Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New tax credit for home improvements has a short lifespan

Jan 28, 2009 04:30 AM

OTTAWA–Installing a new furnace this year? Building a deck?

The proposed federal budget offers a temporary new tax credit for your home renovations – provided you do them soon.

The Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC) is designed to get Canadians spending now to help create jobs in industries typically hurt by an economic downturn.

"These measures to support home construction and renovation will help stimulate our construction and building-supplies industries," Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in his speech. "This in turn will support forestry and other Canadian industries. It will give an immediate boost to our economy, and help to create jobs."

Effective today through Jan. 31, 2010, homeowners can claim a tax credit for 15 per cent of renovation expenses between $1,000 and $10,000. The maximum tax credit (on $9,000 in renovations) is worth $1,350.

The government estimated the total value of the tax credit at about $3 billion, and expects about 4.6 million families to benefit.

The tax credit would apply to a variety of home improvements, such as renovating a kitchen, bathroom or basement, new carpet or hardwood floors, building an addition, deck, or fence, installing a new furnace, painting the inside or outside of a house, or laying new sod.

Expenses such as building permits, professional services, and equipment rentals are also eligible. Routine repairs and maintenance will not qualify for the credit. Nor will the cost of purchasing furniture, appliances, electronics, or construction equipment.

Houses, cottages and condominium units owned for personal use are eligible.

Canada's leading home improvement retailer, Rona Inc., said the measure is "positive" for the home improvement industry and it would announce additional incentives, similar to those it announced last week in Quebec.

Rona is offering Quebec customers 10 per cent off materials purchased for projects that qualify for that province's home improvement tax credit program.

Rival Home Depot Canada said yesterday it's unclear what impact the tax credit program would have on its business. "We don't know the conditions around it, so it's hard to comment at this point," said spokesperson Tiziana Baccega.

Toronto-area home renovator Mark Denington, who works mainly on jobs valued under $10,000, was skeptical of the program's benefits, saying it's unlikely to sway consumers on a tight budget.

"If you couldn't afford to do a $5,000 job without the tax break, you probably can't afford to it with the tax break," said the Beach neighbourhood contractor.

Denington said the recession has so far been good for his business, because homeowners have been scaling back to focus on the kind of smaller renovation projects he specializes in.

It's too early to tell whether his business will drop off this spring, as it's always slow in January, he added.

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