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Stay On Track of Holiday Spending

With only 8 weeks left for holiday gift buying, shoppers everywhere are flooding the stores looking for that perfect gift. If you’re like me, you start each holiday season with the best intentions by making a list that you swear you’re going to stick to. Procrastination and busy schedules however keep us from sticking to our holiday shopping goals and we resort to last minute purchases that push our budgets over the edge.  If you’ve created a budget for yourself throughout the year and want to stay on track of your holiday spending you can do it with a little planning and these five helpful tips:

 

  1. SETTING LIMITS ON HOLIDAY SPENDING

 

Yes – we all want to buy our friends and family gifts they’ll really love but that doesn’t mean breaking the bank. Give your credit cards and bank balance a break by setting a limit to what you can spend. Create a mini holiday budget based on your household budget.  If you don’t have a budget in place,  apps like Mint and You Need A Budget are a great place to get started and help you determine what you can afford.

 

  1. MAKE A LIST AND CHECK IT TWICE

 

Yes – the mail carrier is a nice guy cause and the security guard at work always has a smile for you but that doesn’t mean they have to be on your gift buying list.  You’re not Santa Claus.  You have a finite budget and can only really afford to buy gifts for those individuals you’re really close to.  If you have more than 7 names on your list do some editing and cut it down to 5. You can still give to other people in your life but it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. With a little imagination you can show people you care about them without breaking the bank.  The holidays are about spending time with friends and family not about spending.

 

  1. SPEND BASED ON WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD

 

We all have that wealthy aunt or sibling who outdoes everyone every year with their gift giving. But just because they are in a financial position to purchase expensive gifts doesn’t mean you are. Keep your shopping to items you can afford and that fit your own finances. After all, it isn’t the gift that matters but the thought. Keeping your cash flow positive at this time of the year will have it’s rewards in the new year when the credit card bills start to roll in.

 

  1. STARTING EARLY WILL ELIMINATE IMPULSE BUYS

 

Search the internet for sales and coupons on items you’re looking to buy.  Online shopping is a great way to avoid the last minute shopping craze in crowded malls and you can do it from anywhere and at anytime. Before you shop in local stores, comb through the coupons you received in your mailbox before hitting the mall. These tactics will not only help you stay on track but will make gift buying easier.

 

  1. GIFT OUTSIDE THE BOX

 

It’s not always about the size of the gift box or the price on the tag. Sometimes the best gift of all is your time. Think about all the people you’ve neglected over the year. Not because you want to but because you’re too busy or you don’t live close by. Spending time with friends and family in a meaningful way goes well beyond the holiday moment. A heartfelt gesture to your nana in the nursing home is a gift that will reward the gift giver and the recipient. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter are just a couple of ways you can make a difference without spending a cent.

 

SPENDING TIME – NOT MONEY

Lastly, remember that the holidays are a time to rejoice in the friends and family we have with us. You want to enjoy this time of the year not stress over how you’ll manage to pay your credit card bill when it arrives. Keep to your budget, give yourself time, get organized and you’ll be in a great financial position to start off the new year.

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Pensions: To Commute or Not Commute? That Is The Question.

If you’re lucky enough to have a company pension – something few of us can claim to own – then you may already be aware of the options you have when you decide to leave your employer.  Whether you leave your employer at retirement or you terminate your employment for other reasons, if you have been paying into a company pension there are some choices you may be faced with.

Do you take a lump sum payment or a monthly payment?  Firstly, it’s important to keep in mind that every pension has its own set of rules and is subject to provincial or federal regulations, which determine when or if an employee is able to take the lump sum.  Equally important is that taxes are extremely high when commuting a pension of a high value.  While a large portion can be transferred tax free to a Locked In Retirement Account (LIRA) it is still advisable to do your homework before making a decision on whether to commute or not commute the value of your pension.

WEALTHplan has put together a list of 6 things to keep in mind when deciding to commute or not commute your pension:

 

  1. SHORT TERM INTEREST RATES:

Taking the lump sum, or commuted value, looks even more attractive when short-term interest rates and bond yields are low, as they are now. The lower they are, the higher the payout will be. However, a large portion of the lump sum pay out will be taken by taxes in the year of receipt. While a large portion can be transferred tax free to a locked in retirement account it is best to go over the numbers with a certified financial planner specializing in tax who will be able to advise you and tell you exactly what you will be left with.

  1. INVESTING YOUR LEFTOVER PORTION:

Along with your financial planner you can take the left over portion that is taxable and invest it into an RRSP.  The thinking here is that if you’ve taken the lump sum payout you are most likely between the ages of 50 and 55 – when most pensions are available for commuting to employees. If you’re planning on working somewhere else or have other income available to you it makes the most sense to invest the commuted value of your pension into an RRSP until you take full retirement.

  1. LOCKED IN RETIREMENT ACCOUNT:

Despite the downsides of commuting your pension (you need to take it by a certain age & the amount that is taxed) you may feel you’d rather invest your pension on your own or with your financial planner. A Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA) is an option that is appealing because it gives you investment choices and the money is held there until retirement.

  1. OTHER LIFE CHANGING DECISIONS:

Sometimes the decision to take the commuted value of your pension goes beyond tax and investment considerations.  You may decide you want to leave some sort of legacy income for your spouse or kids that is guaranteed.  Or you’ve decided to leave your employment, take your commuted pension and pay down your mortgage. The temptation to become debt-free is enticing and the opportunity of the lump sum payout is an option that some employees want to consider.

  1. AT WHAT AGE CAN YOU COMMUTE YOUR PENSION?

Most often than not, employees with pension plans are not aware of the restrictions associated with their pensions.  The decision to retire early and take the lump sum value by age 50 or 55 is not a decision to be made months before the deadline date.  Employees should be aware of their options years before their early retirement date comes up to be prepared to make a proper decision when the time arrives.

6. DO YOUR RESEARCH AND SPEAK WITH A FINANCIAL PLANNER

Lastly, the temptation to take a large sum of money that is available to you is tempting. Do your research by speaking with your Human Resources Department regarding any restrictions associated with commuting your pension.  Once you have all the facts go over the numbers with your financial planner who will set forth a plan based on your goals and objectives.

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How to Optimize Your Family’s Taxes

Does anyone really enjoy doing their family’s taxes? What if you knew that you were getting the highest possible refund? Would that change your feelings about tax season?

Figuring out your family’s annual income tax is far more complex than in your parents’ day. Today, there’s a much higher likelihood of multiple incomes in the family, and there’s a greater variety of tax credits and documents to sort through.

Your Family is Not a Cookie

Modern families don’t fit into a cookie cutter mould. You might be a single parent with a working teenager, or a blended family with child support payments, or some of the income earners in your household might collect income from multiple sources. In addition to your T4(s) you might have “Other Income” to declare. And what about investments? These days it just isn’t very straightforward.

Often times, completing and filing your taxes can take multiple days out of your life and leave you with a very high level of stress. Trying to make sure that you have every important document and that you aren’t missing a credit, deduction, or rebate can be wearing, to say the least. How can you optimize the experience of doing your family’s taxes, to minimize the headache and maximize your tax return?

Well, there’s some good news. It’s now 2017 and the tax solution for families couldn’t be easier.

Tax Filing for Modern Families

We know that you have a busy family life and need a convenient, stress-free way to have your taxes not just completed, but optimized to get the highest possible refund.

The answer is TAXplan. It’s an online program that combines the convenience of DIY tax software with the reliability of using a tax professional. You can use the very simple and user-friendly web app to get started, and then download the Sidekick mobile app from the Apple or Google Play store to snap your photos and upload your documents. Then a TAXpro–a tax professional–will make sure that every available tax credit is utilized so that you get the absolute highest possible refund.

We’re a family business and family people–and we totally get it. We’re the children of hard-working Italian immigrants, and we know that nothing is more important than family. That’s why we designed TAXplan; to help families across Canada maximize their tax savings, so they have money to spend on the important things in life.

Then & Now

In the past, if you wanted to hire professionals to do your taxes, you needed to bring the documents to them. Between dropping your kids off at ball hockey or dance class, making dinner, and checking homework, this just isn’t convenient. Plus, tax offices that operate with a brick and mortar store have a lot of overhead, and those costs get rolled out to you. This can make hiring a professional very cost-prohibitive.

On the other hand, if you decide to do your taxes yourself or to use DIY software, a lot can go wrong. It just doesn’t work out in the long run. A few years ago, we noticed just how many clients were turning to us after painful reassessments due to mistakes made using DIY tax software. Yikes! On top of that, when you do your taxes yourself, you often end up worrying that you may have made a mistake or that you’ve missed an eligible credit. Who needs more to worry about?

With TAXplan, we’ve combined the convenience of digital filing with the peace of mind that comes with a tax professional. In other words, we’ve optimized the entire experience of doing your taxes.

How It Works

The web app adapts to you; it allows you to build a unique profile for yourself and your family. Once you’ve answered a couple of quick questions, received your quote, and decided to move forward, you’ll receive a detailed tax return checklist that’s specific to your family. All you need to do is follow the checklist and you won’t miss a step.

If your family is a little more complex than the “average” household with 2.5 kids (now that must be crazy!), you’ll be able to create multiple profiles for your family members. That way you can be sure that everyone in your family is accounted for, no matter what their age or marital status.

It’s simple to take digital photos of your important tax documents with the Sidekick app. Snap the images and they’ll be synced with your file. You don’t have to worry about losing track of your documents ever again. They’ll all be stored safely online, protected by some of the best digital security on the net.

Then comes the best part. When it’s time to file your taxes, one of our TAXpros will go through your entire file to make sure you get every single rebate and deduction that’s available to you. It’s simple, easy, very reasonably priced, and you’ll get the most money back possible.

Don’t Miss Out

Don’t miss out on eligible credits and deductions simply because you don’t know where to look for them. Our TAXpros know the ins and outs of Canadian tax laws and regulations. Get the most money back and pay the least amount of taxes possible every time, and spend less time dealing with your taxes and more time with your family. Click here to get started.

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Students: Set Yourself Up for Long Term Success This Tax Season

Are you a student? Or maybe you’re the parent of a budding young student?

If you are, then you know that the life of a student is not easy. Between attending classes and lectures, completing homework, assignments, and big projects, studying, taking exams, and the pressure to succeed, being a student can actually be even more stressful than life in the full-time working world.

Isn’t it time students caught a break?

Well, Canadian students have finally lucked out in at least one area of their lives. Maybe surprisingly, that lucky area is actually tax filing.

Now first, let’s go through a couple of questions. As a student, how well do you understand the tax filing process? Do you feel ready to file your taxes this time of year, or is it something you dread?

When you were a kid, your first exposure to tax season was probably watching and listening to your parents. Boy, can that look like a mess! Does this sound familiar? Huge piles of bills and receipts stacked up on the dinner table, a calculator that looks like it’s about to burst into flames from overuse, your parents’ longing looks at the bottle of wine sitting just out of reach in the kitchen…

Then, as a teenager when it was your turn to start filing your taxes, odds are that your parents might have helped you out with your first few tax returns. More paper stacked on the dinner table, more exploding calculators, and probably some stressful arguing and confusion mixed into the mess.

Changing with the Times

Doesn’t that whole system just seem really out of date?

Well, you’re right. It is completely out of date, and these days it’s also totally unnecessary. As a young person, you can avoid that huge mess and all of the chaos that comes with it.

When you look at the huge level of paperwork that your parents have to deal with, tax season can seem overwhelming to the extreme. That’s why so many adults and entrepreneurs hire someone else to do their taxes for them. It’s always better to get someone to do your taxes who knows all of the ins and outs, the deductions, and credits. But as a student, you couldn’t possibly afford to hire someone to do your taxes for you, right?

Not necessarily! As with most things in this world, there’s an app for exactly that. But this app is quite special because it actually connects you with a tax professional–a TAXpro–who will optimize your tax return for you to make sure that you get the highest possible refund. That way you get convenience of technology and the expertise of a real human professional.

And guess what? As a student, it’s 100% free!

Great News for Students

At TAXplan, we believe that given all of the other stressors that university or college puts on you, the last thing you should worry about is learning an old-fashioned way to do your tax returns. That’s why we are offering to process your student tax returns completely for free.

If you’re in a full-time post-secondary program, you can lift the pressure of taxes off your back for every year you’re enrolled as a student. As long as your total income is $20,000 or less, TAXplan will take care of it for you, free of charge. All you need to do is provide an official T2202A receipt from your school or institution to show your enrollment and you’re all set. (One small disclaimer, though – this free offer doesn’t include tax returns for self-employment, rental, and/or employment expenses.)

Maximize Your Refund

There are so many benefits to having professionals do your taxes. We know what to look for. We know how to leverage all of the tax credits to make sure that you get as much money back as possible. You’ll be able to get every single eligible student-specific credit and deduction. If it’s available, we’ll make sure it’s included. We’ll use our expertise to maximize your tax refund.

You don’t have to worry about claiming your education amount, textbook tax credit, public transit tax credit, or anything else. We’ll take care of all of it for you. There’s a much easier way to collect receipts and keep track of your pay stubs. All you have to do to get started is to click here to access the user-friendly TAXplan web app, and then you can download mobile Sidekick to easily snap photos of your receipts and documents. It couldn’t be easier.

Are You Missing Out on “Free” Money?

There are so many students out there who miss out on eligible credits and deductions, simply because they do their taxes themselves. That means that you don’t just have a lot of added stress from trying to do it yourself, but you could also be losing money. Not a great deal! Our TAXpros will ensure that you get the most money back and pay the least amount of taxes possible every time.

Technology Rocks

So, what else do you need to do? Once you’ve created your account on the web app, you can download the TAXplan Sidekick from either the Apple or Google Play store. The Sidekick makes it easy to record of your essential purchases. Snap photos as you go and they’ll automatically sync with your file throughout the year, ready and waiting for you come tax season.

From public transit tickets to textbooks, it’s better to upload too many receipts than too few. Every document that your school gives you that involves money should be photographed and uploaded. Don’t forget your pay stubs, government tax forms, or any other official documentation that could be useful during tax time. Basically, snap a photo of everything–you never know when it will come in handy. Having this digital record (instead of stacks of receipts piled on the dinner table) is the way of the future.

Spread the Word!

Remember, the most convenient, progressive, and cost-effective (what’s more cost-effective than free?) way to keep track of your financial information and get the most money back is by using the TAXplan app. It’s the only app in Canada that connects you with TAXpros who know the ins and outs of the Canadian tax laws and regulations, and that’s completely free for students. So what are you waiting for? Tell all of your friends and click here to get started now.