2015 Federal Budget Overview

Articles 2015 Federal Budget Overview

This year, the government reported balanced books and wants that to continue. So it’s 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 people over age 18 who have not contributed since the TFSA’s creation in 2009 now have $41,000 in contribution room.

For some people, especially those in lower tax brackets, this change means TFSAs can become more advantageous than RRSPs. Many individuals nearing retirement will also benefit from the limit increase, because they can move RRIF minimum withdrawal amounts into a TFSA.

Or, if you’ve already contributed the old $36,500 maximum, you could now move some non-registered investments into TFSAs, to top up your 2015 contribution. In cases where large capital gains might apply, this might not be a strategy worth pursuing. You should speak to your advisor or accountant to see if this strategy is a good idea for you.

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 business income.

Small business owners also will get a tax break if they sell their companies and donate the proceeds of the private company shares to charity within 30 days. 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.

We hope you find these highlights useful. If you’d like to discuss these and other Federal budget initiatives and how they affect your financial plan, please don’t hesitate to contact us.