Tax tips for Canadian snowbirds

Tax tips for Canadian snowbirds

BY TERRY MCBRIDE,  The Star Phoenix 

Are you a Canadian snowbird, back home in Canada after a winter stay in Arizona? If you want to avoid having to file a U.S. tax return, you should tell the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) that you are not a U.S. resident.

Form 8840 is due June 15.

If you consistently stay 122 days or more in the United States each year, the I.R.S. expects you to file a U.S. tax return to report your worldwide income. The 122 days happens to be the four months from the end of November to the beginning of April.

The I.R.S. formula counts all the days you stayed in the U.S. in 2014, plus one-third of the days in the U.S. in 2013 plus one-sixth of the days in the U.S. in 2012. When you do the math, stays of 122 days per year make you “substantially present” in the U.S. for 183 days, which is enough for you to become a U.S. resident for tax purposes. Don’t wait to be asked to file a US tax return. Be proactive. Declare each year that you have a closer connection to Canada. Obtain form 8840 from either the I.R.S. website or the Canadian Snowbird Association website.

Form 8840 asks for your passport number and the type of U.S. visa you have. Typically a snowbird has a B-2 visa, meaning the purpose of the trip was recreational in nature, including tourism, vacation, amusement, or visits with friends or relatives.

If you do not mail form 8840 to Austin, Texas each year, you could be asked to file a U.S. income tax return. Even if you are positive that you would not owe any U.S. tax because of the Canada-U. S. tax treaty and Canada’s higher tax rates, the I.R.S. can still charge hefty penalties for neglecting to report your income to the I.R.S. Canada and the U.S. share information. Your date of entry into Canada tells the I.R.S. when you left the U.S. Don’t risk the penalties. File your 8840 form by June 15. Each spouse must file a separate 8840 form. Make a photocopy of your 8840 forms to carry with you the next time you cross the border.

Questions about residency Canadian financial institutions are now compelled to report all the personal information of any U.S. persons holding accounts with them. That means your bank or investment broker must ask you if you have a connection to the U.S. You do have a connection if you spend four months each winter in the Southern U.S. Your bank would have to report your personal information to the I.R.S. Bringing a photocopy of your 8840 form helps you prove to your Canadian bank that you are not a U.S. resident for tax purposes.

U.S. rental property The Canadian income tax return asks the question, “Did you own or hold foreign property at any time in the year with a total cost of more than CAN$100,000?” If the answer is “Yes,” then you need to complete Foreign Income Verification Form T1135 and file it with your income tax return by April 30. If you file your tax return electronically, you can now also file your form T1135 electronically, for the first time.

Snowbirds who own U.S. vacation property purely for personal use and enjoyment can answer “No” to the foreign property question even if its cost does exceed $100,000.

However, if you rent out your U.S. vacation home, you really should seek professional advice about filing a U.S. tax return and completing both the T776 rental schedule and form T1135 with your Canadian tax return.

Terry McBride, a member of Advocis, works with Raymond James Ltd. (RJL). The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Raymond James Ltd. (RJL). Information is from sources believed reliable but cannot be guaranteed. This is provided for information only. We recommend that clients seek independent advice from a professional adviser on taxrelated matters. Securities offered through Raymond James Ltd., member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Insurance services offered through Raymond James Financial Planning Ltd., not a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund.

Don’t make these stupid travel mistakes

By Katia Hetter  (CNN) — Threatening an airline on Twitter is a terrible idea.

An airline, such as American Airlines, which was attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, and lost two planes filled with passengers and crew is likely to take your public threats seriously.

It might even get you arrested, as was the case of the 14-year-old Dutch girl who recently wrote, “@AmericanAir hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye.” (The teen was arrested Monday afternoon.)

Teen arrested for tweeting airline terror threat

Foolishness at home or abroad rarely yield great results. So please stop doing stupid stuff while traveling. Just stop it.

You’re making the rest of us polite, culture-seeking, nature-loving and happy-to-practice-our-Spanish (or French or Arabic) tourists look bad. And you could end up in jail. Here are a few stupid examples of things you shouldn’t do:

Don’t knock over ancient rocks. Never mind that the Boy Scout leaders who knocked over rocks dating back millions of years in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park should have known better. Our nation’s national and state parks are not anyone’s private playground.

Please respect them and leave the ancient wonders intact for everyone to enjoy. (In March, Utah resident Glenn Taylor pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and another Utah man, David Hall, pleaded guilty to attempted criminal mischief. Both men received a year of probation and fines.)

Don’t parade around naked in inappropriate places. Peruvian officials are getting annoyed by naked tourists converging on Machu Picchu.

“There are places in the world that people can get naked, but not all places are (appropriate) for getting undressed,” Alfredo Mormontoy Atayupanqui, director of archaeological resources for Peru’s Ministry of Culture, told CNN.

Perhaps a 15th century Inca treasure and World Heritage Site isn’t one of those places. Park rules printed on the back of your admission ticket warn against being nude in public, Mormontoy says. Security around the site is being increased, and we have the naked visitors to thank for it.

Please don’t disrobe, unless it’s allowed by local custom! (See Nice, France, for topless beaches.)

Don’t write on sacred monuments. Not all of the badly behaving travelers are Americans. Last year, a 15-year-old Chinese tourist defaced a stone sculpture in the 3,500-year-old Luxor Temple with graffiti. The teen carved “Ding Jinhao was here” in Chinese on a sculpture. The graffiti was photographed by another Chinese tourist and posted online.

When his graffiti went viral, and he was tracked down, his parents apologized in a China Daily report, promising they were taking responsibility for what their son had done.

Don’t climb them either. Visitors to the pyramids at Giza, Egypt, aren’t supposed to climb them. Russian photographer Vadim Makhorov and a group of his friends, in search of glorious photos, apparently didn’t think the rules applied to them.

While Makhorov apologized for climbing the pyramids,he’s made a habit of climbing tall structures. He’s since scaled the world’s second-tallest building, the unfinished Shanghai Tower in China.

Don’t pack guns in your carry on. If you’ve got one, remember to ask yourself: “Where’s my gun?” Some people actually forget where their guns are located until the Transportation Security Administration finds them. The TSA confiscated 1,813 guns at the airport last year, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport came in first place with 111 guns seized.

If you meant to have your gun in your carry-on bag, know there are legal ways to transport weapons — but not the way you did it. Many hunters do it properly all the time, and TSA and U.S. Customs officials know how to clear your weapons safely.

Source: CNN Travel

Have you ever witnessed fellow travelers making really horrendous mistakes while traveling? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Prettiest Places to Travel in Spring

The Prettiest Places to Travel in Spring

By: Jenn Martin – Senior Editor

Spring has a tricky way about it. Just when you think the warm(ish) weather is here to stay, another snowstorm barrels into town and your seven-day forecast once again promises a string of below zero temperatures. Well, we’re sick of waiting. We’ve rounded up some of the prettiest places to travel in spring—a time when the wildlife is waking up, flowers are in bloom and people are shedding their outer layers and banishing their winter blues.

For flowers

Osaka Japan for cherry blossoms
In Canada we’re lucky that Vancouver sports its own impressive display of cherry blossoms, but nothing compares with Japan where, from late March to early May, you’ll find people admiring the natural beauty of the sakura and taking part inhanimi—the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a cherry tree.


Texas for blue bonnets
Spreading across the vast Texas prairies, bluebonnets are a staple of local folklore as well as a breathtaking sight to see. The bluebonnet bloom will fluctuate due to weather conditions, but people are so passionate about this display that there are several websites where you can keep up to date on the bluebonnet season.

Holland for tulips
Holland is home to the world’s largest flower park (where you’ll find over seven million tulip blooms annually) and the famous flower market in Amsterdam. Mid-April is the best time to visit to see these colourful clusters in all their glory.


For waterfalls

Yosemite National Park
Travelling to Yosemite in spring can be frustrating because of the residual snow (and the resulting road closures), but it’s when this snow is melting that the park is in its prime. Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls and Vernal and Nevada Falls are all stunning (more stunning than usual) when the run off raises the water levels, and when visitors can almost be guaranteed to spot the famous waterfall rainbows (I managed to still catch a glimpse of one last May).


Niagara Falls
I often take for granted the fact that one of the seven natural wonders of the world lies about two hours from my doorstep. Spring is a particularly beautiful time to visit Niagara because the already impressive flow rate is at its maximum power.


For ambiance

There’s something special about being in a city when it’s opening its doors again- when the patios start to fill up and market sellers can once again take to the streets. It may be cliché (like the Paris of Hollywood), but Paris in springtime is classic for a reason: locals are rumoured to be friendlier than usual, there are several Parisian gardens perfect for an afternoon stroll and roadside cappuccinos seem like the best thing that has ever happened to anyone—ever.


Central Park
Just like with Paris, big cities in springtime offer a separate set of challenges (read: huge crowds). But between the lilacs, azaleas, and strawberry fields, it’s hard to top the spring foliage in Central Park.


March Break 2015: How to avoid an airport meltdown

March Break 2015: How to avoid an airport meltdown

By Eric Foss and Manmeet Ahluwalia, CBC News

It’s been a long, cold winter in many parts of Canada, and as spring approaches, many lucky Canadians have made plans to escape to warmer climates.

March Break, which for many Canadians starts next week, is one of the busiest times of year for Canadian airports, and while frequent fliers have a pretty good sense of the do’s and don’ts of travel, many Canadian vacationers aren’t aware of the rules and new services available at international airports across the country.

March Break is one of the busiest times of year for Canadian airports. (Eric Foss/CBC)

Arriving at the airport with the wrong travel documents or items that are not approved for airline travel can quickly change a dream vacation into a stressful and frustrating experience.

So before you imagine yourself walking barefoot on a sandy beach, you might want to reacquaint yourself with some useful airport travel tips and Canadian Customs rules.

1. Before you arrive at the airport

Consider using your airline’s online check-in, which opens 24 hours before your departure. Online check-in will secure where you’re sitting – you may even have a better choice of seat if you haven’t already reserved one. As well, you can avoid long check-in lines the following day at the airport.

Screenshot your boarding pass and save it as a photo. That way, you have an image of your boarding information on your smartphone in case wi-fi is spotty or too costly to access.

Also, check to make sure your flight is still departing at the scheduled time, especially on days when the weather is in question.

If you share custody of your children and the other parent is not coming along, or if you’re travelling with children that aren’t yours, it’s recommended you carry a consent letter to provide authorization to show Canada Customs when you re-enter the country.

2. Arriving at the airport

Make sure you arrive at the airport well in advance of your flight — at least two hours before a domestic flight and three if you are going international.

Know what choices you have for parking. The closer to the airport, the more expensive it can be. If you decide to leave your car at the airport, make sure you find the right location for the duration of your trip. Public transportation is often cheaper and more reliable.

Familiarize yourself with the airport’s facilities. Toronto’s Pearson International, for example, has many restaurants, a gym facility and places of worship. Modern airports have changed dramatically in the last decade, offering many different services.

Make sure check-in bags are under weight and within size allowances. Overweight bags will incur additional charges, or you will be required to reduce the weight on site. If you decide to carry your luggage onto the plane, make sure those bags are within the airline’s baggage allowance for size and weight — every airline is different.

If you haven’t checked in online or require boarding passes, consider using the self check-in kiosks. Located near the airlines’ check-in counters, these are great time savers allowing you to view your itinerary, select seats and print boarding passes.

3. Going through security

Make sure any sharp objects — including files and scissors — are in your checked bags. See the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority site for the latest on what is allowed through security.

Be prepared to remove your shoes, belt, watch and anything that has a substantial metal content. Bins are provided to keep loose items together.

Located near the airlines’ check-in counters, self check-in kiosks are great time savers that allow travellers to view their itinerary, select seats and print boarding passes. (Eric Foss/CBC)

If you’re carrying a laptop, remove it from its case or bag and place that in a separate bin.

Keep your ID and boarding pass available to show security screeners.

Jewelry and valuable items should be removed before entering security.

4. Before you board

It’s not a bad idea to eat something before you fly. Many airlines charge for food items and the selection may not be to your liking.

5. Boarding your aircraft

Most airlines will start boarding a flight at least 30 minutes before takeoff, even earlier with some of the larger aircraft.

Delays in boarding affect all passengers and can result in a missed travel slot for the aircraft. Make sure you board when the flight is announced and listen for your row. Families with small children, as well as people with disabilities, get prioritized boarding on most flights. 

6. Finding your bags

Once you have disembarked from your plane, follow the signs to Baggage Claim. When you arrive, check the monitors to find the carousel that corresponds to your flight number.

Have your bags, entry documents and ID ready for inspection if you are coming off an international flight. Be prepared to show items that you purchased to customs officers if asked.

7. Canada Customs

A passport is the preferable piece of identification for entry into Canada. Other acceptable identification includes an enhanced driver’s license, a birth certificate with accompanying photo ID (such as a regular driver’s license), a permanent resident card, a citizenship card or a certificate of Indian status.

Souvenirs can be a fun way to remember your trip abroad, but certain goods are prohibited from entering Canada, including some food, plant and animal products. Be aware of what goods are prohibited from entering Canada by consulting the I Declare brochure.

Whether you are leaving or returning to Canada, you must declare if you are carrying more than $10,000 Cdn.

Secrets The Airlines Don’t Want You To Know

By: Nadia Imafidon | Huffington Post

Once you’ve experienced a $200 price spike in the middle of your ticket search, your fourth 45-minute flight delay of the day, or your bag going MIA in Miami, you can’t help but think: what are these airlines hiding from me?

It turns out, A LOT. Sure, some of it’s coincidence, and you get an $8 voucher for an airport breakfast. But that overpriced breakfast is not an adequate salve — and in fact, you’ve got a right to more than that. Here are 10 secrets airlines don’t want you to know.

Say ‘no’ to vouchers — you’re entitled to cold, hard cash

Do not settle for vouchers. They’re the airline equivalent of Geoffrey Dollars. If you’re bumped from a flight because it’s overbooked, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has compensation rules of up to $1,300 in cash if the airline fails to rearrange plans within two hours of your flight. The airlines often offer passengers a travel voucher instead (like every time, let’s be real). They’re also required to tell you that you can get a check on the spot. It’s like your flight-delay Miranda rights.

Even with new flight arrangements, you get cash

If your airline can get you to your destination between one and two hours of your scheduled arrival on a domestic flight, or between one and four hours on an international trip, it owes you compensation of 200 percent of the one-way fare to your destination, up to $650. That was fast, but not fast enough, airline fiends.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are cheapest days to fly, not necessarily to buy

Airlines carry fewer business passengers on these days of the week, and thus there’s often a surplus of seats. But don’t confused this fact with the idea that buying a ticket on a Tuesday will result in lower airfare. That’s a separate thing.

You can cancel within 24 hours for no charge

Now, there are caveats, so don’t go booking out an entire planeful of tickets just for S&Gs. For most airlines, you can cancel/change your ticket up to seven days before your scheduled date of travel and get a full refund. The notable exception: American Airlines, which instead allows you to hold a ticket up to 24 hours at the price you see. Additionally, you need to book directly with the airline’s website, and not through a third-party booking site, although big ones like Expedia or Travelocity offer policies similar to those of airlines. But the big takeaway: you can have buyer’s remorse for up to a full day. And some airlines — like Southwest — have even more generous refund policies that let you change plans up until right before you take off.

They owe you way more for delayed luggage than they’ll offer to pay

If your bag is delayed, not lost, airlines will try to placate you with $25 or $50 per day. But the DOT says it’s not enough to salvage a wedding, a ski trip, or an important business trip. These companies can owe you up to $3,300 in liability for a domestic U.S. trip, so long as you’ve got receipts to prove you needed that stuff. Looks like upon arrival, a new tuxedo is in order. (You always wear Armani…)

Flying south? 5 tips to get you back into Canada smoothly

CBC News


At this time of year, plenty of Canadians head south for a winter getaway. For the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the season that started this week is busier than Christmas. Of the 90 million travellers who entered Canada in the past year, many were Canadians travelling back from the Caribbean and the southern United States during “charter” season.

At the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, a peak day during charter season means 12 additional flights.

“So it’s a lot busier than our regular days throughout the rest of the year,” said Jill Williamson, a border services officer at the airport.

Officers are on guard for contraband like illegal weapons, drugs, restricted food or agricultural products, or animal parts.

To ensure a smooth trip through customs and immigration, CBSA offered a few tips.

– Make a full declaration to the officer upon arrival. If you are not sure what to declare, declare all items and then discuss with the officer. Look up your personal exemptions.

– Carry proper identification, which includes a birth certificate, a Canadian passport, a permanent residence card, a citizenship card, or a certificate of Indian status.

– Do not pack prohibited items, which include switchblades, brass knuckles, replica handguns, tasers and pepper spray.

– Animal, food, and plant products, such as some fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products are not permitted into Canada. This includes souvenir items made from animals that are protected under endangered species legislation.

– Wooden items with bark or which may contain insects are not permitted. A common souvenir from Cuba, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic are wooden sculptures decorated with small red and black beans called jequirity beans. These beans are toxic if ingested and are banned by Health Canada.

Source: Yahoo

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