I MEDICAL ECONOMICS I
What should you consider in your last-minute tax planning? JACK BERNSTEIN
Dec. 31, 1979 is around the corner. Doctors should be considering ways to reduce their income tax liability. Mortgage tax credit: Minister of Finance John Crosbie recently announced that taxpayers will be entitled to a credit for mortgage interest and property taxes when computing their income tax liability for the 1979 taxation year. The maximum credit that may be claimed (applied to reduce federal taxes) in 1979 is $312.50 for mortgage interest and $62.50 for property taxes. The maximum mortgage interest credit will only be available to taxpayers paying a minimum of $5000 of mortgage interest in 1979. Where one spouse owns a city house and the other a cottage, only one home will qualify. When a home is jointly owned either spouse may claim the credit in respect of interest paid by either or both spouses. The property tax credit is a fixed amount, independent of property taxes actually paid. The mortgage interest credit may be claimed for existing and new loans provided that these were made to purchase a home or to make major improvements to a home (improvements costing at least $5000). Investment income deduction: The Income Tax Act permits a deduction of $1000 of investment income. Investment income comprises eligible interest income, taxable capital gains (one half of capital gains) and grossed up dividends (150% of dividends received from Canadian companies). If a taxpayer has less than $1000 of investment income and intends to realize a capital gain in 1980, it may be worth-
while to dispose of the appreciated capital property in 1979 (to realize a $1000 taxable capital gain) and thus take full advantage of the deduction. Doctors with families should structure their affairs so that family members may take advantage of this deduction. Allowable capital losses (one half of capital losses) are first applied to reduce taxable capital gains in the year. Up to $2000 of the excess may be applied to reduce professional and other income for the year. Any balance remaining would be applied in the prescribed manner to reduce taxes payable in 1978 and in future years. If it is thought that the investment will recover in 1980, it is possible to transfer the investment in 1979 to a child in order to crystallize the loss and allow any future gain to accrue to a family member. Tax shelters: Investments in multiple unit residential buildings (MURBs), films and resource properties create losses that may be applied to shelter professional and other income. The taxes saved may in fact only be deferred since a tax liability may arise on a disposition of the investment. However, if the income taxes currently saved can be deferred long enough and/or the related income from the invested savings taxed at a lower tax rate, the deferral may result in a permanent saving. Income averaging annuity contracts: Persons who would otherwise be taxable in 1979 on: taxable capital gains; recaptured depreciation; amounts taxable on the sale of goodwill; payments from a registered home ownership savings
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plan; a refund of premium from a registered retirement savings plan upon the death of an annuitant or on other specified items may defer the taxes otherwise payable by purchasing an income averaging annuity contract (IAAC). The investor will be entitled to deduct the purchase price of the IAAC, and the taxes otherwise payable on the income noted above are effectively spread over the term of the annuity contract. An IAAC may provide for a life annuity, with or without a guaranteed term, or a term annuity. The annuity payments are taxable when received.. Interest on funds borrowed to purchase an IAAC is deductible. Whether or not an IAAC should be purchased and which type of IAAC is best suited to a person's needs will depend upon a number of personal and economic factors. Management companies: The optimum mix of dividends and salaries payable to persons who are both shareholders and employees of a management company should be determined. Upon the previously proposed amendments being enacted, doctors should contact their professional advisers and determine the effect on their management companies. It may be advantageous for a management company to form a deferred profit sharing plan for its key employees. The company may make deductible contributions to the plan equal to the lesser of 20% of each employee's salary or $3500 (provided there is no registered pension plan). The contribution must be made during or within 120 days of the company's year end.
The contribution will accumulate tax-free in the plan and will only be taxable to the employee when the proceeds of the plan are paid. The employee may also contribute up to $5500 annually to the plan. The contributions are not deductible but may accumulate tax-free in the plan. Pension income deduction: A deduction is available for the first $1000 of qualified pension income. Such income includes RRSP annuity payments to a person who is 65 years of age or older, or to a person as a result of the death of a spouse. Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan payments do not qualify. It is possible for a taxpayer to transfer pension income tax free (including Old Age Security) to an RRSP. However, taxpayers should ensure that the first $1000 of pension income is retained in order to take advantage of this deduction. Registered retirement savings plans: RRSPs are intended to assist taxpayers to accumulate funds for retirement. Prescribed contributions to an RRSP are deductible and funds accumulate in the plan free of tax. Tax is deferred until amounts are withdrawn from the RRSP. All amounts withdrawn (both capital and accumulated income) from an RRSP are taxable. A taxpayer may contribute funds to his or her own RRSP and to an RRSP formed for a spouse (a spousal RRSP), provided that the total contributions to these plans do not exceed the prescribed contribution limit to the taxpayer's plan. The contribution limit depends on the earned income of the taxpayer and whether contributions are made by an employer, on behalf of the taxpayer, to a registered pension plan. Earned income includes professional income, salaries, pensions and rental income from real property once any losses have been deducted. A taxpayer with an RRSP may contribute annually the lesser of $3500 (minus any contribution to a registered pension plan) or 20% of earned income (minus registered pension plan contributions) to either the personal RRSP, a spousal RRSP or a combination of the two. Otherwise, the contribution limit is the lesser of $5500 or 20% of earned income. The con-
tribution for 1979 may be made within 60 days of end of the year. In addition to the contribution limit, certain special receipts (e.g., pension income) may be transferred tax free to an RRSP. A taxpayer with a self-administered RRSP, may also, subject to the contribution limit, transfer qualified investments to an RRSP. Doctors who teach part-time should make sure that they are not inadvertently made members of a hospital or university pension plan. A nominal contribution by the employer on behalf of the doctor could cost him a $2000 reduction in his or her contribution limit to an RRSP. Married taxpayers may contnbute a portion of their contribution limit to a spousal RRSP. Provided that a spouse does not withdraw funds from the spousal RRSP within the 3 tax years following the year in which the last of these contributions was made, the spouse, rather than the contributor, would be taxable on amounts withdrawn. Amounts withdrawn by a spouse within the 3-year period are taxable to the contributor rather than to the spouse. In effect, a spousal RRSP is a mechanism for income splitting, and savings will be realized where RRSP funds are received by and taxed in the hands of a spouse in a lower marginal tax bracket than the contributor. The amount that a spouse may contribute to his or her RRSP will not be affected by contributions made to a spousal RRSP on his or her behalf. Interest on funds borrowed to contribute to a nonspousal RRSP is deductible. Upon maturity, a taxpayer may elect to receive the balance in the plan (and pay the tax in the year of receipt), to receive a life annuity with or without a guaranteed term, to receive a term annuity, or to form a registered retirement income fund. Registered home ownership savings plans: A person who is 18 years of age or over may make annual deductible contributions of $1000 to an RHOSP provided that neither the contributor nor the spouse owned a home in that year or in the immediately preceding year. A taxpayer may only have one RHOSP in a lifetime. The an-
nual contribution limit does not depend on earned income, and there is a lifetime contribution limit of $10000. A doctor and spouse, if they qualify, should invest in RHOSPs. Contributions must be made no later than Dec. 31, 1979 to be deductible in 1979. Amounts contributed to an RHOSP may accumulate and earn income free of tax for a maximum of 20 years. Amounts received on termination of an RHOSP are free of tax provided the funds are applied in the year of receipt or within 60 days from the end of that year toward the purchase of a home in Canada. Contrary to RRSPs, an RHOSP provides a complete tax saving rather than a deferral. If the proceeds of an RHOSP are not used to buy a home the tax may be deferred by transferring the proceeds to an IAAC, or the proceeds may be included in income in the year of receipt (and tax paid thereon). In the latter case a deduction may be claimed where a home is purchased within 3 years. Interest on funds borrowed to purchase an RHOSP is not deductible for income tax purposes. Charitable donations: Taxpayers may deduct an amount not in excess of 20% of their income for gifts made to registered charities, registered Canadian amateur athletic associations and other prescribed entities. The excess may be deducted in the following year, subject to the 20% limit. Donations to federal or provincial government institutions are fully deductible against the income of the taxpayer for the year. Donations may consist of cash or other property. Where tangible property is gifted, the donor may elect a value for the donation between the tax cost and current value. The potential capital gains or losses arising on the donation must be considered in electing a value. In addition to the foregoing, it is possible to make gifts of works of art to designated institutions, pursuant to the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. Such gifts are fully deductible against income for the year and will not trigger capital gains. Charitable donations should be claimed by the family member having the greatest taxable income.
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Political donations: A federal tax credit may be claimed in respect of political contributions to a registered political party or to candidates in federal elections. The maximum available credit of $500 is obtained when contributions totalling $1150 are made. Official receipts supporting the claim must be filed with your return. 1971 accounts receivable reserve: Doctors claiming a reserve in respect of their 1971 accounts receivable should ensure that the investment interest in their practices is not less than the amount of the reserve claimed for the preceding tax year. Otherwise, a portion of the 1971 receivables will be included in income in the current year. Moving expenses: Doctors who move in order to commence practice or employment within Canada or to attend a university full time may deduct moving expenses. Moving expenses include: travelling cost (including meals and lodging) in the course of moving to a new househQld; the cost of transporting or storing household effects; the cost of meals and lodging near either the old or the new location for a maximum of 15 days; the cost of cancelling the lease, if any, of the old residence; the selling costs of the old residence and legal costs (where the old residence is sold) of the new residence. A student may only apply moving expenses against the taxable portion of scholarships and re-
search grants. Thus it is generally advisable for a spouse who works to claim the deduction. Other doctors may apply moving expenses against professional or employment income earned in the year at the new location. Any excess may be deducted in the following year. Personal exemptions: Where a deduction for a spouse, child or other dependant would not be available because of the income of the dependant, it may be possible to regenerate the deduction. For example, dependants may use their own funds or funds borrowed from the taxpayer to purchase an RHOSP (only available to dependants aged 18 or over) or an RRSP. A taxpayer may also elect to be taxed on dividends received by a spouse, thus reducing the spouse's income for the purpose of the married exemption. Acquisition of property: Where a doctor is considering the acquisition
of a practice or additional depreciable assets for a practice, thought should be given to making the acquisition prior to the taxpayer's year end (rather than immediately following it) in order to take full advantage of available deductions. The benefit of the foregoing would be diminished where a taxpayer is in the first year of practice or otherwise has a short fiscal year. Purchase of replacement properties: It may be possible to defer taxes otherwise payable on capital gains or recaptured depreciation arising on the destruction, theft or expropriation of capital property by acquiring a similar property within the prescribed time and making an election, for tax purposes. Departure tax: Individuals considering moving out of Canada should be aware that the tax implications inherent in emigration are many and complex and that proper planning prior to departure is essential. Gifts: Although Quebec is now the only province that levies gift tax and succession duties, taxpayers residing in all provinces should be aware of the federal income tax arising on a transfer of property to a spouse or minor child. The income earned on the gifted property will be taxable to the donor (the doctor), rather than to the donee. In addition, a gift to a family member will constitute a deemed disposition at fair market value with the result that a capital gain may be triggered to the donor.E
CFPC MEETING continued from page 1289 and original study, Dr. Smith said: "The research and the books will come; but the worst thing we could do is get stampeded into producing a mass of Mickey Mouse research". At Saskatoon, Smith's 18 residents meet once a month to discuss GP-oriented journal articles; but he acknowledged that for practising family doctors to keep up with their reading isn't easy when they're seeing 25 to 30 patients a day. The only solution, he said, is to get into the habit of doing it now, whenever there are a few spare minutes.
In Saskatchewan there are some 600 family physicians, about one third of whom belong to the college. Are they, and their colleagues elsewhere, in any real danger of having to rattle tin cups on streetcorners across the nation? Exaggerations? One well-known Saskatoon physician, a specialist, thinks GPs exaggerate their plight. "I've never seen them discriminated against," says he. "Everyone's having a hard time. Family physicians should be attacking government, not specialists." This MD also believes it would be pointless to hire professional
negotiators. "It's been tried - but without success. You need to intimidate the other side; but at present there's no clout." Possible solutions? Form unions; or look to increased involvement of patients in payment for medical services; decide whether we have state medicine or medical care insurance... whether MDs are entrepreneurs or employees. In any event he doesn't see the College of Family Physicians of Canada having any place in the ledgers of the nation's GPs, who, he says, if they feel they lack strong representation on economic issues, should consider forming a separate organization to do that. U
Many of the tax planning techniques presented are general and should not be implemented without obtaining confirmation from a professional adviser. The scope of this article is too broad to permit a comprehensive analysis to be made of all possible techniques. The comments have been restricted to federal income tax and, as a result of publishing deadlines, do not consider any changes contemplated by the Conservative Government.
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