It’s 2017, and families are more diverse than ever. The image of what a makes a“normal” family no longer looks like the traditional “husband-wife-son-and-daughter” unit. The Canadian family of today is made up of all kinds of colourful and wonderful shapes and sizes. Whether we’re blended, extended, or run by a single parent, let’s learn to navigate our unique situations to not only make tax filing headache-free, but also give us the best tax refund possible.
Blended Families and Stepparents
If you’re married to, or if you live as a common-law spouse with, a person who already has children of their own, you may be eligible to claim childcare expenses related to those children. For example, one parent or stepparent can claim childcare expenses so long as the child is younger than 16 years old, dependent on you or your spouse, and does not have an income exceeding $11,474. Typically claimed by the spouse who earns less, taxpayers can claim up to $8,000 per child under the age of 7, and $5,000 per child between the ages of 7 and 16.
If your children are living with disabilities, that amount increases to $11,000 across the board. This means if you are the lesser-earning spouse, and you and your partner have 4 children under the age of 7 between you, you can claim up to $32,000 in childcare expenses – even as a stepparent.
Adoptive parents can claim up to $15,453 per child in adoption expenses. If you choose to adopt your spouse’s children, these expenses will likely include court costs and legal and administrative fees related to the adoption. Other claimable expenses include necessary travel costs, the child’s immigration fees, and any other reasonable expenses related to the adoption as required by provincial/territorial government.
Aging and/or Disabled Family Members and Children
As baby boomers make their way into their sixties and seventies, they often find themselves tending to multiple generations. Caught between aging parents and teenage children, they often take on the role of primary caregiver. Some family members are considered caregivers, and may be eligible for the caregiver amount. This applies to you if you are caring for a family member with prolonged impairment, either physically or mentally, or a parent who is 65 years old or above. To claim this credit as part of your tax return, you will likely need a statement from a medical provider. You can also claim the family caregiver amount, which may allow you to claim an additional $2,121 on the spouse/common-law credit, eligible dependent credit, and caregiver amount.
Raising a child on a single income can be tough, but single parents may be entitled to more 2016 tax credits than they think. As mentioned above, the Eligible Dependent credit is something single parents can claim. Each child under 18 can be claimed for up to $11,474, though the child’s own income will be taken into consideration. Parents who enrolled their children in extracurricular activities in 2016 should also keep their eye out for the Children’s Fitness and Arts Tax Credits. While these credits are being eliminated in 2017, parents can still claim between $250 and $500 per child for 2016. Parents must also be diligent about tax filing every year. By doing so, you automatically apply for the Canada Child Benefit, a tax-free monthly payment eligible for families with children under 18.
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