Ring in the new year with 10 tax tips

Canadians, and especially business owners, who take the time to plan ahead – rather than look back – will find that opportunities around personal taxes can be more than a holiday wish this season, according to EY Canada’s Asking better year-end tax planning questions.

“Tax rules are always changing and this year it’s more important than ever for Canadians to understand how the federal government’s private company tax reform proposals might impact their bottom line,” says David Steinberg, EY Canadian Tax Leader, Private Client Services. “The proposals are far-reaching and it’s critical for Canadians to pay close attention to what these changes mean for their tax planning now,  and well into the future. Early planning and action means taxpayers can prepare accordingly and save money on their 2017 returns.”

This December, EY suggests Canadians consider the following 10 questions as they plan their tax returns for 2017 and beyond:

1. Do you income-split private corporation business earnings with adult family members?
On 18 July 2017, the federal government introduced proposals and draft legislation that may limit income splitting opportunities with adult family members through the use of private corporations beginning in 2018. Consult with your tax advisor and consider maximizing income splitting with adult family members by distributing private corporation business earnings to them before the end of the year.

2. Do you receive non-eligible dividend income?
The tax rate applicable to non-eligible dividend income will be increasing for dividends received on or after 1 January 2018. If you have discretion over the amount of dividends received, consider receiving more non-eligible dividends prior to the end of the year. But be sure to weigh the savings of the lower non-eligible dividend tax rate against the tax deferral available by retaining income within the corporation.

3. Do you hold passive income?
The federal government has proposed to increase tax on passive earnings above a $50,000 threshold that will apply on a go forward basis. Draft legislation is expected to be released along with the spring 2018 federal budget. Now is the time to speak with your tax advisor on how to optimize grandfathering.

4. Do you have capital gains?
Although the government has indicated that it won’t proceed with proposals to restrict access to the lifetime capital gains exemption, and other capital gains planning, it’s important to review your capital gains transactions. Taking the time now to plan ahead can help you save on future returns.

5. Have you paid your 2017 tax-deductible or tax-creditable expenses yet?
There are a variety of expenses, including interest and child-care costs, which can only be claimed as deductions in a tax return if the amounts are paid by the end of the calendar year. You’ll want to check on expenditures that give rise to tax credits and consider if the deduction or credit is worth more to you this year or next.

6. Have you maximized your tax-sheltered investments by contributing to a TFSA or an RRSP?
Make your tax-free savings account (TFSA) and registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions for 2017 and catch up on prior non-contributory years. In order to maximize tax-free earnings, consider making your 2018 contributions in January. If you’re considering making an RRSP withdrawal under the Home Buyers’ Plan, you can withdraw up to $25,000 from your RRSP with no tax withheld, but must acquire a home by October of the following year. The funds must be repaid over 15 years starting the second calendar year after withdrawal. So if you can, wait until January 2018 before making the withdrawal.

7. Have you maximized your education savings by contributing to an RESP for your child or grandchild?
Make registered education savings plan (RESP) contributions for your child or grandchild before the end of the year. With a contribution of $2,500 per child under the age of 18, the federal government will contribute a grant (CESG) of $500 annually.

8. Is there a way for you to reduce or eliminate your non-deductible interest?
Interest on funds borrowed for personal purposes is not deductible. Where possible, consider using available cash to repay personal debt before repaying loans for investment or business purposes on which interest may be deductible.

9. Have you reviewed your investment portfolio?
Consider if you have any accrued losses to use against realized gains and determine if you have realized losses to carry forward.

10. Have you thought about estate planning?
Take time to update your will and consider if there are changes to your life insurance needs. It may be the right time to consider an estate freeze to minimize tax on death and/or probate fees. Developing a comprehensive succession plan can help you pass the benefit of your assets.

Steinberg explains: “These questions may seem familiar, but as tax rules change and become more complex, it becomes increasingly important to think of the bigger tax picture continuously throughout the year, as well as from year to year as your personal circumstances change. Start a conversation with your tax advisor to find better answers.”

To read EY tax insights and tips, visit ey.com/ca/taxmatters. To learn more about how EY works with private companies, visit ey.com/ca/private.

About EY
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization and may refer to one or more of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.

SOURCE EY (Ernst & Young)

Get Started: Keeping parties fun, not dangerous or offensive

Get Started: Keeping parties fun, not dangerous or offensive

By Joyce M. Rosenberg

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

KEEPING HOLIDAY PARTIES FUN AND SAFE

The holiday party can be a highlight of a small company’s year or an event everyone would rather forget. When there are problems, which can land a small business in legal trouble, they often start with people having too much alcohol.

A business owner can lessen the chance of trouble by keeping an event low-key, holding it during the day and/or limiting how much people can drink.

A company is legally responsible in most states if party guests, whether they’re employees, customers or their dates, are hurt in or cause alcohol-related accidents. It doesn’t have to be a traffic accident if someone falls and is hurt at the party or on the way home, the boss can be liable. There’s also the possibility that someone who’s had too much to drink can say or do something offensive, sexually harassing or even violent. Again, it’s going to be the boss’s problem.

Human resources professionals say owners and managers need to set the tone for the party, reminding employees that while the event is intended to be a celebration, it is a work-related affair and that everyone is expected to behave accordingly. And, in the case of sexual harassment or violence, there will be disciplinary consequences. Owners and managers need to act as chaperones, making sure no one’s drinking or behaviour gets out of hand.

HR consultant Crystal Barnett fields more inquiries around this time of the year from small businesses needing guidance about making their parties trouble-free.

“They’re asking for ideas about what other clients do,” says Barnett, who’s with the Atlanta office of HR provider Insperity.

Barnett is seeing companies move away from big blowout parties, preferring more intimate get-togethers or sit-down meals in a restaurant. And owners recognize that during the holidays, family time is what matters to many staffers, so their parties are being held in the afternoon. Both trends have the benefit of being safer for everyone.

“It cuts down on drinking,” Barnett says.

Some companies that have afternoon parties, or that take the staff out for lunch, give employees an added bonus of the rest of the day off, Barnett says.

Companies that want to limit alcohol have several options. Some decide to make their parties alcohol-free. Others hire professional bartenders and give staffers tickets that can be exchanged for drinks. To be most effective, tickets should have employees’ names or other identifying information on them, and staffers should have to show an ID card. That will prevent people from giving tickets to one another.

Another option is a cash bar, Barnett says. People tend to drink less when it’s on their own tab. And there should be a cutoff time after which alcohol won’t be served, so people have a chance to metabolize the alcohol in their systems before they leave.

Owners may want to have car services available in case someone has had too much and needs help getting home.

While owners and managers can put their staffers on notice that they’re expected to behave, they don’t have as much power over spouses, partners and clients. All the more reason to keep an eye on everyone’s behaviour.

Attorneys and HR providers recommend that owners be sure they have adequate insurance coverage before hosting a party. That can include property and casualty insurance and also employment practices liability insurance, which is intended to cover sexual harassment, discrimination and other problems that can arise at an event. If the party is being held off-site, an owner should make sure that location also has insurance.

And, if something does happen, a boss needs to be upfront about any bad behaviour, accidents or misunderstandings, and not try to sweep it under the rug.

Aviva Fraud Report 2017: “Crash, Cash and Backlash”

Canadians from coast to coast are deeply concerned about the amount of money that cheaters are draining out of the auto insurance system. They want to fight fraud to lower the premiums paid by honest drivers, a new report finds.

Crash, Cash and Backlash: Aviva Fraud Report 2017” was issued today by Aviva Canada as the first in a series of annual reports on insurance fraud, an issue that plagues honest Canadians everywhere.  While there is fraud in auto, home and business insurance this report focuses on auto insurance fraud. Fraud is not a victimless crime.

“Honest consumers are paying out of pocket an estimated $2 billion a year in added costs for criminal frauds being perpetrated on the auto insurance system. It’s time to fight back. This report shows that Canadians agree with us,” said Greg Somerville,  President and CEO, Aviva Canada.

Aviva Canada is fighting fraud on behalf of all those honest  drivers who are paying higher premiums to fund the fraudulent activities of a small minority of individuals ripping off the system. We asked Canadians what they thought about auto insurance fraud issues, and the message you sent us in our national public opinion poll came across loud and clear,” Mr. Somerville added.

Key findings of the Aviva Fraud Report 2017

  • 81% of Canadians feel that the increase in their insurance premiums is due to fraudulent vehicle repairs, vehicle theft or personal injury claims.
  • 67% feel that cracking down on fraud would reduce their current auto insurance premiums.
  • 77% are supportive of government agencies and law enforcement allocating more time and resources to policing and prosecuting Canadians who have submitted fraudulent claims.
  • 50% of Canadians believe there is too much advertising encouraging people to use personal injury lawyers; meanwhile 60% believe that personal injury lawyers are required in only a “small number of cases.”

The answer to fighting fraud

This fraud report outlines what is wrong with the current system. The clear conclusion is that no one can solve this problem on their own. Everyone has a role to play.

  • Insurers need to take a zero tolerance approach to fraud in order to protect honest policy holders.
  • Consumers can avoid being a victim of fraud by recognizing and reporting suspected fraud. The report outlines specific tips for consumers.
  • Provincial governments need to actively partner in the fight against fraud. Provincial regulators should have a clear mandate to work with the insurance industry to fight fraud. More resources need to be dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of fraud. The trend of light consequences needs to be reversed.

Others tend to agree
“Aviva’s Fraud Report clearly demonstrates that Canadians believe fraud is a significant and growing problem and much more needs to be done about it,” said Ben Kosic, CEO, CANATICS.

“Aviva has campaigned to remove fraud from the system for many years. Consumers have told us with certainty that the system is not working in their interests. I agree. They will pay less for insurance if we fight fraud. Let’s attack this problem together,” concluded Mr. Somerville.

Notes to editors

  • The Aviva Fraud Report 2017, produced 100 per cent digitally and paper-free, is available here.
  • The report’s survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights through online interviews with 1,502 Canadians from all 10 provinces, conducted in October 2017 and is considered accurate within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

About Aviva Canada

Aviva Canada Inc. is one of the leading property and casualty insurance groups in the country providing home, automobile, leisure/lifestyle and business insurance to 2.9 million customers. A wholly-owned subsidiary of UK-based Aviva plc, the company has more than 4,000 employees focused on creating a bright and sustainable future for their customers and communities.

Aviva Canada invests in positive change through the Aviva Community Fund, Canada’s longest running online community funding competition. Since its inception in 2009, the Aviva Community Fund has awarded $7.5 million to over 250 charities and community groups nationwide. Aviva Canada, bringing over 300 years of good thinking and insurance solutions to Canadians from coast-to-coast.

For more information visit avivacanada.com, the company’s blog or TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn pages.

SOURCE Aviva Canada Inc.

Tips for cross-border shopping trips this Black Friday

If you’re planning on driving across the U.S. border for Black Friday, CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) recommends putting travel insurance on the top of your road-trip checklist.

“Quick trips across the border for popular events like Black Friday can be an exciting experience, and making sure you are covered should anything happen is important,” said Kaitlynn Furse, public relations manager, CAA SCO. “Travel medical insurance should always be a part of plans when travelling out of province to cover any medical expenses should unforeseen circumstances arise.”

CAA SCO suggests the following cross-border travel tips:

  • Purchase travel insurance even for a short shopping trip across the border. Twenty three per cent of travellers have required medical care while away on a trip*.
  • Make sure your vehicle is road trip ready. Check your wiper blades and fluid levels. Test your battery and inspect your tires for any tears or bulges in the side wall.
  • Pack a map as a back-up to your GPS. CAA offers maps and customized TripTik route planners to help get you where you are going safely.
  • Be prepared for delays at border crossings. Before heading out check border wait times at http://travel.gc.ca/.
  • Bring proper identification for yourself and any children traveling with you.
  • Know how much you can bring back. For 48 hours or more, you can bring back goods, tax and duty-free, worth up to $800. For 24 hours or more, you can bring back goods, tax and duty-free, worth up to $200.
  • Declare all purchases and have receipts ready at the border.

Six things to consider when purchasing travel insurance:

  • Ask questions. Speak to an insurance advisor that understands your needs.
  • Don’t base your decision on price alone – consider if the coverage is right for you.
  • Check with your insurance provider to see if you will be covered in case of an accident.
  • Remember Ontario Health Insurance (OHIP) offers limited coverage for emergency medical expenses outside of the province.
  • Consider an annual plan. CAA Insurance offers 4 and 8 Day Multi-Trip Medical plans.
  • Read your policy carefully to understand the extent of the coverage you purchased.

CAA Travel Insurance offers multiple plans to suit your needs. For more information, speak to a travel insurance agent by phone at 1-800-437-8541, or visit a CAA Store near you.

CAA Travel Insurance is underwritten by Orion Travel Insurance Company. Certain terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions apply.

About CAA South Central Ontario

For over a hundred years, CAA has been helping Canadians stay mobile, safe and protected. CAA South Central Ontario is one of nine auto clubs across Canada providing roadside assistance, travel, insurance services and Member savings for our over 2 million Members.

* Source: The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (2015).

SOURCE CAA South Central Ontario

Honoured for driving growth and momentum across Sun Life Financial Canada

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State Farm Canada becoming Desjardins Insurance

In January 2015, Desjardins Group the leading cooperative financial group in Canada with over $276 billion in assets completed the purchase of State Farm Canadian property and casualty and life insurance operations, as well as its mutual fund, loan and living benefits companies. As part of its ongoing integration plan, Desjardins announced today that the former State Farm Canadian business will gradually be rebranded Desjardins Insurance. The brand transition will officially begin on May 1, 2018, and will be completed by December 31, 2019.

“This is an exciting step in the evolution of Desjardins. We have a well-known and very strong brand, this will contribute to strengthening it across Canada,” said Guy Cormier, President and CEO, Desjardins Group. “Our vision is rooted in a cooperative mission which highlights community involvement and customer-focused values. Desjardins Insurance encompasses these shared values and commitments.”

State Farm clients in Canada will be served by their current agents who will transition to the Desjardins Insurance brand under the new Desjardins agent network.

“We are committed to the exclusive agent network, which provides clients and consumers the added value of personal service and advice from a trusted insurance professional in their community,” said Denis Dubois, President and Chief Operating Officer of Desjardins General Insurance Group. “Our clients will continue to benefit from the established relationships they’re used to, with full access to the insurance and financial products that fit their unique needs and goals.”

The goals for Desjardins Insurance will be to ensure the competitive pricing of its products and services, maintain the highest levels of customer service, strengthen its competitive position and enhance its digital capabilities. This is to best serve the evolving needs of its clients while remaining committed to further growth and development across Canada.

About Desjardins
Desjardins Group is the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and the fifth largest cooperative financial group in the world, with assets of $276,3 billion. It has been rated one of the Best Employers in Canada by Aon Hewitt. To meet the diverse needs of its members and clients, Desjardins offers a full range of products and services to individuals and businesses through its extensive distribution network, online platforms and subsidiaries across Canada. Ranked among the world’s strongest banks according to The Banker magazine, Desjardins has one of the highest capital ratios and credit ratings in the industry.

Desjardins Insurance refers to Certas Home and Auto Insurance Company, underwriters of automobile and property insurance or Desjardins Financial Security Life Assurance Company, underwriters of life insurance products.

SOURCE Mouvement Desjardins

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