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Spring is here: Income tax credits and benefits should be top of mind

Get the most out of your refund in order to reinvest elsewhere
It’s a sure sign of spring to hear birds chirping and to see crocuses sprouting up through brown grass. The snow slowly melts away to bring into clear view what havoc winter has thrust upon us.
Cracked driveway asphalt resulting after a few months of snow removal, the damage to wooden decks bearing a heavy snow load or it could have been a prized shrub that had an unfortunate encounter with a snowplow, whatever it is, the springtime renovation projects many of us plan are right around the corner.
But what’s also around the corner? The income tax filing deadline.
As usual, it’s on April 30 – a Monday, in case you were curious. Of course, for those who are self-employed the deadline is later – June 15.
And although I’d like to get some of my landscaping projects planned now, I’d first like to have cash in the form of an income tax refund to help pad my modest bank account. 
After all, renovations can cost more than originally anticipated. So, plan ahead like you should do when filing your income tax each April (or earlier) because there are a number of tax credits and benefits you could qualify for but aren’t aware of – not everyone can rely on an accountant or income tax specialist to take care of the work for you.
The best place to start – with plenty of handy resources – is the Government of Canada income tax website:
www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/campaigns/taxes-get-ready.html
There are so many tax credits and benefits that I’ll take a look at only a few of those items that may be unfamiliar to some.
• Home accessibility expenses: Those who qualify for this also qualify to claim the disability tax credit for the year; an individual at least 65 years of age by the end of the tax year. 
Renovations for eligible expenses to a home owned by the individual must have taken place in the 2017 tax year, and includes materials bought for the interior or exterior alterations. 
If you do the work yourself, expenses eligible for the home accessibility tax credit are building materials, fixtures, equipment rentals, building plans and permits.
However, the value of your labour or tools cannot be claimed as eligible expenses.
• Canada caregiver credit: This credit replaces the family caregiver credit, the credit for infirm dependents age 18 or older, and the caregiver credit. If you have a spouse or common-law partner or a dependent with an impairment in physical or mental functions, and you previously claimed any or all of these credits and your situation has remained the same as in 2016, then your Canada caregiver credit will stay about the same, and in some cases, it may increase. 
However, there’s one exception. The previous caregiver credit for people who support a parent or grandparent, who is 65 years of age or older, living with them, and who does not have a physical or mental impairment, is no longer available.
• Pension income splitting: As a pensioner, you may be eligible to split up to 50 per cent of your eligible pension income with your spouse or common-law partner to reduce the amount of income tax you may have to pay, if your spouse or common-law partner is in a lower tax bracket. This may save you tax as a couple.
If both you and your spouse or common-law partner have eligible pension income, it’s up to you to decide who will be transferring the income to the receiving partner.
If you want to revoke the election to split pension income, you need to send a letter to Revenue Canada requesting the change and it must be signed by you and your partner.
There are many more credits to check out to see if you qualify. Every little bit helps in today’s economy. And you never know, your income tax refund might be just enough to take the bite off that costly repair or renovation this spring.
Chris Shannon is the business reporter at the Cape Breton Post in Sydney, N.S. 
He can be reached via email at chris.shannon@cbpost.com or on Twitter @cbpost_chris. 

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