2015 Federal Budget Highlights

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Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered his Federal budget on April 21, 2015 in Ottawa.  Here is an overview of how some of the budget items relate to investments and taxes.

 

This year, the government reported balanced books and wants that to continue. It has introduced balanced budget legislation requiring Ottawa to stay in the black unless there’s a recession, war, or natural disaster. One way the government will do that is by closing certain tax loopholes.

 

Still, this year’s budget contains some generous changes.

 

Foremost is an increase in the TFSA contribution limit from the current $5,500 to $10,000. The proposed change is retroactive to January 1, 2015, and eligible clients who have not contributed since the TFSA’s creation in 2009 now have $41,000 in contribution room.

 

Many clients nearing retirement will benefit from the limit increase, because they can take advantage of early RRIF withdrawal benefits and then move the money into a TFSA and keep it sheltered.

 

Or, if you’ve already contributed the old $36,500 maximum, you could now move some non-registered investments into TFSAs. In cases where large capital gains might apply, this might not be a strategy worth pursuing. But we can talk about whether this strategy is a good idea when next we meet.

 

TFSA limit increases also have been decoupled from the inflation rate, meaning future increases aren’t automatic and instead will have to be legislated by the government.

 

Meanwhile, proposed changes to RRIF rules will mean seniors won’t have to withdraw as much money from their retirement savings. The budget cuts the required withdrawal amount at age 71 to 5.28% from the current 7.38%. Required withdrawal rates still increase every year, but instead of topping out at 20% at age 94, the cap isn’t reached until age 95.

 

Another budget item aimed at seniors and others who qualify for the Disability Tax Credit is a new Home Accessibility Tax Credit. This 15% non-refundable tax credit applies to up to $10,000 of renovations, such as wheelchair ramps, walk-in bathtubs and wheel-in showers.

 

And, small businesses will get to keep more of their earnings. This year’s budget proposes to reduce the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019 – or 2% over the next four years. The reduction generally applies to the first $500,000 of active business income.

 

Small business owners also will get a tax break if they sell their companies and donate the proceeds of the sale of the private company shares to a charity within 30 days of the sale. To be eligible, a sale must take place in 2017 or later.

 

Lastly, rules for reporting specified foreign income will be changing, again. Ottawa has announced a revamp of Form T1135 to streamline the process for people with foreign assets between $100,000 and $250,000 in time for the 2015 tax year. But those reporting $250,000 or more will need to follow the existing requirements.

 

Federal Budget Summary courtesy of Manulife Securities.