4 things to expect from the upcoming federal budget

4 things to expect from Budget 2016

Seniors, families and homebuyers appear to have the most to gain in Budget 2016, but investors could take a hit


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With a sluggish economy as a backdrop and election promises fresh in our minds, the nation is about to get its first glimpse into the fiscal priorities of the newly elected Liberal government. At Canadian Business, Mike Moffat, assistant professor in the Business, Economics and Public Policy (BEPP) group at the Ivey Business School, highlighted eight things he’ll be on the look out for in this Tuesday’s Budget. Among them: A simplification of the Income Tax Act, a food rebate program for low-income families and a possible guaranteed income program, much like the one recently announced in the Ontario budget. He writes:

The Ontario budget contained a clause committing to a basic income pilot and it is possible that the federal government may consider the same. I am highly skeptical of many of the proposals floated by proponents of a Guaranteed Minimum Income, so I will be looking to see if the federal government is considering moving in this direction

Already, a few personal finance promises have been announced, including Thursday’s pledge to restore Old Age Security eligibility to 65 years old. But taxpayers can expect many more changes and announcements to be released in Tuesday’s budget. In particular, here are four issues we’ll be looking for that could impact your pocketbook:

1. More income and investment changes

As promised, the Liberals have already made changes to the federal income tax brackets. Starting 2016, the middle income tax bracket dropped from 22% to 20.5%. Those who earn between $45,282 and $216,987 will pay less tax. However, those earning upwards of that can expect to pay more income tax, with the introduction of a new 33% tax bracket for income over $200,000. As well, the Liberals’ reduction of the TFSA contribution limit, from $10,000 to $5,500 annually, took effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

However, those counting on a boost to their income from stock options will need to pay particular attention to this upcoming budget, as the Liberals have hinted at possible changes. One change: a cap on the favourable tax treatment of stock options. At present, investors and employees are taxed on 50% of the gains of stock options. Budget 2016 could see introduce a cap of $100,000 on this favourable tax treatment of stock options, with the remaining gains taxed as ordinary income.

Investors who’ve come to rely on investments with favourably taxed capital gains may be in for a shock. There have been rumours the Liberals could increase the percentage of the gain that’s taxed at your marginal rate. At present, only 50% of any capital gains on an investment are taxed at your marginal tax rate. After this budget, as much as two-thirds or three-quarters of the profit could be taxed at your marginal tax rate.

2. Increased flexibility with parental benefits

We already know that starting in July 2016, the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) and the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) will be replaced with one non-taxable Canada Child Benefit. However, we should expect to get more details in the budget documents. A major question is whether or not the Liberals will make good on their promise to create a more flexible parental benefits plan, that includes up to 18 months of time off to care for an infant (six months of which would be unpaid).

3. A boost to guaranteed income for seniors

During the 2015 election, the Liberals pledged to restore Old Age Security eligibility to age 65. This was in response to the Conservative government’s decision to increase the age of eligibility to 67, for those born after 1958. On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that the Liberals are keeping the old retirement age at 65. Other items to look out for this budget include: a potential increase of 10% to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for low-income seniors as well as indexing senior benefits (such as the GIS) to inflation as well as a promise to expand compassionate care benefits to family members caring for sick or aging relatives.

4. An expansion of the Home Buyers’ Plan

In the weeks and days leading up to Budget 2016, tax experts have begun to suspect some announcement on the Liberals promise to loosen the requirements of the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP). The initial promise was to open up the plan beyond first-time homebuyers to allow Canadians to use the HBP when dealing with life events such as work relocation, divorce or the death of a spouse. Another way the Liberals may be able to help home buyers, particularly in potentially overheated markets like Toronto and Vancouver, is to announce more in-depth data collection and analysis of the real estate marketplace.

And more to come…

MoneySense will be on Parliament Hill for Budget 2016 on Tuesday and available to answer your personal finance questions afterward. Join us on moneysense.ca for a live-chat on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Tweet your questions with the hashtag #BudgetChat or comment on the livestream and our experts will answer.