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H&R Block 2020 Online Review – The Best Option For Free Filing

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In 2020, H&R Block is once again coming out as a strong contender for the company with the biggest value in tax software.

It’s free version covers a variety of “normal” tax filing situations, and the prices for all tiers are lower than TurboTax equivalents.

Does the value play make H&R Block a worthwhile software for your taxes? Here’s what we think in our H&R Block review below. Check out our list of the best tax software to see how H&R Block compares, and see this list of H&R Block alternatives if you want something different.

Bonus: Amazon is offering a great deal on H&R Block, as well as a 4% refund bonus if you get an Amazon giftcard. Check out the H&R Block deal on Amazon here.


HR Block Logo

Quick Summary

  • Best option for free filing due to inclusion of EITC and more!
  • Easy navigation, great import and connections
  • One of the lowest priced top-tier options

H&R Block Online Details

Product Name

H&R Block Online

Federal Price

Starts at $0

State Price

$36.99 per State

Preparation Type

Self-Prepared & Assistance

Promotions

25% Off

H&R Block Online – Is It Really Free?

H&R B​​lock offers free Federal and State tax filing for people in the following situations: W-2 income, Social Security Income, People with Student Loan Interest, People with Childcare Expenses. If you’re likely to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, or the Child Tax Credit, H&R Block offers an amazing free service for you.

In terms of truly free filing, H&R Block online offers one of the broadest programs available, and it’s an easy to use software.

See the list of the best free tax software here >>

H&R Block 2019-2020 Prices And Plans

H&R Block’s pricing tiers closely match TurboTax’s, although H&R Block prices itself about $15-$20 lower for each tier. However, H&R Block’s Premium pricing tier is $35 less expensive than TurboTax’s, and it offers more options (especially filing options for self-employed people with less than $5,000 in expenses).

The real value tiers here are the Free and Premium editions.

If you want on-demand help from a CPA or an Enrolled Agent, you’ll have to pay for the “online assist upgrade”. The cost of the online help is quite a bit less expensive than a similar offering from TurboTax.

Bonus: Right now, you can get 25% off H&R Block online if you sign up and start through this link >>

Plan

Free Online

Deluxe

Premium

Self-Employed

Best For

Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Social Security Income, Student Loan Interest Deduction

Itemizers, HSA Accounts

Landlords, investors, Self-employed or side-hustlers (less than $5,000 in business expenses)

Landlords, people who sold a home, investors

Federal Pricing

$0

$29.99

$49.99

$79.99

State Pricing

$0

$36.99

$36.99

$36.99

Total Cost

$0

$66.98

$86.98

$116.98

Federal Assist

$39.99

$69.99

$109.99

$139.99

State Assist

$36.99

$36.99

$36.99

$36.99

Note: Prices are subject to change, especially as it get’s closer to the tax deadline. The earlier you start, the higher likelihood you have of locking in better prices. 

H&R Block Navigation

H&R Block prices itself as a premium tax software, but the Navigation doesn’t quite match the pricing. The software also has short “questionnaires” at the beginning of each section. These  “questionnaires” help the software cut out irrelevant sections of the software, and guide you to the important parts of the software.

The questionnaire worked well, but the guided navigation felt a bit clunky after that. The software moved me through W-2 forms, then asked more information about where I earned money, followed by prompting me to enter 1099-INT information. It seemed to jump around too much in my opinion.

Where H&R Block’s navigation makes a lot of sense is in form entry. The software guides users on how to enter information quickly and accurately. When necessary, the software breaks up forms into a few screens (to prevent entry mistakes), but you don’t need to do unnecessary clicking.

The software also allows users to navigate through the software themselves (once they’ve gone through the guided option). This can be helpful if you missed something or didn’t have all the forms you needed. It also includes helpful summaries at the end of each section.

H&R Block Review nagivation

H&R Block Ease Of Use

H&R Block is one of the easiest online filing software packages. It allows users to upload tons of forms including 1099-MISC, 1099-INT, W-2 forms and much more. If the form is standard, you can upload it in H&R Block.

The other thing that makes H&R Block an easy to use software package is the language used throughout the software. The software does not assume users have robust tax knowledge. They use language that makes sense to normal people, and they link to helpful articles throughout the software.

Additionally, all users can get free LiveChat support if they struggle with the software.

H&R Block Knowledge Articles

In addition to the articles sprinkled throughout the software, H&R Block has a forum for users to ask questions, and a library of more in depth articles. A simple search will bring up a curated assortment of relevant articles for most users.

It’s also important to note that H&R Block’s paying customers do not have to rely on the articles alone. Paying customers can get access to the following help:

  • Ask a tax pro (inside the product) is available during tax season weekdays from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. CT, and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT.
  • Technical support chat (inside the product) is available 24/7.
  • Technical support via phone is available weekdays from 7 a.m. to midnight CT, and on weekends from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT.

Finally, for an additional fee you can get a Tax Pro Review, where an H&R Block employee reviews your return once you’re done with it (remotely—you don’t have to go to an office! Win!) 

Note: Tax Pro Review isn’t live until January, so stay tuned.

H&R Block Online Extras

If you file your taxes through H&R Block online, you can opt to put some or all of your return on an Amazon gift card. When you do that, H&R Block will add 4% to your refund.

Check out the H&R Block deal on Amazon here.

H&R Block also offers free Tax Identity Theft monitoring and restoration help if someone steals your identity.

Can H&R Block Help Me With My Crypto Investments?

H&R Block Online has instructions that carefully explain how users can file taxes on their cryptocurrency trades. H&R Block also does ask the question “Have you ever bought, sold, or transacted in cryptocurrency?” as required by the IRS.

However, the software treats it like other capital gains activities.

H&R Block Tax Pro Go Virtual Tax Service

H&R Block also has a virtual tax prep service called Tax Pro Go. If you want pro to do your taxes, but still want to do them online or at home, this is a great hybrid. 

With this service, you can book at tax pro online, see the price, upload your documents, and have your return filed all from the comfort of your own home.

As of writing this, they expect to have your taxes prepared and filed within 5 days of submitting all your information online. However, as it gets busier and closer to tax season, that could change. 

This service is a premium service, with prices from $49 to $329 for the service. However, that still is better than many CPAs will charge.

This service is very similar to those offered by Picnic Tax, Visor Tax or Circle CPA.

H&R Block In-Store And Tax Refund Advance

H&R Block is most well-known for their large network of stores that have tax preparers and tax professionals able to assist. Plus, H&R Block is also known for having some of the best tax refund advance products available.

In store, customers can expect to have an expert tax professional prepare and file their taxes. This does cost much more than the online products offered here.

The Tax Refund Advance is available up to $3,500, and is available starting January 4, 2020 in stores.

If you do want to go in-store, or you want a tax refund advance, you can get $25 off your tax prep by showing this coupon special to College Investor readers. Download here >>

Who Should Use H&R Block 2019-2020?

In 2020, H&R Block Online deserves to be on your short list for tax filing software. The free offering is particularly impressive (including student loan interest and HSA forms). Additionally, the Premium edition of the software could offer a good value for self-employed people, landlords, and side-hustlers who want to simplify their tax life.

However, H&R Block is a premium tax software with a premium price. If you’re looking for a bargain consider either TaxSlayer Classic or TaxHawk for lower costs with acceptable performance.

The post H&R Block 2020 Online Review – The Best Option For Free Filing appeared first on The College Investor.



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PenFed Checking And Savings Review: Full Service And Solid Rates

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If you’ve been looking to join a credit union instead of a bank or want to add a credit union account for your checking and savings, PenFed is worth checking out. 

While they don’t have the highest checking and savings APYs, they are reasonable and competitive for a full-service credit union. In fact, PenFed made our list of the top 5 credit unions nationwide of 2020.

PenFed’s mobile app allows you to do all of your banking online or on the go through their mobile app, no matter where you are in the U.S. and even some locations outside of the U.S. In this article, we’ll review PenFed’s checking and savings products.


PenFed Logo

Quick Summary

  • Competive interest rates
  • Large nationwide ATM network
  • Minimum balance required to avoid checking account fees

PenFed Checking And Savings Details

Product Name

PenFed Credit Union

Account Types

Checking, Savings, Money Market, Certificates

APY

0.05% to 0.90% APY

Min Deposit

$5

Promotions

None

Who Is PenFed?

Pentagon Federal Credit Union is a full-service credit union. They were created in 1935 and have $25 billion in assets. PenFed is headquartered in McLean, Virginia. They used to restrict membership to a relationship with the military or federal government but have recently opened up to everyone. 

PenFed services all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Okinawa (Japan). They are federally insured by NCUA and are an Equal Opportunity Lender. In addition to PenFed checking and savings accounts, members can also access home, car, credit card, and student loan products.

See our review of PendFed’s student loan refinancing product.

What Do They Offer?

PenFed has one checking account and four savings products. They have a network of 68,000+ ATMs. You can bank online or through their mobile app. PenFed has nearly 50 branches across 16 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Okinawa.

The PenFed website shows its accounts earn interest (APY) and dividends. The terminology can make it sound as though you get the APY plus dividends. That isn’t the case. Dividends are simply being used interchangeably with interest (APY).

Access America Checking Account

You’ll need to deposit $25 to open a checking account with PenFed. PenFed checking accounts do earn a little interest — 0.20% to 0.50% depending on account size as shown below.

  • 0.20% APY on a daily balance of less than $20K
  • 0.50% APY on a daily balance of $20K or more up to $50K

In addition to the listed APYs, you can also earn dividends with a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more. As well, to avoid the $10 monthly fee, you’ll need a daily balance or monthly direct deposit of $500 or more. Overdraft protection is available but is subject to approval.

Premium Online Savings Account

The Premium Online Savings Account pays 0.90% APY on balances up to $250,000 and only requires a $5 deposit. There are no monthly fees. However, there also is no ATM access.

Be aware that savings accounts have more restrictions than checking accounts. Due to federal law, you can only withdraw money from your account up to six times per month. You’re allowed up to $10,000 per day in deposits and a total of $50,000 for the month.

Regular Savings Account

The Regular Savings Account pays only 0.05% APY on all balances. But in exchange for giving up that interest, you gain ATM access. However, if you can get by with transferring money to your checking account before making a withdrawal, the Premium Savings Account is clearly the way to go.

Money Market Savings Account

The Money Market Savings Account requires $25 to open and doesn’t lose ATM access. There are no monthly fees and you get free checks upon request. The account pays interest through several tiers that are dependent on your balance:

  • 0.05% APY — $10,000 or less
  • 0.10% APY — between $10,000 and $99,999
  • 0.15% APY — $100,000 or more

See how this compares to the top money market accounts here >>

Money Market Certificates

You’ve probably heard of a certificate of deposit (CD). Credit unions call these simply “certificates,” but they are basically the same. 

PenFed has several certificates to choose from. All require a $1,000 deposit to open. Just like a CD, your money must remain in the certificate until maturity or you’ll pay an early withdrawal penalty. Dividends are compounded daily and paid monthly.

The following certificates are available:

  • 6 Month — 0.40%
  • 12 Month — 0.70%
  • 15 Month — 0.70%
  • 18 Month — 0.70%
  • 2 Year — 0.75%
  • 3 Year — 0.80%
  • 4 Year — 0.85%
  • 5 Year — 1.00%
  • 7 Year — 1.05%

Mobile App

The mobile app for PenFed checking and savings includes all of the features you’d expect from full-service credit unions. You get instant check deposits, bill pay, ability to send money to almost anyone, account management, and the ability to transfer funds between your PenFed accounts.

Are There Any Fees?

The majority of PenFed’s accounts don’t come with fees. However, its Access America Checking Account has a $10 month fee if certain minimums are not met. To avoid the fee, you’ll need to keep a minimum balance of $500 or set up a $500 monthly direct deposit.

How Do I Open An Account?

You can visit Penfed.org or a local branch if you have one near you to apply for membership. If approved, you’ll need to deposit at least $5 to open an account.

Is My Money Safe?

Yes, money deposited with PenFed is federally insured by the NCUA. Like FDIC insurance for banks, NCAU insurance protects up to $250,000 of credit union member deposits per account.

Is It Worth It?

If you’re looking to open a checking or savings account with a credit union, PenFed is a full-service credit union that pays up to 0.50% on checking account deposits and up to 1.00% on savings. It has about 50 branches in 13 states, plus a few outside of the U.S. and includes NCUA protection. For those reasons, PenFed checking and savings is certainly worth considering.

But if you won’t be able to meet the requirements for waiving PenFed’s monthly checking account fees, you might want to look at these free checking accounts instead. And if you’re comfortable with managing your checking or savings accounts with minimal support, you might be able to earn higher rates with an online bank. These are our favorite online banks for 2020.

PenFed Checking And Savings Features

Account Types

Checking, Savings, Money Market, Certificates

Minimum Deposit

  • Checking: $25
  • Savings: $5
  • Money Market: $25

APY

Checking

  • 0.20% APY on a daily balance of less than $20K
  • 0.50% APY on a daily balance of $20K or more up to $50K

Regular Savings: 0.05% APY

Premium Online Savings: 1.00% APY

Money Market Savings

  • 0.05% APY — $10,000 or less
  • 0.10% APY — between $10,000 and $99,999
  • 0.15% APY — $100,000 or more

Certificates

  • 6 Month — 0.40%
  • 12 Month — 0.70%
  • 15 Month — 0.70%
  • 18 Month — 0.70%
  • 2 Year — 0.75%
  • 3 Year — 0.80%
  • 4 Year — 0.85%
  • 5 Year — 1.00%
  • 7 Year — 1.05%

Maintenance Fees

  • Checking: $10 (waived with $500 minimum balance or $500 monthly direct deposit
  • Savings: None
  • Money market: None
  • Certificates: None

Branches

~50 across 13 states

ATM Availability

68,000+ fee-free ATM network

Customer Service Number

1-800-247-5626

Customer Service Hours

  • Mon-Fri: 7:00 am-11:00 pm (EST)
  • Saturday: 8:00 am-1:00 pm (EST) Saturday
  • Sunday: 9:00 am-5:30 pm (EST)

Mobile App Availability

iOS and Android

Bill Pay

Yes

NCUA Charter Number

00227

Promotions

None

The post PenFed Checking And Savings Review: Full Service And Solid Rates appeared first on The College Investor.



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The Sweet Spot

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“Success can get you to the top of a beautiful cliff,

but then propel you right over the edge of it.”

As a Mustachian, there’s a good chance that you are a bit of an overachiever. 

Maybe you fought hard to get exceptional grades in school, or perhaps you have always dominated in your career or your Ultramarathon habit or your hobbies – or maybe all of the above. 

In the big picture, this usually leads to having a “successful” life, because of this basic math:

Traditional Success
 =
How much work you do
x
How much society happens to value your work

The Nitty Gritty of Traditional Success

Now, lest the Internet Privilege Police head straight to Twitter to start writing out citations, Traditional Success is not a measure of your worthiness as a human being. We’re just talking about the old-fashioned, Smiling 1950s Man definition of success.

 And since we’re all scientists here, we could break the “Work” side of it down a bit further:

And thus, you could say that on average, doing more stuff produces more traditional success. 

But then what?

This is the point where a lot of  smart, driven, born-lucky people drive themselves up the Winding Road of Challenge and then right off the edge of the Cliff of Success. 

If you’re still on the way up, or stuck at the bottom, it is difficult to even imagine the idea of “too much success”. But it’s a real thing, and it happens much more quickly than the modern overachiever would like to admit. Observe the following cautionary tale:

Diana is the director of engineering in a Silicon Valley tech startup. The work is intense, but they are almost over the hump – the company went public last month, and she owns shares that are worth over $10 million at today’s share price. They will vest over the next five years, so she just needs to grind this out and then she will be set for life.

Sounds great, right?

Except this is Diana’s third smashing success. She was already set for life after the second company was acquired, and even before that, her first decade as a rising star at a large company had already left her with over $2 million of investments and a paid-off house in hella expensive Cupertino, California. She had more than enough to retire, twenty years ago!

To many people who are less fortunate, the present situation would still sound like great fortune, and in some ways, it is. Becoming a Director of Engineering is (usually) far better than a punch in the face.

But Diana is now 52 years old, with a collection of increasingly severe back and neck problems and a few medical prescriptions piling up. She has two grown children in their twenties, but wishes she had been able to spend more time with them as they grew up. She has all the money in the world, but still almost no free time, and this next five years is starting to look like an eternity.

What happened here?

Diana is in good company, because many of our hardest-working people fall into this same trap. They have the talent and the great work habits figured out, but they are still missing one last concept – the idea of the sweet spot.

Fig. 1: What is the ideal length of a high-end career?

Diana could have stopped after the first company, or the second, but her career success took on a momentum of its own, so she kept doubling down without stopping to consider why she was doing it – and what she was giving up in exchange.

Once you learn to see the phenomenon of the sweet spot, you will start noticing it everywhere. And it is an amazingly useful thing to start watching and fine-tuning to get the most out of your own life.

Fig.2: What is the ideal amount of Anything?

The Sweet Spot of Physical Training

When a non-runner starts running, they will see immediate benefits. In the process of going from being unable to jog across a parking lot, to being able to easily jog a brisk mile, your entire body will transform for the better. Muscles and bones get stronger, heart and lungs expand and reach out to give your body a healthy embrace, brain functioning and mood and hormones smooth out and normalize. 

Training your way up to become a two mile runner still brings great benefits – just slightly smaller. The fifth through twentieth mile turn you into a hyper efficient machine, but some people start seeing joint injuries as they rise through the ranks.

And by the time you reach the fringe world of 100-mile runners, serious injuries and surgeries are completely normal – as well as unexpected organ failures in otherwise young, healthy people. The sweet spot for daily running for maximum health is somewhere the middle.

All around us, seemingly unrelated things follow this same pattern, from career work to physical exertion to parenting strategy.

Fame and Fortune – be careful what you wish for

Fame definitely has a sweet spot. Building up a good reputation in your community can open the door to better friendships, jobs, relationships, and more fun in general.

But as that reputation expands outwards to become fame, you get the “reward” of constant coverage in gossip magazines and waking up to find photographers and news reporters on your front lawn. At the extreme end, you need to mobilize a team of armored vehicles and line your route with snipers every time you leave your well-guarded compound.

Even money, our humble and ever-willing servant is subject to this phenomenon. It certainly helps us meet our basic needs, but there is a certain point at which Mo Money can become Mo Problems. 

The first bit of monetary surplus can be fun as you can afford a nice house and good food. Then the next chunk seems fun but also causes distractions as you rack up second and third houses and ever-more elaborate possessions and vacations that take a lot of energy to keep track of.

And from there it goes downhill as tabloids start keeping track of your wealth and scrutinizing your choices, hundreds of people mail in pleas for your generosity, and you end up with a full-time job just making sure that the surplus goes to good use. This life arrangement can still be enjoyable for some people, but I would definitely not wish it upon myself.

On and on this pattern goes. A curve with a sweet spot in the middle. The optimal amount of calories to consume in a day. The volume at which you will enjoy your music most. The right brightness of light to illuminate a room. The number of friends with whom you can have a meaningful relationship.

 Why does it occur in so many places? I believe it is because this is how our brains are wired in the first place

Humans are a ridiculously adaptable creature, but we do still come with limits.

And when you respect those limits and fine-tune your life within the sweet spot for all of the main pillars for happy living, you end up with the best possible chance at living a happy, prosperous life.


A Mid-Roll Advertisement:

Interest rates are still at WTF-low levels, so if you haven’t already done so, I recommend checking your current home mortgage and student loan rates. Either at your local credit union, or online via a service like Credible.

Click Here to open that up in a new tab, and keep reading.

Note: This is an affiliate link, to learn why I use these even when I am supposedly retired, read this.


The Curse Of the Overachievers – Revisited

So now you see the problem – overachievers like us tend to get really good at a few things like a career or an athletic pursuit often specializing so much that we neglect other things like overall health or personal relationships.

And our society notices and rewards us for the success, which just reinforces the behavior, so we take things to even higher extremes, often without stopping to think about the reason behind it.

Okay, So What Now?

Once you see the pattern of the sweet spot,  it is impossible to un-see it. So it becomes pretty easy to float up and look at your entire life from above, like an outside observer.

And from up there, you can see the areas where you have enough, and places where you may have already gone overboard, and the corresponding things that you have left neglected as the price of that success. 

Over the past year I’ve been looking at my own life from this perspective, coming up with quite a few of my own diagnoses:

Money: enough. Additional windfalls don’t seem to bring me any lasting joy, but I also don’t have so much money that it makes me nervous. It’s enough to feel safe and empowered, and that’s all I need. Meanwhile, giving away money has brought me lasting happiness, without creating a feeling of shortage or regret.

Career Success (blog): It Varies. When I was really working on this MMM job in the mid-2010s, it started to take over too much of my life. Emails, opportunities, travel and public attention all reached levels where I actually started to have less fun. So I tried dialing it back, as any long-term readers will have noticed. And sure enough, life improved. But then I went too far and started feeling a loss from letting this valued hobby slip away. I’ve been trying to get back into the groove, which revealed another problem – detailed at the end of this list.

Friendships: Not Enough. I have found myself not being able to keep up with close friends, and had difficulty making or keeping plans, partly out of  feeling overwhelmed with life details in general. Still, the opportunities abound here in my local community, and the people are wonderful. So I have the opportunity to keep working at this.

Health and Fitness: Enough. Since I was about fourteen years old, eating well and getting a lot of varied exercise has always been a kind of non-negotiable pillar for me. Nothing extreme, but just very consistent. I think this has been paying off as I feel healthy every day and have never had any physical or health problems in these 30+ years since.

Parenting and Kids: Enough (an A+!) Since 2005 I made “being a Dad” my primary goal in life, quitting my career to do so. It’s the only thing I can truly say I have done the best I could at, and I’m really proud of that. But part of this success came from only having one kid – both of us parents knew we couldn’t handle any more, given the overall conditions of life back then. So for us, the sweet spot was One Child – and absolutely no regrets in that department.

Personal Projects and Daily Habits: Not Enough. I get great satisfaction from working on challenging things and making progress. But far too often, I just can’t get it together and I squander entire days on accidental distractions. Planning to go out for a day of work can lead to searching for lost sunglasses which can lead to finding a lost to-do list which can lead to opening the computer to look something up and several hours disappearing. On and on these tangents can go, often leading to me not getting my primary, happiness-creating goals for the day accomplished. 

I discovered that I have a pretty severe and textbook case of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, which gets magnified if there are any sources of stress in my life. So I’m working on that (keeping stress down and also targeting habits, diet, exercise and even trying some medication), which will hopefully improve all other areas of life as well.

What am I missing? I’m still working on thinking it all through, so this list will surely grow.

Your Turn

Your life surely has a completely different array of surpluses, shortages and sweet spots than mine. Your assignment is therefore to write them all out tonight, and see where you stand in each area, and decide what to change. Many of the changes are quite easy to make, and yet the results are nothing short of life-changing.

In the comments: what are your own areas of surplus and shortage? And what’s your plan to help restore balance to your life?



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Woman in TFSA overcontribution fight with CRA has penalties cut from $17,000 to just $300

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While most of us use our TFSAs as general purpose, tax-free savings or investment vehicles, the

Canada Revenue Agency has been cracking down

on perceived misuse of the accounts by assessing some taxpayers with an overcontribution tax, and others

for falling afoul of the “advantage rules” for registered plans

. Two separate tax cases, out last month, dealt with TFSA penalty taxes.

Non-resident TFSA contributions

The first case involved TFSA overcontributions. If you overcontribute, the penalty tax is one per cent per month for each month your TFSA is in an overcontribution position. But there’s a separate, additional penalty tax of one per cent per month if a non-resident contributes to their TFSA, which is what happened in the first case.

In August 2006, the taxpayer left Canada to begin her medical studies in the U.K. While in the U.K. as a student, and, on the advice her Canadian investment adviser, she made contributions to her TFSA in 2009 ($5,000), 2010 ($1,500) and 2012 ($494). She completed her studies in June 2011 and then commenced two years of residency training in family medicine. In November 2012, she registered with the Canadian Residency Matching Service as a fully licensed U.K. doctor, to obtain a residency position in Canada. Finally, in April 2016, she obtained a residency position at a Vancouver hospital and in June 2016, returned back to Canada.

Much to her surprise, in 2018 the taxpayer received Notices of Reassessment from the CRA for 2009 to 2016, assessing her a total of $17,006 of TFSA penalty tax and arrears interest, asserting that she was a non-resident of Canada when she contributed to her TFSA. Indeed, to be able to contribute to a TFSA (and to accumulate the annual TFSA contribution room), you must be a resident of Canada for tax purposes.

An individual’s residency status is determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account many factors. The most important consideration is whether or not the individual maintains residential ties with Canada. Significant residential ties to Canada include: a home in Canada, a spouse or common-law partner in Canada and dependants in Canada. Secondary residential ties include: personal property, such as a car or furniture, in Canada; social ties in Canada, such as memberships in Canadian recreational or religious organizations; economic ties in Canada, such as Canadian bank accounts or credit cards; a Canadian driver’s license, a Canadian passport, and provincial health insurance.

The taxpayer argued that during the period that she was in the UK, she maintained a room in her parents’ home and always regarded the space in her parents’ home as her permanent home. She kept many of her possessions there until August 2016, when she moved to Vancouver.

While studying in the U.K., she kept strong secondary ties to Canada, including funding her medical school fees and expenses with annual loans from a student line of credit from a Canadian bank, as well as through various federal and Ontario student loan programs. She retained and renewed her Canadian passport, and obtained Canadian citizenship for her two daughters who were born abroad. She kept and renewed her Ontario Driver’s licence, her Canadian bank accounts and credit cards, and maintained her Ontario Health Insurance as an overseas student. She continued to be listed as an occasional driver on her parents’ vehicle insurance and returned to Canada nearly every year from 2006 to 2012 to maintain her ties to Canada. Lastly, she filed Canadian income-tax returns as a resident of Canada that were always assessed as filed.

In other words, although the taxpayer was physically absent from Canada during her years abroad, she argued that she maintained significant ties to Canada during her period of her absence and “intended to return to Canada upon completion of her medical studies and has, in fact, returned to Canada.”

In a consent to judgment issued last month, the CRA conceded that the taxpayer was a resident of Canada until June 30, 2011. This was a negotiated date that was selected by the CRA, as it was the date the taxpayer had completed her medical degree and could have returned to Canada, in theory, to complete her residency/licensing training. The taxpayer became a non-resident on July 1, 2011 and resumed Canadian residence on June 6, 2016, when she began her medical residency position in Canada.

The result, therefore, was that only the 2012 TFSA contribution of $494 was subject to non-resident penalty tax and interest, which totalled approximately $300, a far cry from the initial TFSA reassessments totaling over $17,000.

 

Advantage rules 100 per cent penalty tax

The second recent case involving TFSA penalty tax was at the Federal Court of Appeal and concerned the

“advantage rules,” which are a series of anti-avoidance rules

in the

Income Tax Act

designed to prevent abuse and manipulation of all registered plans, including TFSAs. If you find yourself offside these rules, you could face a 100 per cent penalty tax on the fair market value of any “advantage” that you receive that is related to a registered plan.

The taxpayer was appealing a 2018 decision of the Tax Court in which he was reassessed nearly $125,000 in penalty tax applicable to the advantage the CRA says he received in connection with the transfer of private company shares to his TFSA.

The taxpayer went to court to challenge the constitutionality of the 100 per cent advantage tax. He argued that since the CRA has the discretion to reduce the 100 per cent advantage tax to zero, Parliament “improperly delegated the rate-setting element of (tax) … to the (CRA)” in contravention of the Constitution Act.”

Not surprisingly, the Tax Court, and now, the appellate court, dismissed the taxpayer’s appeal, concluding that Parliament, via the explicit wording found in the Income Tax Act, “has prescribed the liability for the tax, the persons on whom it is imposed, the conditions on which a person becomes liable for it, and criteria by which the amount of tax can be determined. (It) delegates nothing to the (CRA).”

The Court did find that there was a wider issue to be considered as to whether the CRA’s power granted under the Income Tax Act to reduce or cancel the tax constitutes “an invalid delegation of taxation power to the (CRA).” But, due to a “lack (of) adequate submissions and fully developed reasons from the Tax Court,” the appellate court refused to weigh in, concluding: “We should leave the broader issue for another day.”

Jamie.Golombek@cibc.com

Jamie Golombek, CPA, CA, CFP, CLU, TEP is the Managing Director, Tax & Estate Planning with CIBC Private Wealth Management in Toronto.



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