Senior Scene February 27, 2017

Canadian senior citizens are eligible to receive a wide range of tax benefits, including a few not available to younger taxpayers. Combined with other tax credits, such as the basic personal amount, that all Canadian taxpayers are eligible to receive, these credits mean senior citizens can save more on their taxes.

Age Amount: You are allowed to claim a credit if you were 65 or older at the end of the tax year. Your net income on your tax return must also be less than $82,353. The age amount you can claim depends on your income.

Pension Income Amount: You may claim up to $2,000 in credit for the pension income amount if you have eligible pension income. Eligible income may include pension or annuity income you received as payments for a pension or superannuation plan or from payments you receive from a RRSP.

If you are married or have a common-law partner, you may shift pension income from one partner to another so the family pays lower tax. At this time you can transfer up to 50 percent of your eligible pension income to your spouse or partner. You may also be able to claim the spousal amount if you supported your partner and he/she has a lower income.

The CRA allows people to claim a wide range of medical expenses not exceeding 3 percent of their income. You may include your prescription medication costs and the amounts you pay to your doctors, for instance. You can also include more obscure medical expenses, such as air conditioning, bathroom aids and book page-turning devices. When you list your medical expenses, you must be able to account for each cost with documentation, so keep all your receipts.

Travel expenses are permitted for medical trips exceeding 40 km each way and food and meal costs can be included if the trip exceeds 80 km each way. There are two methods of acceptable calculation for travel and meal expenses so you might want to determine if the simplistic or detailed version best suits your needs.

Those who have the misfortune of a serious medical impairment may receive a disability tax credit. The tax credit, which requires a doctor to certify disability, is substantial, coming in at $7,899.

Home Accessibility Tax Credit (HATC): If you are 65 or older and you made changes to your home to improve your quality of life, you may be eligible to receive the HATC. This is a non- refundable credit tax credit which allows you to claim up to $10,000 in home improvement expenses. Of the expenses you claim, 15 percent of them come back to you as a credit.  According to the CRA, among the expenses you can claim are: wheelchair ramps; walk-in bathtubs or wheel-in showers; widening of doors; non-slip bathroom flooring; ergonomic, easy-to-use, door locks; hands-free water taps; and motion-sensored lights. Relatives who support or house a related senior may also be eligible for this credit.

If you need assistance with the preparation of your tax return, Pensioners Concerned is a group of trained volunteers who are happy to help folks with an income of $25000 or less for a single person, or $35000 or less for a couple. They are located in the Bay View Mall and are currently open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. No appointment is necessary. Call 613-962-6657 for more information.