When and Why You Should Conduct an Insurance Audit

As our lives grow and change with variable circumstances, new additions, and job transitions, our needs for insurance will also evolve. Additionally, economic fluctuations and external circumstances that influence your insurance policy will need frequent re-evaluation to ensure that you are making the most appropriate and financially favorable decisions. Perhaps you aren’t sure whether you should conduct an insurance audit or not. The following scenarios are usually a good indication that you should thoroughly assess and review your current policy contract: 

  • Bringing new life into your family? A new baby may not only prompt you to adjust your beneficiary information, but it is likely to change or influence your coverage needs.
  • Changing jobs? Probationary periods may not provide the same level of disability or accident insurance.
  • Is your policy nearing the end of its term? Be sure to compare prices for new policies as they can sometimes be more affordable as compared to renewing the current plan.
  • Has your marital status changed? Your insurance policy will likely need updating to reflect such.

The specific type of insurance policy you carry as well as personal details certainly influence coverage and premium prices, so if any of the following factors apply to you, be sure to update your policy accordingly. You might be eligible for a rate reduction. 

  • Changes to your overall risk assessment like smoking cessation, dangerous hobbies, high risk profession etc.
  • If you have experienced improvements to a previously diagnosed health condition.
  • Do your policy’s investment options still fall in line with current market conditions?
  • Have you used your insurance policy as collateral for a loan? Once that loan is paid off, collateral status should be taken off the policy.

Insurance policies generated for business purposes should also be regularly reviewed to make sure the policy still offers adequate coverage to meet the needs of the company and includes the appropriate beneficiary information. With life happening so quickly, it can be easy to forget about keeping insurance policies up to date, however, major changes can have a profound impact on coverage and premiums. Be sure to conduct insurance audits often to ensure your policies are still meeting your needs. 

Contact us to see how we can help. 

Families: 2017 Year End Tax Tips

Calculating and figuring out how much tax you have to pay is nobody’s favorite time of the year, but if you plan carefully there are many tactics available at your disposal to make sure that your tax bill is not more than it has to be in 2017. Which tactics make the most sense can be figured out by analyzing your current finances, estimating your tax situations and identifying the financial transaction that might take place either this year or next year. You should get started now, and consider these tax tips before Dec. 31, 2017.

Make a loan to your family member/Family income splitting

You can set yourself for tax savings in 2018 by making a loan to your lower-income spouse, family members or family trust so that he or she can pay the tax on any investment income on these dollars going forward. To avoid the attribution rules, you will need to charge the prescribed rate of interest on the loan. Until Dec. 31 the rate is 1% and can be locked at this rate indefinitely. Your family member will have to pay the interest on the investment by Jan. 30 each year, for the previous year’s interest charge. You will have to report the interest on this investment and your spouse can claim a deduction for it. You can come out ahead as a family, if your family member earns more than 1 percent annually on the investments.

Lend money for a TFSA contribution

In a TFSA account, all dividends, interests and capitals gains your investments make are tax-free. This is a huge advantage because as you continue to reinvest dividends and interest, the compounding income will also be tax-free. So before Dec. 31 consider lending money to your spouse or adult child to contribute towards his or her TFSA. The contribution limit to a TFSA for 2017 is $5,500, and up to $52,000 in total if you have been 18 or older since 2009 when TFSA was introduced, and you haven’t contributed yet. The attribution rules won’t apply to TFSAs since there is no taxable income, as long as the money remains in the plan. 

Tax Loss Selling

If you own investments with unrealized capital losses, consider selling them before year end to realize the loss and apply it against any of the net capital gains you have realized during the year or in the prior three years. If you intend on doing this, consider completing all trades prior to December 22, 2017.

Invest the Canada Child Benefit in your child’s name

Canada Child benefit (CCB) was introduced in 2016 and provides a meaningful payment to many families on a monthly basis. CCB is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with a cost of raising children under the age of 18. The benefit payments are recalculated every year in July based on the income tax and benefit return information of the previous year. Consider investing these dollars in your child’s name, in an in-trust account. The attribution rules will not be applied to the income and growth of these dollars, as they can be reported in the hands of your child, generally facing little or no tax. This strategy can allow the funds to compound at a much faster rate.

Utilize first-time home buyer incentives

If you purchased your first home in 2017, or plan to buy a place before Oct. 1, 2018, You should consider making a withdrawal of up to $25,000 from your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) before Dec. 31, under the home buyers’ plan. The withdrawals can be made tax-free if you qualify, even though you will have to repay the withdrawal amount over a 15-year period. The withdrawals under Home buyers’ plan must normally be made in a single calendar year. You may also qualify for the first time home buyers’ credit i.e. a maximum of $750 (and if you live in Saskatchewan you may be entitled to an additional provincial credit of up to $1100.)

Utilize the Lifelong Learning Plan

The lifelong learning plan (LLP) allows you to withdraw amounts from your RRSP to finance full-time training or education (or part-time if you have a disability) for yourself and your spouse or common-law partner. Consider making a withdrawal before Dec. 31, you are entitled to withdraw up to $10,000 annually or $20,000 in total from LLP. You will have to repay the withdrawal amount over time.

Have you maximized your RRSP Contributions or is it time to wind-up your RRSP?

Technically, you have until March 1, 2018 to make your RRSP contribution for 2017, however if you turned 71 in 2017 and need to wind up your RRSP, remember you only have until December 31, 2017 to make a contribution to your RRSP for 2017, not March 1, 2018.

Evaluate your estate plans for non-resident children

You should revisit your estate planning if your children are not currently residing in Canada, and particularly if they plan to remain non-residents long term. Consider adjusting your will or other planning for non-resident children and plan it together with your kids.

Consider tax changes south of the border

If you are a U.S. citizen residing in Canada, you should be alert to any proposed taxed changes in U.S which can affect your tax planning heading into next year. President Donald Trump’s tax proposals include reducing the number of tax brackets and increasing the dollar thresholds where the rates apply, increasing the standard deduction, eliminating the deduction for medical costs and state and local taxes, and eliminating the alternative minimum tax, among other things.

Consider talking to us prior to year end if you would like to act on any of these tips.

Payments due by December 31, 2017

●     RESP Contributions

●     Charitable gifts

●     Contribution to your RRSP if you turned 71 during 2017 (you will also have to wind up your RRSP by this date.)

●     Medical Expenses

●     Union and professional membership dues

●     Investment counsel fees, interest and other investment expenses

●     Political contributions

●     Deductible legal fees

●     Interest on student loans

●     Certain child/spousal support payments

Do you REALLY need life insurance?

You most likely do, but the more important question is, ‘What kind?’ Whether you’re a young professional starting out, a devoted parent or a successful CEO, securing a life insurance policy is probably one of the most important decisions you will have to make in your adult life. Most people would agree that having financial safety nets in place is a good way to make sure that your loved ones will be taken care of when you pass away. Insurance can also help support your financial obligations and even take care of your estate liabilities. The tricky part, however, is figuring out what kind of life insurance best suits your goals and needs.  This quick guide will help you decide what life insurance policy is best for you, depending on who needs to benefit from it and how long you’ll need it. 

Permanent or Term? 

Life insurance can be classified into two principal types: permanent or term. Both have different strengths and weaknesses, depending on what you aim to achieve with your life insurance policy. 

Term life insurance provides death benefits for a limited amount of time, usually for a fixed number of years. Let’s say you get a 30-year term. This means you’ll only pay for each year of those 30 years. If you die before the 30-year period, then your beneficiaries shall receive the death benefits they are entitled to. After the period, the insurance shall expire. You will no longer need to pay premiums, and your beneficiaries will no longer be entitled to any benefits. Term life insurance is right for you if you are:  

  • The family breadwinner. Death benefits will replace your income for the years that you will have been working, in order to support your family’s needs.
  • A stay-at-home parent. You can set your insurance policy term to cover the years that your child will need financial support, especially for things that you would normally provide as a stay-at-home parent, such as childcare services.
  • A divorced parent. Insurance can cover the cost of child support, and the term can be set depending on how long you need to make support payments.
  • A mortgagor. If you are a homeowner with a mortgage, you can set up your term insurance to cover the years that you have to make payments. This way, your family won’t have to worry about losing their home.
  • A debtor with a co-signed debt. If you have credit card debt or student loans, a term life insurance policy can cover your debt payments. The term can be set to run for the duration of the payments. 
  • A business owner. If you’re a business owner, you may need either a term or permanent life insurance, depending on your needs. If you’re primarily concerned with paying off business debts, then a term life insurance may be your best option. 

Unlike term life insurance, a permanent life insurance does not expire. This means that your beneficiaries can receive death benefits no matter when you die. Aside from death benefits, a permanent life insurance policy can also double as a savings plan. A certain portion of your premiums can build cash value, which you may “withdraw” or borrow for future needs.  You can do well with a permanent life insurance policy if you:  

  • …Have a special needs child. As a special needs child will most likely need support for health care and other expenses even as they enter adulthood. Your permanent life insurance can provide them with death benefits any time within their lifetime.
  • …Want to leave something for your loved ones. Regardless of your net worth, permanent life insurance will make sure that your beneficiaries receive what they are entitled to. If you have a high net worth, permanent life insurance can take care of estate taxes. Otherwise, they will still get even a small inheritance through death benefits.
  • …Want to make sure that your funeral expenses are covered. Final expense insurance can provide coverage for funeral expenses for smaller premiums.
  • …Have maximized your retirement plans. As permanent life insurance may also come with a savings component, this can also be used to help you out during retirement.
  • …Own a business. As mentioned earlier, business owners may need either permanent or term, depending on their needs. A permanent insurance policy can help pay off estate taxes, so that the successors can inherit the business worry-free.

Different people have different financial needs, so there is no one-sized-fits-all approach to choosing the right insurance policy for you. Talk to us now, and find out how a permanent or term life insurance can best give you security and peace of mind.

 

Federal Budget 2017 Families

Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered the government’s 2017 federal budget on March 22, 2017. The budget expects a deficit of $23 billion for fiscal 2016-2017 and forecasts a deficit of $28.5 billion for 2017-2018. Find out what this means for families.

Key points for families

  • Childcare: The funding could serve to create more affordable childcare spaces for low-income families.
  • Parental leave: Extending parental leave and benefits to 18 months, Parents who choose to stay at home longer, however, will have to make do with a lower Employment Insurance (EI) benefit rate of 33 per cent of their average weekly earnings, instead of the current rate of 55 per cent.
  • Caregiver benefit: Introduce a new caregiver benefit that’s meant to help families copy with illnesses and injuries.
  • Parents who go to school: Single, higher federal income threshold for part-time students to receive Canada Student Grants. Grants don’t have to be repaid.
  • Foreign Nannies: Waiving a $1,000 processing fee required to obtain a work permit.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

New Tax for 2016 Tax Year

With the tax filing due April 30, we’ve included new tax highlights for the 2016 taxation year.

Family Tax Deductions to Notice

With the tax filing due April 30, we’ve included some tax deductions for families to notice for the 2016 taxation year.