It’s also the time of year many Canadians will begrudgingly start working on their taxes. If you’re anything like me, tax time is a myriad of forms, paperwork, and other tedium I really should have gotten around to in October. But here we are.
For most of you reading this, tax time isn’t so bad. Chances are you only have income from one source (your job), or maybe another source like a side hustle or investment returns. Add on a slip for your RRSP contribution, and that’s about it. Spend an hour on Turbotax and you’re done.
The average Canadian also overpays during the year — by design, since the last thing the government wants is to have to hound everyone for taxes at the end of the year — to the tune of more than $1,000, a pretty big chunk of change.
For years, the same advice has been given to taxpayers. Instead of getting a fat refund at the end of the year, you should opt for less tax taken off at the source and enjoy that money year round. If your refund is $1,200, wouldn’t you much rather have $100 extra per month? After all, there’s value in having money now compared to a year from now.
While that’s true, I’m of the belief that, for most people, it doesn’t really matter. Here’s why it’s okay to have a tax refund.
Pros aren’t really pros
Think of it this way. For the sake of simplicity, let’s divide people into two groups, even though real life doesn’t work that way. We’ll call them the financial studs and duds. The studs are maxing out retirement accounts, living frugally, and so on. The duds are doing everything wrong.
Let’s assume both groups get a tax refund each year. The studs do smart things with it, while the duds spend it on green beer and other silly things. Would that really change if each group of people had the tax refund to spend in equal increments over the year? I’m guessing not.
In fact, I’d even argue that the duds of the world are more likely to do something smart with the cash if it all comes in one big lump sum. There’s a huge psychological benefit to paying off a quarter or a third of your credit card at once, while many people wouldn’t even bother throwing $100 per month extra at it because it doesn’t feel like they’re doing anything.
The other anti-tax refund argument is that having the cash now is more valuable than having it later. For the most part, this is true. In theory, you could invest that cash for a few months and end up with gains.
But in reality, putting $100 per month in the bank at 1% interest gives you a whole $6 extra per year compared to the person who gets it all back at the end of the year, since you’d slowly be depositing it over the year. You’ll forgive me if I don’t get excited over that. You could make gains higher than that in the stock market, but those are hardly guaranteed.
But saying all that, I am in favor of you getting rid of your tax refund. Just not in the way you’ve been taught.
A better plan than getting a tax refund
There’s a really easy way for you to minimize your tax refund in 2015. All you have to do is earn more money.
I’m not talking about getting a raise at work, although that’s not a bad idea either. Instead, leverage your skills into a profitable side hustle. You’ll make income that isn’t taxed at the source, which will eat up your tax refund. Just be sure to figure out the tax implications of your side income so you’re not running into a different tax problem — being short.
There are other advantages to having a side hustle. You can write off part of your house as a home office, and chances are you can write off anything from a portion of your vehicle expenses or internet as well, depending on the nature of your business. You’ll make extra cash and cut down on your expenses.
There are hundreds of reasons why having a side hustle is a good idea. Using it to avoid getting a huge tax refund is just icing on the cake.