Tax bytes: Taxpayer shaming, budget benefits, and last-minute credits

An embarrassed businessman - iStockphoto, courtesy of Getty Images

This week’s roundup of tax headlines features some public shaming for some non-filers, some helpful information on how to save money at the last-minute, and how you may save it in the future.

Defaulters disgraced

The Canada Revenue Agency handed out some scarlet letters yesterday, publishing a list of 10 Ontario residents convicted of failure to file corporate, personal GST/HST tax returns.

The rogues gallery shows names, home towns, and each offender’s respective fine, ranging from $1,000 to $49,000.

"Canadian taxpayers must have confidence in the fairness of the tax system," said Vince Pranjivan, Assistant CRA Commissioner for Ontario. "To maintain that confidence, the Canada Revenue Agency is determined to hold those who fail to file their returns accountable for their actions."

In fact, the CRA keeps a running account of tax-related investigations, charges, and convictions by province and territory.

It also offers the Voluntary Disclosure Program for anyone who’s ever handed inaccurate or incomplete information to the agency, allowing you to escape punishment as long as you own up to your sins. Better than a whopping fine and public shaming, at least. Or, just do your taxes on time. Remember: the deadline is April 30.

Last-minute money-savers

Given that time is short and some taxpayers might be panicking, take a minute and look at some last-minute filing strategies. Minden Gross LLP created a list of 5 lucrative credits you could overlook.

Among those:

  • The equivalent-to-spouse tax credit. If you’re divorced, legally separated or a single parent with a child under 18, this credit could save you up to $1,500.
  • Transferring dividends to a spouse. This counterintuitive strategy includes your spouse’s dividends in your own income. Sounds odd, but this could save some cash in the right circumstances.
Federal budget grab bag

It’s budget day! Finance Minister Joe Oliver is set to unveil his first budget and, coming in an election year, it’s expected to be full of treats for taxpayers. Ottawa has already dropped plenty of hints, or outright announced what’s included.

Among those:

  • RRIF rules relaxed: seniors groups have pushed for rule changes for withdrawals from registered retirement income funds. Currently, investors must withdraw a certain amount each year by age 71, but with Canadians living longer some complain that those rules force seniors to erode their savings.
  • Cuts for businesses: the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has urged Ottawa to cut the small business corporate tax rate from 11 per cent to nine.

Oliver is unveiling the budget at 4 p.m. ET.

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