Business beat: Tax tips for Revelstokians

Gordon Frocklage from H&R Block goes over some common tax credits he says many people miss out on

Gordon Frocklage has owned H&R Block in Revelstoke for 23 years.

Spring has arrived in Revelstoke, and taxes are due. The ins and outs of filing tax returns can be complex, and mistakes are easily made. Gordon Frocklage from H&R Block wants to help by advising people about the four most common issues he sees at tax time.

Frocklage has owned H&R Block’s Revelstoke office for 23 years. Before he settled here, he was a “fixer” for the company, being sent to problematic offices to straighten them out, overseeing an area from the Washington border north to Williams Lake and east to the Alberta border.

“The most common thing I see is people missing out on the new (home) buyers plan,” Frocklage explains. “If you are a first time buyer, you are entitled to $750 back.”

While it might sound like a drop in the bucket compared to your mortgage, that $750 can help cover the cost of unexpected repairs, help with renovations, be a mini vacation, your ski pass or be squirrelled away.

Second on the list is concerning young people who don’t file taxes but do have part time jobs and get T4’s from their employers.

“I mean the sixteen and up crowd here,” Frocklage elaborates. He explains that they should file taxes because the BC Medical Service Plan (MSP) begins to charge a monthly minimum once you turn 19.

“The government assumes you are making $100,000 a year unless you tell them otherwise. This means if you’ve never filed taxes before, you’re paying the highest monthly amount. If you have shown in past years to be making very little, your MSP coverage is free,” he says.

The past year has seen the MSP crack down on those not paying through various methods, including having their fee garnished from your pay check.

To encourage youth to file, H&R Block offers a program where the first year tax return is free, the second year is half price and then the third year regular price. “By the third year I figure they are 18 or 19,” Frocklage laughs. “So it’s ‘welcome to the real world’.”

The third piece of tax advice involves tuition. “A lot of young people don’t claim tuition because they don’t have an income to deduct it from. But you can carry your tuition forward for 10 years until it’s a suitable time to claim it,” Frocklage explains. “So if someone paid $10,000 in tuition in 2008 and is now in 2016 making good money, they can claim the tuition against their income, which helps them get a larger tax return.”

For any graduated university or college students out there, your student loan interest can also be claimed. “Keep all your paperwork in case you need it down the road,” Frocklage recommends.

His final suggestion concerns trade apprentices. “There are federal grants available for $1,000 in the first two years and after that there are tax credits up to $2,000,” he explains. A lot of apprentices in trade school are not kept informed about the benefits available to them when it comes to tax time.

There are many challenges involved in filing taxes to ensure you get the best refund possible, so why not check out one of the number of excellent bookkeepers, accountants and tax professionals in town? They are all willing and able to help you get the best return you can.