiving the kinds of income usually received by retirees (like the pension income credit). In addition, tax deductions or credits are available to help offset the kinds of costs – like medical costs – which are more often incurred by older Canadians. What follows is an outline of some of the most common such deductions and credits which may be claimed by those over 65 on the return for the 2023 tax year.

Age credit

All Canadians who were age 65 or older at the end of 2023 can claim the age credit on their tax return for the year. For 2023, that credit amount is $8,396 which, when converted to a tax credit, reduces federal tax by $1,259.40.

While the age credit can be claimed by anyone aged 65 or older, the amount of credit claimable is reduced where the taxpayer’s income for 2023 was more than $42,335. Where that is the case, the available credit is reduced by 15% for each dollar of income over that $42,335 threshold amount.

Pension income credit

Most Canadians who are aged 65 or older receive income some kind of private pension income which would qualify for the pension income credit. For purposes of that credit, amounts received from an employer-sponsored pension plan qualify, but so too do amounts received from a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or a registered retirement income fund (RRIF). Amounts received from government-sponsored retirement income plans (like the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or Old Age Security (OAS)) do not, however, qualify.

Where the taxpayer receives amounts that qualify as pension income for purposes of the pension income credit, the first $2,000 of such income is effectively exempt from federal tax. In addition, unlike the age credit, the total income of the taxpayer does not limit a claim for the pension income credit in any way.

Pension income splitting

Pension income splitting is a tax strategy which allows married taxpayers who are over the age of 65 to split eligible pension income between them, in order to obtain the best possible overall tax result.

The general rule with respect to pension income splitting is that a taxpayer who receives private pension income during the year is entitled to allocate up to half that income (without any dollar limit) to their spouse for tax purposes. In this context, private pension income means a pension received from a former employer and, where the income recipient is age 65 or older, payments from an annuity, an RRSP, or an RRIF. Government source pensions, like the CPP, Québec Pension Plan (QPP), or OAS payments do not qualify for pension income splitting, regardless of the age of the recipient.

The mechanics of pension income splitting are relatively simple. There is no need to transfer funds between spouses or to make any change in the actual payment or receipt of qualifying pension amounts, and no need to notify a pension administrator. Taxpayers who wish to split eligible pension income received by either of them must each file Form T1032 Joint Election to Split Pension Income (T1032 E (23)) with their annual tax return. That form, which is not included in the annual tax return package, can be found on the Canada Revenue Agency website at or can be ordered in large print format by calling 1-800-959 8281.

The tax saving strategies outlined above can be claimed by any taxpayer who meets the basic eligibility requirements (age, type of income, marital status, etc.) for the credit. Other types of deductions or credits require that the taxpayer incur a particular kind of expenditure which can then be claimed on the annual return, with that claim reducing the amount of federal tax payable for the year.

Not infrequently, taxpayers incur such expenditures but do not receive the available tax benefit because they are unaware that a credit or deduction is available to be claimed. Almost every taxpayer, for instance, incurs medical expenses or makes charitable donations in the course of a year, both of which can be eligible for a tax credit claim. And while the Canada Revenue Agency will correct basic arithmetical errors made on a return, it does not (and cannot) ensure that the taxpayer has claimed all the deductions and credits to which they are entitled on the return for the year.

As well, most of the credits which are available to reduce federal tax payable can also be claimed for provincial tax purposes, with the amount of the available provincial tax savings determined by the taxpayer’s province of residence. Finally, many of the provinces also offer tax saving opportunities to residents who are over the age of 65 through programs such as property tax credits for senior homeowners or tax credits for expenditures related to increasing safety or mobility for an individual over the age of 65 who lives in his or her own home.

Most Canadians do not prepare their own tax returns, and it’s not reasonable to expect individuals (of any age) who don’t spend their working lives immersed in the intricacies of the Canadian tax system to be aware of the myriad of deductions and credit claims which may be available to them to help lower their tax bill. There is, however, help to be had with the tax return preparation process through free tax clinics which will prepare a return for the taxpayer at no cost, and can help to ensure that all available tax deductions and credits are claimed. Those tax return preparation clinics are operating now and a listing of such clinics can be found on the Canada Revenue Agency website at


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.