Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Violations spur new tax warning from feds

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OTTAWA -- Tens of thousands of Canadians have again broken the rules for a popular tax shelter, triggering yet another volley of warning letters from the Canada Revenue Agency.

The agency has sent some 76,000 Canadians a mail-out reminding them of the strict rules against over-contributions to tax-free savings accounts or TFSAs -- and demanding they pay more tax.

The number of problem accounts identified is down from the 103,000 warnings sent out in August last year, but up from 72,000 the year before, suggesting the over-contribution problem is becoming chronic.

About 15,000 people who got warning letters this June also received similar letters last summer, indicating a slow learning curve for some taxpayers.

A spokesman for the agency notes the number of problem accounts is a tiny fraction of all the TFSA accounts opened by 8.2 million Canadians by the end of the 2011 tax year.

"The proportion of individuals who received a proposed return (i.e., a mail-out warning) was less than one per cent of the total number of TFSA-holders," Philippe Brideau said in an email response to questions.

Tax-free savings accounts, which became available on Jan. 1, 2009, allow Canadians to earn money on deposits inside the account without attracting any income tax, even when money is withdrawn. The current maximum annual contribution is $5,000.

But there is a poorly understood wrinkle in a rule governing the timing of deposits.

The rule says account holders can put back the amounts they withdraw from a TFSA only in a later calendar year. If they do so in the same calendar year, they face a tax hit for their "over-contribution," even though they're only replacing the withdrawn funds.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 2, 2012 A4

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