Stay at home parents may do a lot of work but unfortunately it’s not a labour cost that gets reported on a tax return.  For families with a single income, tax time can seem a little one sided, but both spouses or common-law partners still need to file their own tax return in order to get the greatest tax benefit.

Benefit Payments

For example, the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) requires both parents to file a return.  And if your children are younger than six, the lower income spouse is required to report the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).

But you can avoid the tax on any interest it earns by putting your UCCB in a separate account in your child’s name.  This means the income is taxed in his or her hands, rather than yours.

Related: Smart Tax Planning Tips

If the lower-income spouse reports the UCCB amount as income, the spousal amount will be affected.

In a household with only one income, you’re allowed to claim a $10,822 spousal amount if your spouse didn’t earn any income in 2012.  That’s about $1,620 in tax savings.

But if you receive $1,200 in UCCB payments, the amount is reduced to $9,622 or about $1,440 in tax savings.

Spousal RRSP

You may be able to take advantage of different income levels for your investments.  Your investments should be purchased by the lower-income spouse, as he or she is taxed at a lower marginal rate.

Related: 5 Common RRSP Myths

The higher-earning spouse can direct his or her money towards paying off the mortgage and other household expenses.  However, the higher-income spouse cannot simply give money to the other spouse, as this will trigger attribution rules and the higher-income spouse will have to report the earnings.

There is also the option of a spousal RRSP, which allows one spouse to contribute to the other spouse’s RRSP.  The contributing spouse can claim a deduction for the contribution in the same way as if it was in their own RRSP.

Because the contributing spouse will typically have a higher income, this will result in a larger deduction than if the recipient spouse claimed it on their return.  However, when payments are received from the plan in retirement, they will be included in the income of the recipient spouse and taxed at their lower marginal rate.

While contributing to a spousal RRSP will result in a tax deduction for the contributor, the spouse depositing the money in the RRSP has to have room available.

Related: RRSP Over Contribution Limit and Carry Forward Rules

So if you have a $20,000 RRSP contribution limit, you can deposit $10,000 into a personal RRSP and $10,000 into a spousal RRSP, or some other combination that doesn’t exceed $20,000.

The money needs to remain in the spousal RRSP for three years before a withdrawal can be made and taxed in the hands of the lower-income spouse.

If you withdraw the money before that period, the spouse who contributed it has to report it as income on his or her return even though the other spouse will receive the money.

If there’s a breakdown in the relationship, the attribution rules no longer apply.

Tax Withholdings

Single income households may also want to revisit their TD1 Form and their tax withholdings, so that instead of a refund at tax time there is less tax withheld every paycheque, since one person claims all the credits.

Related: How To Pay Less Tax All Year Round

Though it’s nice to receive money back when you file your return, it may help the household budget if there is more money in every paycheque.

After all, there’s no point in loaning the government money over the course of a year.  Remember, one income or two, the goal is to always pay what you owe but nothing more.


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