When it comes to filing your income tax return, making sure you claim potential benefits and credits is important, as often it can help put more money back into your pocket. With tax season upon us, it's worth setting aside some time to do a bit of homework on the benefits that you may be able to take advantage of.
The great news for seniors is that there are many wonderful tax credits and benefits available. And, even if you have no taxable income, you could still be eligible to receive tax-free money. For many seniors in their retirement years, any opportunity to save money is one you wouldn't want to miss.
As a senior (65 and older) and depending on your total 2020 income, you may be able to file your income tax returns claiming a number of refundable tax credits - and for prior years as well, if you have not previously filed. Let's look at some of the 2020 tax-free credits that are payable to seniors who file income tax returns.
8 Tax credits that are available to seniors in Ontario/Canada in 2020
1. Ontario Senior Homeowners' Property Tax Grant
The OSHPTG is available to Ontario senior homeowners who pay property taxes and who have low or moderate incomes. It is an annual payment that seniors must apply for each year when they file their income tax and benefit return. The maximum 2021 payment is the lesser of $500 and the eligible property tax paid by or for you for 2020. If you are single, separated, divorced, or widowed, the 2021 grant will be the maximum payment reduced by 3.33% of your adjusted net income over $35,000. If you adjusted net income is $50,000 or greater, you are not eligible for this grant.
2. Ontario Sales Tax Credit
The Ontario sales tax credit (OSTC) is a tax-free payment designed to provide relief to Ontarians with low or moderate incomes for the sales tax they pay. Beginning July 2021, seniors whose 2020 income does not exceed $24,115 (individual) or $30,143 (couple) are eligible to receive $26 monthly ($52 monthly for couples). This credit is eliminated for individuals with 2020 income over $41,940 and $45,793 for couples.
3. Ontario Seniors' Public Transit Tax Credit
The Ontario Seniors' Public Transit Tax Credit is a refundable tax credit to help seniors with public transit costs. This tax credit is based on 10% of eligible Ontario transit costs, and are fairs paid for short haul or day trips by bus, subway, train, and specialized public transit services for seniors with disabilities. Fares for using long haul services like Via Rail or Grayhound are not eligible for this tax credit, and the maximum claim is $3000 for maximum credit of $450.
4. Federal Goods and Services Tax Credit
The goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit is a tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset the GST or HST that they pay. If your income doesn't exceed $38,507 beginning July 2021, and every three months following until April 2022, you are eligible to receive $74 every three months. In addition, if your spouse or partner's income also doesn't exceed $38,507, you are eligible to receive $142 every three months. This credit, however, is reduced by 5% of the amount of your income and if your spouse or partner's income exceeds $38,507. This tax credit is calculated by Revenue Canada based on the information in yours and your partner's tax return.
5. Federal Home Accessibility Tax Credit (HATC)
Available for seniors or individuals with disabilities that are eligible to claim the Disability Tax Credit, this tax credit reduces federal income taxes payable to a maximum of $1,500. This credit is also available to the individual’s spouse or common law partner if that individual has no net income for 2020. The credit is calculated at 15% of qualifying renovation expenditures to a maximum of $10,000 to a person’s owned or occupied housing residence (and share of the capital stock of an occupied unit of a co-op housing corporation) to improve mobility and reduce the risk of injury.
6. Federal & Ontario Disability Tax Credit
Seniors may be eligible for the Federal & Ontario Disability Tax Credit if a qualified medical practitioner certifies on form T2201 that they have a prolonged impairment and that the effects are such that they’re markedly restricted in their ability to speak, hear, see, walk, eat, dress, perform the mental functions necessary for everyday life, and/or have impaired bowel or bladder functions preventing them from proper elimination.
This non-refundable tax credit reduces income tax payable by $1,719 for 2020. If the person applying has no taxable income, the credit can be transferred to another relative who provides support to them.
7. Canada Caregiver Credit
If you support a spouse, common-law partner, or a dependent with a physical or mental impairment, you may be eligible to receive this non-refundable tax credit. You may also be eligible to claim this credit for one or more individuals — including you or your spouse or common law partner’s child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew — if they depend on your support because of a physical or mental impairment. An individual is considered to depend on your support if they rely on you to regularly and consistently provide them with some or all of the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter and clothing.
The amount you can claim depends on your relationship to the person for whom you are claiming the credit, your circumstances, the person’s net income, and whether other credits are being claimed for that person.
8. Property tax relief for homes that are built or modified to accommodate seniors or individuals with disabilities
Property taxpayers who inform the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) that they’ve built or modified their home to accommodate seniors or individuals with disabilities, and who have had their expenditure(s) verified by MPAC, may qualify for a property tax exemption.
The exempt portion, however, is not included in the assessment roll for the next taxation year, and taxes are not charged against it. If MPAC assessed the home as entirely taxable for the current or previous taxation years and the owner is applying for the exemption now, then the owner is encouraged to contract their local municipality to determine if they qualify for a tax rebate for said previous years.
Tips for preparing your income tax return
There’s no question that preparing to file your income tax can feel daunting, stressful, and overwhelming. But remember, there are plenty of tax-free benefits that are available to seniors that can reduce the amount of money you owe. In addition to those mentioned above, remember that there are other benefits as well, such as the Age Amount Tax Credit, the Pension Income Amount Tax Credit, and of course tax refunds for Medical Expenses.
Another important thing to remember is that if you received COVID-19 benefits, it might affect your tax return. In particular, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) is considered taxable income, therefore the total amounts that you received from this benefit will have to be included on your tax return.
If you have a modest income and a simple tax situation, fortunately there are volunteers near you that may be able to complete your tax return free of charge. This year, to reduce the spread of COVID-19, volunteers may be able to complete your return by video conferencing or phone, or through a document drop-off arraignment. To determine if you’re eligible and to find a tax clinic near you, visit canada.ca/taxes-help.
A big thanks to the Burlington Age Friendly Council and Community Development Halton for making much of the information featured in this blog post available.
If you or an elderly loved one are looking for more support in the way of preparing to file your income tax return, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be more than happy to connect you with a reputable and trusted accountant in the area who may be able to support your needs and help take the guesswork out of preparing your income tax return.