The tax year is ending – some planning steps to take before December 31

December 7, 2022by Akmin

For individual Canadian taxpayers, the tax year ends at the same time as the calendar year. And what that means for individual Canadians is that any steps taken to reduce their tax payable for 2022 must be completed by December 31, 2022. (For individual taxpayers, the only significant exception to that rule is registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions. With some exceptions, such contributions can be made any time up to and including March 1, 2023, and claimed on the return for 2022.)

While the remaining time frame in which most tax planning strategies for 2022 can be implemented is only a few weeks, the good news is that the most readily available of those strategies don’t involve a lot of planning or complicated financial structures – in many cases, it’s just a question of considering the timing of steps which would have been taken in any event. What follows is a listing of some of the steps which should be considered by most Canadian taxpayers as the year-end approaches.

Charitable donations

The federal government and each of the provincial and territorial governments provide a tax credit for donations made to registered charities during the year. In all cases, in order to claim a credit for a donation in a particular tax year, that donation must be made by the end of that calendar year – there are no exceptions.

There is, however, another reason to ensure donations are made by December 31. The credit provided by each of the federal, provincial, and territorial governments is a two-level credit, in which the percentage credit claimable increases with the amount of donation made. For federal tax purposes, the first $200 in donations is eligible for a non-refundable tax credit equal to 15% of the donation. The credit for donations made during the year which exceed the $200 threshold is, however, calculated as 29% of the excess. For the minority of taxpayers who have taxable income (for 2022) over $221,708, charitable donations above the $200 threshold can receive a federal tax credit of 33%.

As a result of the two-level credit structure, the best tax result is obtained when donations made during a single calendar year are maximized. For instance, a qualifying charitable donation of $400 made in December 2022 will receive a federal credit of $88.00 (($200 × 15%) + ($200 × 29%)). If the same amount is donated, but the donation is split equally between December 2022 and January 2023, the total credit claimable is only $60.00 (($200 × 15%) + ($200 × 15%)), and the 2023 donation can’t be claimed until the 2023 return is filed in April 2024. And, of course, the larger the donation in any one calendar year, the greater the proportion of that donation which will receive credit at the 29% level rather than the 15% level.

It’s also possible to carry forward, for up to five years, donations which were made in a particular tax year. So, if donations made in 2022 don’t reach the $200 level, it’s usually worth holding off on claiming the donation and carrying it forward to the next year in which total donations, including carryforwards, are over that threshold. Of course, this also means that donations made but not claimed in any of the 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021 tax years can be carried forward and added to the total donations made in 2022, and the aggregate then claimed on the 2022 tax return.

When claiming charitable donations, it’s possible to combine donations made by oneself and one’s spouse and claim them on a single return. Generally, and especially in provinces and territories which impose a high-income surtax – currently, Ontario and Prince Edward Island – it makes sense for the higher income spouse to make the claim for the total of charitable donations made by both spouses. Doing so will reduce the tax payable by that spouse and thereby minimize (or avoid) liability for the provincial high-income surtax.

Making a final RRSP contribution

Every Canadian who has an RRSP must collapse that plan by the end of the year in which he or she turns 71 years of age – usually by converting the RRSP into a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) or by purchasing an annuity. An individual who turns 71 during the year is still entitled to make a final RRSP contribution for that year, assuming that he or she has sufficient contribution room. However, in such cases, the 60-day window for contributions after December 31 is not available. Any RRSP contribution to be made by a person who turns 71 during the year must be made by December 31 of that year. Once that deadline has passed, no further RRSP contributions are possible.

Taxpayer requests for penalty or interest relief

Taxpayers are entitled to request relief from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for interest or penalty charges which the CRA has levied, and those who want to do so must send their request within 10 years from the end of the calendar year or fiscal period concerned. The CRA may also cancel interest and penalties that accrued within 10 calendar years of the year the taxpayer relief request is made, regardless of the tax year or reporting period in which the debt originated.

This year’s deadline applies to taxpayer relief requests for:

  • the 2012 tax year;
  • any reporting period that ended during the 2012 calendar year; and
  • any interest and penalties that accrued during the 2012 calendar year for any tax year or reporting period.

All such requests for relief must be submitted on or before December 31, 2022.

Reviewing tax instalments for 2022

Millions of Canadian taxpayers (particularly self-employed and retired Canadians) pay income taxes by quarterly instalments, with the amount of those instalments representing an estimate of the taxpayer’s total liability for the year.

The final quarterly instalment for this year will be due on Thursday December 15, 2022. By that time, almost everyone will have a reasonably good idea of what their income and deductions will be for 2022 and so will be in a position to estimate what the final tax bill for the year will be, taking into account any tax planning strategies already put in place, as well as any RRSP contributions which will be made on or before March 1, 2023. While the tax return forms to be used for the 2022 year haven’t yet been released by the CRA, it’s possible to arrive at an estimate by using the 2021 form. Increases in tax credit amounts and tax brackets from 2021 to 2022 will mean that using the 2021 form will likely result in a slight over-estimate of tax liability for 2022.

Once one’s tax bill for 2022 has been calculated, that figure should be compared to the total of tax instalments already made during 2022 (that figure can be obtained by checking one’s online tax account on the CRA website, or by calling the CRA’s Individual Income Tax Enquiries line at 1-800-959-8281). Depending on the result, it may then be possible to reduce the amount of the tax instalment to be paid on December 15 – and thereby free up some additional funds for the inevitable holiday spending!

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.