Financial news and advice — January/February 2016

The Canada Revenue Agency is asking a master illusionist to conjure up half-a-million dollars, while a new poll shows most Canadians are planning to make charitable donations this year.


CRA tells magician to conjure up taxes

David Copperfield, the world’s most successful magician, worth an estimated US$800 million, owes the Canada Revenue Agency nearly half-a-million dollars in unpaid taxes for money he earned on a Canadian tour in 2008 and 2009. The master illusionist, who is known for making the Statue of Liberty “disappear” and cutting model (and former girlfriend) Claudia Schiffer in two, claims his Los Angeles-based accountant and business manager hid the problems from him after failing to file the Canadian tax returns, and that he only learned of the tax issues in 2013. Copperfield filed a lawsuit against the accountant after the CRA threatened legal action against him in August.


Riding the buyway

Mobile-connected Canadians 

Mobile-connected Canadians who take public transit are giving new meaning to shopping on the go. In an Ipsos poll conducted for PayPal, three-quarters of commuters with a mobile device said they would consider buying a wide range of products while on transit if mobile shopping options were available — and 14% already do so. Purchases include movie, game or concert tickets (62%), clothing, shoes or accessories (62%), gifts (55%), groceries/food (53%) and electronics, games and other tech products (50%).


FinLit level is falling

The number of Canadians who think they’re savvy about money dropped to 60% in 2015, down from 67% in 2014, finds a survey by the Credit Counselling Society. But even among the six in 10 who describe themselves as financially literate, most continue to make basic no-nos, such as carrying a credit card balance (59%) or neglecting to follow a budget. Furthermore, nearly half (46%) of those earning $100,000 or more say nonmortgage debt is causing them stress.


Facebook ruined my credit

Credit rating agencies such as Fico and TransUnion are using new sources of information — including social media posts — to determine a borrower’s ability to pay, the Financial Times reported. The move comes at the request of banks in a quest to find new customers who may not have built up their credit scores yet. “If you look at how many times a person says ‘wasted’ in their profile, it has some value in predicting whether they’re going to repay their debt,” Fico CEO Will Lansing told the newspaper.


Charity in Canada

Eight in 10 Canadians surveyed in October said they plan to make a charitable donation within the next 12 months, with an average annual total of $694 each, a BMO poll finds. Regionally, the lowest average annual donations come from Quebec at $275.49 (a hike of 15% over the previous year), while British Columbians plan to give the most with a whopping $1,235.61 — more than twice the $593.11 they contributed last year.