Credit reporting company Equifax has just revealed that its databases were hacked in a large-scale breach affecting millions across the US, UK & Canada. While no hacking event is ever good news, some are easier to ignore than others – this isn’t one of them. The sensitive nature of the exposed data now requires immediate action for all those even possibly affected.
The short version: Equifax is one of the three main organizations in the US that manages & calculates credit scores. To do that effectively, they have access to almost every piece of financial data for adults in the country, plus pretty much anyone who’s lived/worked in the US. We’re talking social security, tax file numbers, drivers’ license, credit card numbers…the big stuff. On July 29, Equifax disclosed the breach, stating that hackers had repeatedly gotten in through a vulnerability in the web application from mid-May to July of this year.
If you’re an Equifax customer: As scary as all that sounds, what’s done is done. Equifax, cyber-security experts & law enforcement officials are on the case, working to minimize the long-term damage.
The best action now is to protect yourself against fallout:
- Go to: http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to see if your data may have been affected. There was some news that this site was delivering random results, but Equifax announced it has been corrected. At this stage, it’s safest to assume everyone with a credit history has been impacted, so unless that link gives a definite ‘no you’re safe’ response, continue with the following recommendations.
- Claim the Equifax free year of credit monitoring & identity theft insurance (if you’re a US resident). If you’re not eligible, consider sourcing your own. As the hacked data will continue to circulate for some time, also consider extending your credit monitoring for a few more years.
- Keep a close eye on your finances and accounts. Check for notifications of new credit applications, monitor your statements and bills, and immediately report any suspicious activity or sudden change in billing.
- Change all your passwords to be strong, unique and long. Any of the stolen data may give hackers a free pass into the rest of your bank accounts, email and personal information.
- Add two-factor authentication where possible. This is when an account demands a second layer of authentication before allowing access or changes – getting the password correct isn’t enough, the hacker would also need to get the special code sent by SMS.
- Consider freezing your credit report. This makes it harder for identity thieves to open accounts under your name, as access is completely restricted until you choose to un-freeze.
On July 18, 2017, the federal Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, announced extensive proposed changes to the taxation of private corporations in Canada. These changes likely will impact you, and will likely result in you having to pay significantly more in taxes starting in 2018. For more information, please visit the following links:
These changes were proposed to ensure the wealthiest of Canadians pay their fair share of taxes. Unfortunately, the proposed changes impact ALL private corporations, not just those that are owned by the wealthiest of Canadians. In fact, the majority of private corporations in Canada are owned by “middle-class” Canadians, the very group of Canadians that the Government promised to protect.
We do not believe that these proposals are fair, and are counter-productive to the Canadian economy as a whole for the following reasons:
- The proposals are based on the unsupportable argument that an employee and a private corporation owner should be taxed the same. We believe that a private corporation owner carries significant additional risks and responsibilities that an employee does not, hence warrants the current tax regime;
- The proposals argue that spouses who are not directly involved in the business do not share in the risks and rewards of the corporation;
- The proposed changes casts a tax net at the wealthiest of Canadians that is so wide that it is going to catch hundreds of thousands of Canadians in the middle-class, resulting in the largest tax increase in decades to the middle-class;
- The proposed changes take away an important incentive for people to take risk and to innovate in Canada;
- The “trickle-down” effect on the economy will be far in excess of the tax revenues generated;
- A 75-day consultation window, in the middle of summer, is not properly consulting with the Canadians affected, especially given the changes proposed are changing tax law that has been in place for over 40 years;
- The proposed changes are overly complex, thus resulting in significant tax uncertainty for all impacted.
We think that you, as a private corporation owner, should be aware of these proposals and how they may affect your business, your family, and your future. It is a very good time to contact your Member of Parliament (Pamela Goldsmith - Jones - [email protected] or 604.913.2660) to express your concerns before the consultation period ends on October 2, 2017.
Some of these proposals are scheduled to come into law on January 1, 2018, which will likely impact your 2017 tax planning decisions. As there may be significant amendments to the proposed legislation (or hopefully abandoned altogether depending on the response from Canadians during the consultation period), we do not recommend any action with regard to your business structure at this time. However, we will be in touch with you after the consultation period closes and once it becomes clear as to the extent of the final proposed changes.
It has come to our attention that a CRA scam purporting to be endorsed by TCG Chartered Professional Accountants LLP has been distributed via email.
Be advised that neither TCG nor CRA is involved in any way with this illicit activity.
Please visit the following CRA resource to learn how to best protect yourself online and how to identify fraudulent activity:
Have you been a victim?
You should report deceptive telemarketing to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by calling 1-888-495-8501.
Are you self-employed? Do you have a home-based business and are you currently surrounded by mountains of paper?
Do you have the daunting task of trying to determine what information you need to file your taxes? Are you looking for a bit of free advice?
Click on this link https://www.thecoastgroup.ca/documents/GettingOrganized-TheBasics.pdf if you want some simple steps to follow to get your papers organized. You will find some tips on how to get started, what your accountant would like to see, and more importantly, what CRA wants to see.
Click on this link https://www.thecoastgroup.ca/documents/GettingOrganized-ComputerizedInfo.pdf if you are looking to organize your business information on a computerized system.
- Protect yourself— tax scams and fraud can cost you Taxpayers should be vigilant when they are contacted by an organization, either by telephone, mail, text message or email, that claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting personal information such as a social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number, or passport number. These are scams and taxpayers should never respond to these fraudulent communications or click on any of the links provided.
- Top questions we get at tax time Every year around tax time, Canadians call the CRA with a variety of questions. See below for our answers to the top questions asked at tax time.
- Enjoy the benefits of filing on time and online Filing your income tax and benefit return and paying what you owe on time helps prevent delays in receiving your benefits, and helps you avoid possible interest and penalty charges. To save you time and possibly money, the CRA publishes on its website a list of CRA-certified commercial tax preparation software packages and web applications to help you file your return online, including options that are free.
- Five things to avoid when filing your return The CRA has put together a list of some things to avoid this tax-filing season. Follow these tips; they could save you time and money!
- Video: New to Canada? Learn about taxes + Are you a newcomer to Canada? This video shows newcomers how the Canadian tax system works and what Canada does with the taxes we pay.
For telephone, fax, and TTY (teletypewriter) numbers and for addresses, go to Contact us.
Canada Revenue Agency
Government of Canada
Ottawa ON K1A 0L5
- BC Training and Education Savings Grant – To help even more parents and families save early for their child’s education, Budget 2016 extends the program to children born on or after January 1, 2006. Previously the program was only available to children born on or after January 1, 2007. The program allows parents to apply at participating financial institutions for a $1,200 grant when their child turns 6 years old. The grant is a one-time payment of $1,200 for every eligible BC resident child born since January 1, 2006, and will be transferred to the child’s registered education savings plan
- Temporary Top Personal Income Tax Rate expired as promised – A temporary tax rate was introduced for the 2014 and 2015 tax years of 16.8% on taxable income over $150,000. This two-year temporary measure was set to expire December 31, 2015, resulting in BC’s top tax rate being reduced back down to 14.7% on income over $106,543. For 2016, BC tax rates are as follows:
- Income between $106,544 to $140,388 – 40.7%
- Income between $140,389 to $200,000 – 43.7%
- Income above $200,000 – 47.7% (results from Federal Liberal 4% increased top tax bracket)
- BC Tax Reduction Credit – Effective 2016 the phase out rate was increased to 3.56% of net income, and the credit phase-out threshold was increased to $19,400
- BC Seniors’ Home Renovation Tax Credit expanded to persons with disabilities
- Federal Changes to Taxation of Trusts and Estates have been paralleled
- Property Transfer Tax exemption – Effective for purchases after February 16, 2016, this exemption reduces or eliminates the amount of property transfer tax on the acquisition of newly built homes with a fair market value under $800,000
- Support for Rural Communities – To help rural communities reinvigorate and diversify their economies, BC is investing $75 million over three years to the Rural Dividend Program. To recognize the importance of public transportation, BC is investing $7 million to expand service in BC Transit’s operating area
- BC Mining Flow-Through Share Tax Credit – Extended to end of 2016
- Medical Services Plan Premiums Increased – Premiums are increased about 4% effective January 1, 2017, as well the rate structure is significantly changed resulting in savings for certain families
- PST – The minister announced a commission on tax competitiveness to “consider ways to modernize the existing tax structure, given the changing economy.” However, it was noted that the “scope of work will explicitly exclude consideration of a harmonized sales tax”
Are you one of the lucky Canadians who choose to spend the dreary winter months in the USA? Do you consider yourself to be a snowbird?
Did you know that there are limitations on the number of days you may stay in the USA?
Did you know that your extended stays in the USA may have tax implications over the border?
Did you know that you may be required to file a special declaration called the Closer Connection Exemption Statement (form 8840) to be exempt from paying taxes in the USA?
To determine whether you must file this declaration, you must add up the number of days (or part days) you spent in the USA in 2015 plus one-third the number of days spent in 2014 and one-sixth the number of days spent in 2013. If this calculation adds up to 183 or more days and you were in the USA more than 30 days in 2015, you may be considered to be a US resident for tax purposes under US domestic tax law.
If you make frequent visits to the USA or if your visits are for extended periods of time, we advise you to look carefully at your travel to the USA. You want to be proactive and do this calculation annually and inform your accounting professional when you file your personal tax return. Note that in the past each country couldn’t track the number of days you were in their country as they only saw when you entered their country. Now Canada and the US share your entry dates with each other, so they know exactly how many days you were in their country.
The form 8840 must be filed on or before June 15th and you don’t want to miss the deadline.
2015 RRSP deadline is February 29, 2016 – Here’s Some Tips and Considerations!
The Registered Retirement Savings Plan (“RRSP”) deadline is quickly approaching, being February 29, 2016 this year as it’s a leap year. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering your RRSP contribution:
- What tax bracket will you be in for 2015 vs. 2016? If your income is over $200K, then maybe you want to save your RRSP contributions for 2016 when the top personal tax rate will be higher than 2015. If you’re in the “middle” tax bracket, then you may want to consider making a bigger contribution for 2015 as next year the middle tax bracket rate will be lower.
- Are you expecting your income to increase significantly in the future? Then you may want to save your RRSP contributions for when your income is higher, as you’ll save tax at the higher tax rates.
- How much can you contribute? Check your Canada Revenue Agency notice of assessment very carefully, as you pay a penalty for over-contributing, as well you only have a short period of time to fix any over-contribution error without tax consequences.
- Remember that contributions you make between January 1, 2016 and February 29, 2016 are claimable on your 2015 income tax return, so make sure you give your tax preparer the RRSP tax slips you receive for the first 60 days of 2016.
- Even if you make an RRSP contribution now, you don’t have to necessarily claim it on your 2015 tax return, as you can choose to carry it forward to a future return. This would be the case where maybe you expect to be in a higher tax bracket next year. By making the contribution now you can take advantage of tax deferred growth of the investments within your RRSP. In this case the CRA will show on your notice of assessment an amount called “undeducted RRSP contributions”. Make sure to pick those up in the following year as many times people miss that.
- How much is your RRSP worth? Yes you can have an RRSP that is too big (good problem to have for sure)! If your RRSP grows too big, when you turn 72 you have to start withdrawing the required minimum amount and for some people this amount puts them into an OAS clawback position, thus increasing their taxes owing in the future. Now with TFSA’s you have alternatives for tax deferred investment growth.
- What’s in your RRSP? Do you understand what the investments are? Do the investments fit with your risk profile? Do you know how much your investment is returning you (or *gasp* losing) over the short term and longer term? What are the fees you are paying on your RRSP account or hidden in your investment products?
Probably the biggest consideration is whether you need an RRSP at all? Here are some questions to ponder: What are your long term plan and retirement goals? You have a plan, right? Maybe a TFSA is the better way to go? Maybe you don’t need tax-deferred growth at all at this stage of your life? What would your retirement look like right now based on your current net worth, and what can you do to change that? Unfortunately there are only two things that are in your direct control that will impact your retirement – how much you save, and how long you are going to work. And the reality of today’s world is that there are A LOT of people working longer and longer in life, some by choice, more not. We’re living longer so our retirement fund has to last longer. Having a plan today will help you achieve your retirement goals whether that’s 5 or 25 years from now, so please visit your investment professional and/or your Chartered Professional Accountant to discuss your plan.
Previously we were a general partnership. Now we are a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP). All the partners and staff remain the same. A LLP is a type of partnership in which each partner is responsible only for his or her own liabilities. It makes partners more fully accountable to their clients and ensures that all partners can engage in their business without the concerns of having their personal assets at risk, unless there is negligence or wrongdoing.