Tax credits to look for this year — and what's been nixed

If you're sitting down soon to tackle your taxes — they're due April 30 at midnight — here are some changes this year you'll want to note.

Tackling your taxes? Here are some changes that could mean big bucks either way

Some tax credits are new or changed while others are gone, CRA says. (Bychykhin Olexandr/Shutterstock)

If you're sitting down soon to tackle your taxes — they're due April 30 at midnight — there are some changes this year you'll want to note.

After all, who doesn't want to reclaim every penny possible of their hard-earned income?

"Just the filing experience — Canadians will find it it easier, faster and more secure than ever before," said Desmond Arsenault, a spokesperson for the Canada Revenue Agency at the P.E.I. Tax Centre in Summerside. 

He notes 85 per cent of Canadians filed electronically last year rather submitting an old-fashioned paper tax return.

One big change in the filing experience for 2017 taxes is that CRA will provide an "express" or instant notice of assessment, so you'll know your return or payment owing right away — this process used to take about a week. If CRA owes you money, that will still take seven to 10 days, Arsenault said.

There are changes to credits for caregivers of Islanders with disabilities and for medical expenses for fertility treatment, as well as credits for children enrolled in sports or arts programs, and for textbooks and public transit.

Here's what CRA says are "new and improved" credits.

1. Canada Caregiver Credit

The Canada Caregiver Credit consolidates and replaces three other old credits for in-home caregivers of a relative, family caregivers and for care of infirm dependents.

You don't have to live with the person you are caring for to claim the new caregiver credit. (Shutterstock)

The new credit eliminates a caregiver amount of up to $4,667 for in-home care of your parent or grandparent who is not infirm.

But it does mean you may be able to claim $95 more than last year for infirm dependents ($6,883, up from $6,788). 

Another big change: you don't have to live with the person you are caring for to claim the credit. The CRA says a dependent is someone who relies on you "to regularly and consistently provide them with some or all of the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter and clothing."

2. Disability tax credit

The CRA says the improvement on this credit is that nurse practitioners, not just doctors, can now certify the application form.

"This will certainly speed up the process to allow individuals have have a physical or mental impairment to apply," Arsenault said. 

3. Medical expense credit

If you need medical intervention to conceive, you might be able to claim some medical expenses even if you do not have a medical condition.

Have you spent money the last 10 years on conceiving a child? You may be able to claim back some of that money on your income taxes. (Pixabay)

The government estimates that one in eight Canadian couples experience infertility, and more people are looking to medicine for help, the cost of which can be "substantial," notes Arsenault. 

A single cycle of in vitro fertilization, for example, can cost between $10,000 and $15,000. 

On your 2017 taxes, you can claim the lesser of three per cent of your net income or $2,268, whichever is less — but you have to have spent more than that amount on medical expenses to qualify. 

The change opens the tax credit to those who aren't infertile, such as single women who want to have a child or a same-sex couple who want to start a family. You can also claim these expenses retroactively for 10 years. 

Check this list to see if you might qualify for some of the many medical expense deductions.  

There are also some credits you may have enjoyed in the past that are gone — here's what's missing in 2017.

1. Arts and sports credits

Tax credits have been eliminated this year for children involved in sports or activities like hockey or dance ($1,000 credit), or arts programs like piano or art classes ($500 credit). That could add up, especially if your children were involved in both kinds of activities. 

There's no more tax credit for children's fitness — the government said not enough low-income families were claiming it. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

But the government said the credits weren't effective ways to get kids more active in sports and arts — many low-income families simply didn't claim them. They may just have rewarded families that were going to do those activities anyway.  

Axing these credit saves the federal government about $75 million

The government said instead, it has enhanced the income-tested Canada Child Benefit

2. Public transit tax credit

The public transit credit first introduced by the Conservatives in 2006 was scrapped in the last federal budget. 

You can no longer claim a credit for your bus pass. (Pat Martel/CBC)

It allowed riders to claim up to 15 per cent of what they spent on transit passes. 

But the government said the credit was ineffective in encouraging Canadians to use public transit. 

You can, however, claim public transit taken from January to June of 2017. 

3. Education and textbook credits

The government cancelled these two post-secondary credits but is still allowing families to claim money spent on tuition. It said the credits are not targeted based on income, for which it is aiming.

'Canadians will find it it easier, faster and more secure than ever before,' says CRA's Desmond Arsenault of filing taxes this year. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The education amount was $400 per month of school for a full-time student and $120 per month of school for part-timers. The textbook amount was $65 per month enrolled full-time and $20 per month for part-timers. After multiplying that amount by the lowest personal income tax rate of 15 per cent, students could save a maximum of $558. 

Axing the education credit saved the Liberal government an estimated $770 million and the textbook credit $125 million. It said to compensate, it would boost student grants and loans

If you need help with your taxes and are low-income, you can get help at free public clinics throughout P.E.I. Last year, volunteers helped prepare 18,000 tax returns for Islanders.

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About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca