Most paychecks likely to suffer a ding this year

Most Canadian workers will find slightly smaller pay checks this year as income tax exemptions are offset by higher payroll taxes.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says workers earning the average national wage of $35,000 U.S. will pay $74 more in taxes, eclipsing the $32 they'll save with the increase in personal income-tax exemptions.

That could change if Finance Minister Jim Flaherty follows through with options of tax cuts in an economic stimulus package in the budget to be announced Jan. 27.

The federation said Employment Insurance payments should be falling, not rising, after a study found "massive" overpayments to the fund while Canada Pension Plan payments are also increasing.

For whatever money is left over, Canadians have a new option to save starting this year: the tax-free bank account.

It allows up to $5,000 to be deposited annually while withdrawals and interest won't be taxed.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says the country's top corporate executives in just 12 hours of the New Year will earn as much as the average person working all year.

Avalanches kill 10

Deadly mountain avalanches in Alberta and British Columbia have claimed 10 lives.

Three men managed to dig themselves out after three avalanches swept over a group of 11 snowmobilers from Sparwood, Alberta.

The survivors helped search crews find the bodies of the eight others who were buried in the treacherous back-country of Harvey Valley. The group was equipped with shovels, probes and transmitters in the event of an avalanche.

Two skiers were killed in avalanches in off-limit danger areas on Blackcomb and Whistler mountains in British Columbia.

On Mount Seymour near Vancouver, snowboarder James Martin, 27, was found by rescuers after being lost for three days.

News in brief

• December was a deadly month for the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, with nine soldiers killed. Roadside bombs in the past week took the lives of Pvt. Michael Freeman, Sgt. Gregory Kruse and Warrant Officer Gaetan Roberge. Last year, 32 soldiers were killed, taking the death toll to 106 in the conflict.

• Canada's economic situation is not as dire as other countries' and that has spiked the number of immigration applications from highly qualified workers and executives around the world. Canada will maintain immigration targets at the current level of up to 265,000 for this year with many applicants attracted by the stronger economy and job opportunities.

Facts and figures

The past year was one of the worst for Canada's stock markets, as they lost 35 percent of their value or about $573-billion (U.S.).

The Toronto Stock Exchange composite index plunged from a record high above 15,000 in June to end the year at 8,987. The TSX Venture exchange index dropped to 797 points.

Canada's dollar was up, at 82.55 U.S. cents on Friday while the U.S. dollar returned $1.2114 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is unchanged at 1.5 percent while the prime lending rate is 3.5 percent.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 5, 7, 23, 33, 37 and 38; bonus 26. (Dec. 27) 6, 10, 20, 23, 45 and 47; bonus 11. Super 7: (Dec. 26) 4, 25, 30, 31, 33, 34 and 37; bonus 11.

Regional briefs

• A "suspicious" fire injured five people and forced 100 to flee the Radisson hotel in downtown Ottawa, Canada's capital, in frigid temperatures on New Year's Eve. One woman has burns to 20 percent of her body while a man was also injured and three people were treated for smoke inhalation.

• Calgary brought in the New Year with continued violence, with four men killed in two incidents. A possible gang-related shooting left three men dead at the Bolsa Vietnamese Restaurant Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the day, a man in his 20s was killed in a disturbance outside a pub.

• Canada's East Coast endured a howling blizzard on New Year's Day, as snow and high winds caused power outages, disrupted highway travel and grounded flights. Eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton received up to 2 feet of snow, with conditions virtually closing the Halifax airport. Prince Edward Island had about 8 inches of snow while up to 6 inches fell in southeastern New Brunswick, western Newfoundland and coastal Labrador.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Most paychecks likely to suffer a ding this year 01/03/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 5, 2009 11:33am]

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