Filing Your Return -> Spouse or Common-Law Partner Amount
Income Tax Act s. 118(1)(b), s. 251(2) s. 251(6)
Line 303 Spouse or Common-Law Partner Amount (Spousal Amount)
If, at any time in the year, you supported your spouse or common-law partner and his or her net income (line 236) was less than $11,474 for 2016 ($11,635 for 2017), you can claim all or a portion of the spousal amount of $11,474 for 2016 ($11,635 for 2017). See the tables of non-refundable tax credits for the provincial amounts and tax rates of this tax credit, which also show the spousal amounts for each province and territory. The amount is reduced by any net income of the spouse.
The spousal amount
When completing your tax return, it is necessary to indicate if you have a spouse or common-law partner. You have a spouse if you are legally married. See the definition of common-law partner.
If the spouse or common-law partner is dependent on the individual by reason of mental or physical infirmity, the family caregiver amount will increase the spousal amount by $2,121 for 2016 ($2,150 for 2017). When the family caregiver amount is claimed, the income threshold for the dependant is increased to $13,595 for 2016 ($13,785 for 2017).
You can still claim this credit if you were living apart for reasons other than a breakdown in your relationship.
If you and your spouse or common-law partner were separated for only part of the year due to a breakdown in your relationship, you can still claim this tax credit, as long as you do not claim any support amounts paid to your spouse.
Where you and your spouse are living apart at the end of the year because of a breakdown in the relationship, and the breakdown occurred during the year, only the income for the period of the year prior to the breakdown is included in income for the calculation of the spousal amount tax credit. In all other cases, the income of the spouse for the entire taxation year must be used in calculating the tax credit.
A taxpayer who is entitled to the spousal tax credit for his/her spouse or common-law partner may include all of the spouse's dividends from taxable Canadian corporations in his/her income. This option is only available if doing so will allow the taxpayer to claim, or increase the claim, for the spousal tax credit. See our article on the Spousal Dividend Transfer.
You can also claim this credit if your spouse or common-law partner is a non-resident of Canada, if you are not living apart due to a breakdown in your relationship. Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) IT513R Personal Tax Credits (archived) indicates that it is necessary that the non-resident person be supported by or be dependent on you for support. If the non-resident spouse has enough income or assistance for a reasonable standard of living in the country in which they live, they are not considered to be supported by you or to be dependent on you for support. Gifts which merely enhance or supplement the already adequate lifestyle of the non-resident person do not constitute support.
To determine if the non-resident spouse is being supported by you, the CRA will consider:
To support a spousal tax credit claim for a non-resident spouse, you must provide with your income tax return proof of the amounts contributed as support. This would usually include receipts for post office or bank money orders, cancelled cheques that were payable to and negotiated by the spouse, or receipts from private agencies established for the purpose of transferring money or goods to residents of other countries.
To determine if the non-resident spouse has to pay tax in Canada, see our article on Who pays tax in Canada?
If you are filing your tax return using tax software and you have a non-resident spouse, this should not be a problem. You will indicate on your return that you are married, but do not try to "couple" your return with your spouse's return. This can normally only be done if you both reside in the same province. If your non-resident spouse has to file a Canadian tax return, it will have to be done separately. When the returns are not coupled, there is no need to enter a social insurance number (SIN) for the spouse.
The Canadian Tax Calculator includes the calculation of the spousal tax credit.
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) information:
Other tax credits that may be available for someone living with you:
Revised: February 11, 2017
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