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Searching for a specific tax credit? It may no longer exist

The notable changes you need to know before filing your income tax return this month

Like every tax year, there are changes that both the federal and provincial governments implement that make people really happy, such as increasing the basic personal amount, and other times upset taxpayers by cutting or making it more difficult to access handy tax credits that could boost their tax refund.

This year is no different on the federal side as Ottawa has made a number of changes you will want to know about before getting a start on your taxes later this month.

I know some keeners probably filed the moment their T4 dropped in their mail slot or popped into their inbox, but I am – sadly – not one of them.

There are six key changes you’ll want to read about here especially if you are caring for an elderly or infirm relative or have kids enrolled at a post-secondary institution.

The main one is the switch to the Canada caregiver amount, which replaces the family caregiver amount, the amount for infirm dependents 18 years or older (line 306) and the caregiver amount (line 315). 

I spoke about this in a previous column, but with the help of UFile lead tax specialist Gerry Vittoratos in Montreal, I’ve looked at it with him in a bit more detail. 

According to Vittoratos, the new Canada caregiver amount may entitle you to claim an amount of $2,150 in the calculation of certain credits such as eligible dependent and the spousal amount. Depending on the income of the infirm dependent, you could claim an amount up to a maximum of $6,883.

“In previous years – for example – for a spouse, child or what they call an eligible dependent, you would not be able to claim these individuals as dependents the moment you cross a certain income threshold, which was usually around $13,000 a year,” Vittoratos said.

“Now what the government has done is basically expanded a little bit of the definition of what they call a caregiver. Even though these dependents may, let’s say, have an income up to $23,000, you could still claim certain credits for them (through) the caregiver amount, while in previous years you weren’t able to do so.”

It should be noted the previous caregiver credit for people who support a parent or grandparent, who is 65 years of age or older, living with them, and who does not have a physical or mental impairment, is no longer available.

There have also been a few outright eliminations from this year’s income tax return.

The federal education and textbook amounts, which gave additional credits to students attending a post-secondary institution based on the number of months they were enrolled either in full-time or part-time study, have been cut. In past years, the cost for books had been added to the tuition amount.

“The parents were able to claim those transfers from their child. If the child didn’t need the credits, they could transfer them over to their parent, and unfortunately these two are gone – no longer transferable and the students themselves can’t claim the credits on their own returns,” said Vittoratos.

Although the eligibility criteria for the tuition amount has been improved with conditions to include fees paid for occupational skills courses that are not at the post-secondary level.

Here are other credits cut from the 2017 income tax return:

• Federal children’s fitness and arts amounts: these credits allowed a parent to claim fees paid for signing up their children (under 15) to fitness and arts programs.

• Federal public transit amount: bus passes bought up to June 30, 2017, can still be claimed but any fares paid from July onward are not eligible as it’s being phased out.

On the upside, two new credits have been added.

For medical expenses, anyone who needs medical intervention to conceive a child is eligible to claim the same expenses as individuals with medical infertility.

And the disability tax credit certification, as of March 22, 2017, included nurse practitioners as one of the professions able to certify eligibility for this tax credit.

Remember, the deadline to file your personal income tax either online or by mail is Monday, April 30.

Chris Shannon is the business reporter at the Cape Breton Post in Sydney, N.S. 

He can be reached via email at or on Twitter @cbpost_chris.

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