Money & Career

Tricks to sweeten your tax return

Turbo-charge your return this year with a few simple tips

Chatelaine

Most people dread tax time – it means they finally have to deal with that sorry shoebox full of crumpled paper under the bed. But in reality, tax time doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Why? A well-thought-out tax return could net you a big refund that will make all the pain worthwhile. And although you might think you have your bases covered when it comes to your write-offs, there are a host of other lesser-known deductions out there that could make tax time a lot sweeter.

Here are just a few that we found:

Write off your lawn?
By now you’ve probably heard of the Home Renovation Tax Credit for home-related expenses between January 27, 2009 and February 1, 2010. What you might not know is that it isn’t just for big jobs like additions and kitchen overhauls. There are plenty of smaller household expenses that apply, including fixtures like lights, ceiling fans and window shades, as well as landscaping costs like all those flowers, shrubs and trees you planted last year – you can even write off the soil! The Canada Revenue Agency has a full list here:
www.cra-arc.gc.ca

Don’t forget Mr. Mover
If you moved in the last year you can claim those expenses too – save receipts from your mover, meals and any temporary accommodation you had while you moved – for up to 15 days. You can even claim incidental costs related to your move such as changing your address on legal documents, replacing your driving license and all those utility hookups and connections.

Clock your investment losses
Did you buy dogs instead of stars in 2009? If you sold your bad stock before December 24, 2009, you can claim that loss and cut your tax bill. You can even carry forward losses until you need them – so if you took a hit and sold in 2008 (didn’t we all?) then consider claiming those as well.

Credit for caring
Are you taking care of a sick or aging parent, grandparent or other dependent over 18? You might be eligible for the Caregivers Tax Credit – it can net you a credit for up to $4,198 per dependent. Find out more here:
www.cra-arc.gc.ca

Charitable giving
You know you can claim any donations you made to eligible charities – but did you know you can save your receipts for up to five years. Carrying forward your charitable donations makes sense if you’ve made smaller donations over a few years – if they total more than $200 your credit will be calculated at the highest marginal tax rate. If you have a spouse (common law or married), you can also pool your receipts and make the claim for whichever one needs it most.

File on time
Doing your taxes isn’t fun and it’s probably something you’re inclined to procrastinate. But even if you think you don’t owe anything, you should file on time. If you’ve made an error or end up having to pay something, you could be charged a penalty.