Financial news and advice — December 2014

An Ontario woman gets a medical expense tax credit of nearly $17,500 for a trip to Thailand and Indonesia. Plus, Google agrees to refund parents for unauthorized charges made by children using mobile apps.


Holiday a legit medical expense, tax court rules

Not sure if you have an allowable tax deduction? It might pay to claim it anyway, as a Thunder Bay, Ont., woman found. Trudy Tallon tried to claim a medical expense tax credit of nearly $17,500 for a winter trip to Thailand and Indonesia in 2009. While the CRA denied the claim, the Tax Court of Canada recently overturned that decision, ruling that Tallon’s travel to a warm climate — as advised by her doctor to ease chronic pain — was a legitimate tax deduction. The expenses included flights, accommodation and meals during the four-month trip not just for Tallon, but also for her husband. "Ms. Tallon would be unable to travel for a lengthy period on her own," Justice Judith Woods stated in her decision. "Attendant expenses are accordingly satisfied."


Google to refund US$19 million

Good news for parents whose young children have unwittingly racked up hundreds or even thousands of dollars in charges while playing games on Mom’s or Dad’s smartphone or tablet. Following a US Federal Trade Commission complaint, Google has agreed to refund a minimum of US$19 million for unauthorized charges made by children using mobile apps downloaded from the Google Play app store. Similar cases regarding unauthorized in-app charges have already been brought against Amazon and Apple.


Rethinking RRSP contribution rates

Contrary to recent gloomy reports that Canadians are neglecting to save for retirement, a CD Howe Institute study shows that among workers who earn at least $50,000 a year and do not have a company pension, about half made an RRSP contribution in 2013, with an average amount of 10% of their earnings. Of course, this also means about half did not contribute to an RRSP.


Slow and steady wins the investment race

Women currently control one-third of all wealth in North America, and that’s increasing by 8% annually, according to a Bank of Montreal survey. The online poll of more than 1,300 Canadians also found that women are more concerned than men with putting their money into safe investments (60% versus 44%) and avoiding big losses (51% versus 42%), while men are more likely than women to focus on building and accumulating their wealth (35% versus 26%).


Credit where it’s due

For the 10th consecutive year, Canadians ranked credit unions first for customer service among all the country’s financial institutions, according to an Ipsos poll. "We believe these survey results reflect what Canadians have long been saying: that the personal, one-on-one service they receive with a credit union matters," says Martha Durdin, president and CEO, Credit Union Central of Canada.