If a couple chooses to separate, the rules about who qualifies as a dependant may change. If you were claiming a dependant on your taxes before the separation, you may be unable to claim that dependant now. There are also several differences between claiming a spouse and now claiming other dependants that you should know.
The Difference Between Separation and Divorce
- The CRA defines a divorce as the legal ending of a marriage by a court.
- A separation happens when two people who have been living together (either legally married or in a common law relationship) decide to live separately and are not likely to live together again.
In order to file a tax return with the status “separated”, you must have been separated from your spouse for at least 90 consecutive days by December 31st of the taxation year. For example, if you and your spouse separated on October 15th 2015, both spouses would still file their 2015 returns as “married” as the 90 day rule has not been met.
Once you have been separated for more than 90 days you should inform CRA of your separation. You may either contact CRA directly or use your CRA My Account’s “Change My Marital Status” feature.
Numerous benefit programs such as the Canada Child Benefit and the GST/HST credit are calculated using the combined income of both spouses. If you have recently separated, you may now qualify for one or more of these benefits or receive higher payments upon recalculation.
Claiming an Eligible Dependant
If you and your spouse separate, one (or both of you) may now be able to claim a credit for qualifying dependants. If at any time during the year you did not have a spouse (or common law partner) and supported and lived with a minor child or grandchild or other relative such as an elderly parent, you may qualify for the Eligible Dependant credit. Formerly known as the “equivalent to married” amount, this may be a new credit for you as taxpayers who have spouses do not qualify.
Each spouse may be able to claim this credit depending upon the situation. For example, if you are living with and supporting your elderly mother and meet the qualifications, you may claim the credit for her. If your spouse lives with and supports your minor child, he/she may claim the eligible dependant credit for the child.
Claiming this non-refundable tax credit is made on Schedule 1 and the corresponding provincial or territorial Form 428.
Spousal Tax Credits You Can No Longer Claim
There are several tax credits you can no longer claim or share with your former spouse when you are separated.
Tax credits you can no longer share include:
- the pension income amount
- the disability amount
- the tuition, education and textbook amounts