The taxman cometh

By Geoff Lee

January 17, 2017 12:00 AM

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS Aileen Decker, a tax professional at H&R Block, is currently training to learn about new tax changes to be ready for the tax filing rush that begins in February. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO

Tax filing companies are bracing themselves for another busy season with some employees already in receipt of their T4 slips.
Aileen Decker, a manager and tax preparer at H&R Block in Lloydminster, said employers have until the end of February to issue T4s, but calls for early filing are already coming in.
“Some people are asking because they have already got T4s if we can do them,” she said, noting the answer is yes, but they can’t file them right away.
Decker said they can’t actually file 2016 taxes until Feb. 20 when EFile goes live at Revenue Canada.
“We tell them they can definitely bring their stuff in and do it up, but it will sit until Revenue Canada is accepting EFiles,” she said.
Decker is hoping the branch will be swamped with personal, small business and farm tax returns with tax season being a major revenue generator for the company.
They also offer year round bookkeeping in addition to preparing tax returns.
“April is usually our busiest month,” said Decker, noting this year’s tax filing deadline is extended to Monday, May 1 as the usual date of April 30 falls on a Sunday.         
Liberty Tax Service, a franchise business, is also bracing for the seasonal wave of personal tax filing that typically starts for them in mid February.
“Typically we are pretty busy,” said Shawn Dowds, the franchisee. “We’re busy doing business and corporate stuff, but as far as personal tax goes, generally speaking people don’t get their T4s until the end of February.”
In the meantime, he said people should be taking a look at their 2016 income and deciding whether or not they need an RRSP top-up or an RRSP to get those deductions,” said Dowds.
H&R Block is also getting a few calls from people asking for assessments about how much they should contribute to an RRSP.
Decker reminds clients that RSPs purchased in the first 60 days of 2017 have to be included on 2016 tax returns.
“The first 60 days always goes on the previous year’s return,” said Decker.
She advises people who do contribute to an RRSP by March 1, to wait until they have those receipt slips in hand before completing their taxes.
Dowds says he’s starting to get to get a few calls this month about the disability tax credit that he says taxpayers need to be aware of.
The tax credit is for individuals suffering from a severe and prolonged mental or physical impairment.
Dowds said last week, for example, he got a call from a lady who has both her parents living in her home, both are disabled and was wondering if she could get a credit for it.
According to Revenue Canada, to qualify for this non-refundable tax credit, form T2201 must be completed, certified and submitted.
“Another common enquiry would be divorce or separation and the child tax—it varies,” said Dowds.
The economic downturn and job losses have prompted a lot of enquiries at H&R Block about moving expenses by people moving in or moving out to new locations.
“In the summer of 2016 it kind of started—people moving to get another job,” said Decker.
Liberty Tax and H&R Block both train and hire additional tax season staff from February to the end of April to crunch numbers.
Dowds said he usually places an ad through and is looking for those who have at least taken an introduction to income tax course.
“In the past, we’ve had employees take knowledge bureau courses—it’s an online delivery through Evelyn Jacks Knowledge Bureau,” said Dowds.
“The ones (hires) for taxes are seasonal, but we tend to have staff year round.”
Decker said H&R Block has fielded a few job enquiries, but there may not be many openings this year.
“The last few years we’ve had the same staff come back every year so we are pretty lucky that way,” she said.
Staff at H&R Block and Liberty Tax also plan to bone up on some of the new taxation changes.
“There’s been a few; I haven’t gone and taken the course yet—that will be in the next week or two,” said Dowds on Jan. 12.
“Typically when you have the same government (feds) from one year to the next, for the most part things tend to stay status quo.”
Most notably for families, the federal government is ending all child credits.
It’s also cancelling income splitting for families with children under 18 years of age The tax credit for income splitting was capped at $2,000.
Check with your personal tax filer for the full impact of all tax changes on your 2016 return.

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