Premier Kathleen Wynne boasts balanced books in Ontario’s latest budget—and a host of items that will hit residents’ wallets. This year, the Liberals are packaging plenty of goodies that promise to benefit Ontarians’ bottom lines. Here’s a list of 18 to look out for:
1. No increase to personal or corporate income taxes.
2. A cut of 25%, on average, to household electricity bills, starting this summer. Low-income Ontarians and those living in eligible rural, remote or on-reserve First Nation communities would receive even bigger cuts.
3. Tobacco taxes will go up by $10 per carton of 200 cigarettes over a three-year period. That works to an immediate increase of $2 per carton, effective 12:01 a.m. on Friday, April 28, 2017.
4. The introduction of the Ontario Seniors’ Public Transit Tax Credit for those 65 or older. This amounts to a refundable benefit of 15% of eligible public transit costs, providing an average annual benefit of $130.
5. Starting January 1, 2018, Ontario will launch OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare—providing universal drug coverage to all children and youth aged 24 years and younger across the province, regardless of family income. There will be no deductible and no co-payment and the program includes coverage of 4,400 medicines and most cancer treatments.
6. Free average tuition for more than 210,000 Ontario students and lower costs for many more. Eligible students, including mature students and adult learners with annual family incomes of $50,000 or less, will receive enough in OSAP grants to coverage average tuition costs. That means that 80 per cent of students with annual family incomes below $90,000 will receive grants that equal or exceed the average cost of tuition and will not need to be repaid. (In the past, money in an RESP was taken into account when calculating the amount of OSAP grants and loans. Starting this September, that will no longer be the case, meaning the possibility for larger OSAP grants and loans—even for the kids whose families have saved some money in RESPs.)
7. Students with kids may also be able to receive OSAP funding for child care costs.
8. Increasing the minimum salary an individual needs to earn before they must start repaying OSAP from $25,000 to $35,000.
9. The limit on cash and liquid assets for single people receiving Ontario Works will be increased from $2,500 to $10,000. For couples, the limit is going from $5,000 to $15,000. For Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients, limits will be increased from $5,000 to $40,000 for single people, and from $7,500 to $50,000 for couples. These changes start January 2018.
10. Gifts of any amount will not reduce the amount of social assistance people receive if the funds are used to pay first and last month’s rent, purchase a principal residence or buy a vehicle, taking effect September 2017.
11. The income exemption for cash gifts will be increased from $6,000 to $10,000 for both Ontario Disability Support Programs (ODSP) recipients as well as Ontario Works recipients.
12. Increases to ODSP and Ontario Works benefits for recipients will be 2%. As of Sept. 1, 2017 for ODSP and Oct. 1 2017 for Ontario Works.
13. As of now, the elimination of the $30 Drive Clean emission test fee.
14. Updating the Land Transfer Tax (LTT) by doubling the maximum refund to $4,000 for qualifying first-time home buyers if you’re a Canadian or permanent citizen.
15. The introduction of a foreign buyers’ tax (the non-resident speculation tax) of 15% that would apply on the price of homes in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region bought by individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada— or by foreign corporations. As an example, a home that cost $1 million would mean an extra $150,000 due to the new tax, bringing the final cost of the home to $1,150,000.
16. Regulatory changes that will allow decisions by the investment industry self-regulatory organizations (SROs) to be filed with the court. This will improve the likelihood for individuals to actually collect the fines they’ve been awarded.
17. Clearer financial statements for those who are a part of Defined Contribution Pension Plans (DCPP). As well, employers who provide DCPP plans to employees will also be able to provide continued financial management of these plans throughout the de-accumulation phase of retirement rather than transferring the funds to a third-party (like to a bank account). The benefit? Lower investment costs—and tens of thousands of dollars saved—over a lifetime.
18. Replacing the provincial caregiver and infirm dependant tax credits with a new Ontario Caregiver Tax Credit (OCTC). Dependants would not be required to live with the caregiver to claim the new credit.