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Although the filing deadline for individual income tax returns for the 2019 tax year has been extended to June 1, 2020, millions of Canadians have nonetheless already filed those returns. Specifically, by May 19, 2020, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had processed just over 20 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2019 tax year. Just over 13 million of those returns resulted in a refund to the taxpayer, while just over 3 million resulted in a tax balance owed by the taxpayer.


Although we’re not even halfway through the calendar, 2020 has already been a year of significant financial upheaval and stress for millions of Canadians. The number of employed Canadians fell by one million during the month of March 2020 — and then by another two million during the month of April.


Since mid-March, the federal and provincial governments have announced the creation of numerous programs to help both individuals and Canadian businesses with the financial fallout of the current pandemic. Of those programs, none has had a more direct impact on the lives of Canadians than the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB. As of mid-May, more than 8 million Canadians have applied for the benefit, and more than $40 billion has been paid out under the CERB program.


Working from home isn’t really a new phenomenon — employees have been doing so for more than 25 years, ever since changes in technology made such remote work arrangements feasible. Over the past two months or so, however, millions of Canadian employees have had to adapt to working from home for the first time. And it seems that an increasing number of companies are deciding that such arrangements can and should be maintained for the longer term, even after they are no longer required for reasons of public health.


The Old Age Security program is the only aspect of Canada’s retirement income system which does not require a direct contribution from recipients of program benefits. Rather, the OAS program is funded through general tax revenues, and eligibility to receive OAS is based solely on Canadian residency. Anyone who is 65 years of age or older and has lived in Canada for at least 40 years after the age of 18 is eligible to receive the maximum benefit. For the second quarter of 2020 (April to June 2020), that maximum monthly benefit is $613.53.


By the time most Canadians sit down to organize their various tax slips and receipts and undertake to complete their tax return for 2019, the most significant opportunities to minimize the tax bill for the year are no longer available. Most such tax planning or saving strategies, in order to be effective for 2019, must have been implemented by the end of that calendar year. The major exception to that is, of course, the making of registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions, but even that had to be done on or before March 2, 2020 in order to be deducted on the return for 2019.


The past few months have been an almost perfect storm of bad financial news for Canadian retirees. The historic stock market downturn which occurred in mid-March resulted in a significant loss of value for many retirement savings portfolios, whether those savings were held in registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) or registered retirement income funds (RRIFs). That downturn was accompanied by three consecutive interest rate cuts by the Bank of Canada, meaning that rates of return on such safe investment vehicles as guaranteed investment certificates, which were already low, became negligible.


There have been so many announcements over the past couple of months with respect to temporary changes to individual and business tax obligations that keeping up with all of the new rules and altered deadlines isn’t easy. The good news is that, in all cases, individual taxpayers (both employees and the self-employed) are being provided with extended time to pay any income tax amounts for both 2019 and 2020. And, in most cases, taxpayers also have more time to file returns for the 2019 tax year.


Two quarterly newsletters have been added—one dealing with personal issues, and one dealing with corporate issues.