Thursday, October 29, 2009

The sure things in life — the guides

Updated December 3, 2009: reference the new, 2009-10 Tax Planning Guide

There aren't many certainties in life. A couple, maybe, come to mind, being always mentioned as they are. As luck would have it, CGA Ontario does an admirable job at writing about both clearly and concisely. And then some.

Less taxing taxes. Whether you do your own taxes or not (and unless you have a business or a complicated tax situation you should do them yourself, preferably aided by a computer program), Your Personal Tax Planning Guide is an excellent overview — both the big picture and useful details — of how taxes work in Canada.

CGA Personal Tax Guide coverThe contents are pretty much those of the familiar Income Tax Return guides, but the simple fact that a different wording and shorter sentences are used may clarify lots of matters for the tax-language challenged among us.

The introduction stresses the need for continuous financial planning, and the need to be familiar with changes to the income tax legislation, in order to minimize or defer the payable taxes. This is actually the goal which drives the explanations in this guide.

The following sections cover the specifics:
  • major federal and provincial changes affecting individuals for the tax year
  • income and expenses - employment income and deductions, business and self-employment deductible expenses, investment income and expenses, personal deductions
  • tax planning issues - income splitting, deferred income plans: regular and spousal RRSP, TFSA
  • tax credits
  • Ontario provincial tax issues
  • several handy appendices - marginal tax rate tables, important tax planning and filling dates.
Tax tips are sprinkled throughout. For example:
  • A computer used by a professor to teach and create music was ruled to be a musical instrument and thus eligible for employment deductions.
  • You may include premiums paid for private health insurance in your medical-expense claim.
  • Fees for your child's extracurricular classes may also be eligible for the tuition credit if your child is at least 16, the classes are taken through a certified educational institution, and the program provides occupational skills. Dance or skating lessons are examples of classes that might qualify.
Updated every year, the new edition appears in December.

Where there is a will. Then there is the Executorship booklet. It's a guide to the various duties of the estate trustee, the one appointed to administer the will. These may include locating and examining the will, taking an inventory of the property and debts involved, and administering the estate: dealing with the assets (such as cash, investments, insurance policies, personal possessions) and settling the liabilities (such as taxes). The booklet's stated purpose is to make one aware of what is involved, either for deciding whom to choose for the task, or for accepting such an appointment. It can also be useful in organizing one's affairs and preparing a draft of the will.

Several government web sites are listed, and additional references are suggested. The glossary lists, among other terms, ademption, hotchpot, and per stirpes. This in itself makes it worth the price.

Good grief, more. Several other information booklets are available, such as:
  • Tax Tips for Students - tax information for Ontario post-secondary students; we also highly recommend CRA's own Students and Income Tax
  • ABCs of Accounting - definition of the more common accounting terms, like depletion, engagement, just-in-time, and ethics, some of which in accounting have a meaning different from what we knew; we couldn't locate creative accounting
  • Introductory Accounting for Not-For-Profit Organizations - describes a simple bookkeeping system developed by CGA Ontario for small organizations, and enumerates a series of items to deal with in running such an enterprise — sales tax and GST, workers' compensation insurance, employer health tax, incorporation and insurance, etc.
  • Resource Guide for Business Immigrants to Ontario - lots of useful contacts for anyone contemplating self-employment: professional and trade associations, programs of interest to new businesses — such as Small Business Enterprise centres, forms of business and registration — sole proprietorship / partnership / corporation, licenses, government assistance programs, sources of financing, labour laws, registration for regulated professions, certification, intellectual property, federal provincial and municipal taxes, available export and import assistance.
Free hard copies of all the guides can also be ordered. Most have smiling faces on the cover, including the Executorship one.

Finally, if you're young and looking for a career, and your parents have always been on your case pushing you to become an accountant, this site also provides the information on becoming a CGA.

1 comment: