News
Eight revenue agency workers fired for roles in privacy breaches: CRA
May 22, 2017

The Canada Revenue Agency says eight of its employees were fired in the last fiscal year after violating taxpayers’ privacy.

Previously, the agency has not always confirmed if an employee was fired or shuffled out of the CRA for being part of a privacy breach, often citing the employee’s privacy.

A spokesman for the agency says the employees in each case were found to have had unauthorized access to taxpayer information, including one incident that the CRA calls the largest such breach in the agency’s history.

In that case, one employee improperly accessed the accounts of 1,264 taxpayers.

All of the firings took place between April 2016 and March 2017, the federal government’s fiscal year.

All of the incidents were also reported to the federal privacy commissioner as required on federal government policy because they involve sensitive personal information that could be used to cause “serious injury or harm” to the individual, or involved a large number of affected individuals.

“The CRA takes the protection of Canadians’ tax information very seriously. The confidence and trust that individuals and businesses have in the CRA is a cornerstone of Canada’s tax system,” agency spokesman Patrick Samson said in an e-mail.

The agency has looked to crack down on internal privacy breaches years after Canada’s privacy watchdog released a critical audit of how the CRA controlled access to personal information.

The privacy watchdog made 13 recommendations in 2013 in areas including monitoring of employee access rights, threat and risk assessments for information-technology systems and ensuring the privacy impacts of new programs are evaluated.

Still, privacy violations have dogged the CRA.

In February, the CRA reported that it had lost a DVD containing information on about 28,000 Yukon taxpayers. The information from the 2014 tax year, hasn’t been recovered, Samson said.

The DVD was encrypted and the data stored in a way that it would be difficult to read even if the encryption were broken.

Samson said there is no evidence that the personal information on the DVD has been compromised.

As printed in The Globe And Mail 22/05/17

Tax time, 2016: A look at seven changes this year
November 10, 2016

Tax season is upon us, and there are a number of changes to keep in mind for your return this year.

Family Tax Cut

The Family Tax Cut allows parents or common-law partners with children under 18 years old to split their income to shrink their tax burden. The higher-earning partner can transfer up to $50,000 of income to the lower-earning partner, for a tax credit of up to $2,000.

Caroline Battista, senior tax analyst with H&R Block, says income splitting is most beneficial for spouses or common-law partners who have a big difference between their incomes. But she recommends that all families take a look at the credit.

“I’ve seen people who might not get the full $2,000. But I had many clients last year that got $300 or $400, and who wouldn’t want that?” Battista told CTVNews.ca

Enhanced Universal Child Care Benefit

The Enhanced Universal Child Care Benefit, which was introduced in 2015, is also on its way out, with the Liberal government promising to introduce a new, tax-free Canada child tax benefit later this year. However, families will have to account for the UCCB when they file their tax returns this year.

The UCCB saw families receive $160 per month for each child under six years old, and $60 per month for each child aged six through 17.  

Battista points out that families will have to pay tax on the UCCB, which replaced the Child Tax Credit that was worth an average of $337 per child.

“So people are seeing smaller refunds,” she said.

New tax brackets

The Liberal government campaigned on a tax cut for the middle class and a tax hike for the top one per cent of income earners.

Beginning this year, the federal marginal tax rate on those earning between $45,283 to $90,563 will drop from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent. Those earning more than $200,000 will see their tax rate increase from 29 per cent to 33 per cent.

Paul Woolford, tax partner at KPMG, says it’s important for higher-income earners to keep these changes in mind when filing their 2015 taxes.

“For those higher income earners, there’s some thought of not deducting your RRSPs in 2015 and applying it in 2016,” he said.

Woolford said the same goes for other discretionary deductions, such as certain medical expenses.

“You’re forgoing a benefit in 2015, but in theory you should get a bigger bang for your buck in 2016, when you’re taxed at potentially a higher level,” he said.

Child-care expenses

The amount parents can claim for child-care expenses has increased by $1,000 annually, per child, to $8,000 for a child under six and $5,000 for a child aged between seven and 16 years old.

Child fitness tax credit

The child fitness tax credit has changed from a non-refundable to a refundable credit, meaning that families who claim the program cost or registration fee for a physical activity can now receive up to $150 per child.

Battista said, since non-refundable credits go towards taxes you owe, lower income families often don’t submit the expenses.

“The good things about changes to the fitness tax credit to a refundable tax credit, it means that lower income families will still get the same benefit,” she said.

Canada Apprentice Loan

Students in a designated Red Seal trade program can now claim interest on their government student loans.

Tax-Free Saving Accounts

The Liberal government is reducing the contribution limit for Tax-Free Saving Accounts to $5,500 after the former Conservative government raised the limit to $10,000 in 2015.

But Woolford said it’s important to keep in mind that there’s no loss of the $10,000, as the room  in your TFSA accumulates, and you can use it in later years.

“There’s no benefit of a tax deduction, but you can invest without paying tax,” he said. “The takeaway is: don’t lose sight of that, that’s an important vehicle to shelter investment income from tax.”

Christina Commisso, CTVNews.ca Writer