The national currency is the Canadian dollar (CAD). In 2020, CAD 1.34 was equal to USD 1. In that year, the average worker earned CAD 57 292 (Secretariat estimate).

Under the present system, tax is levied on individuals separately; certain tax reliefs depend on family circumstances.

  • Basic personal amount: Individual taxpayers can claim a non-refundable credit in respect of the Basic Personal Amount (BPA). Starting in 2020, there are two portions to the BPA, the original portion and the increased portion. On December 9, 2019, the government announced gradual increases to the BPA such that it would reach CAD 15000 by 2023. These increases will implemented over the 2020 to 2023 period through annual increases in excess of inflation. The new, increased portion of the BPA will be subject to an income test beginning at a level of individual net income equivalent to the fourth federal tax bracket threshold (CAD 150 473 in 2020), and be fully phased out by the fifth federal bracket threshold (CAD 214 368 in 2020). Individuals with net income at or exceeding the fifth bracket threshold will continue to receive the BPA, but will not benefit from the supplemental increase. The maximum value of the credit (no reductions) in 2020 is CAD 1 984.35, which is calculated by applying the lowest personal income tax rate (15% in 2020) to the sum of the original BPA (CAD 12 298 in 2020) and the full value of the increase (CAD 931 in 2020).

  • Credit for Spouse or Eligible Dependant: A taxpayer supporting a spouse or other eligible dependant receives a tax credit, which is set equal to the BPA. The above announcement of December 9, 2019 increased the credit for Spouse or Eligible Dependant in the same way as the BPA. The increased portion of these credits will be subject to the same income-test as the BPA, and will continue to be reduced dollar-for-dollar by the net income of the spouse or eligible dependant. The maximum value of the Credit for Spouse or Eligible Dependant is CAD 1 984.35 in 2020.

  • Social security contributions: Starting in 2019, taxpayers were entitled to claim a deduction for the newly enhanced portions of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) (to a maximum amount of CAD 165.60) (See Section 2.1.1. for more detail). The original base contributions to the CPP or QPP continue to be eligible for a 15% credit (to a maximum contribution of CAD 2 732.40 for the CPP and CAD 2 980.80 for the QPP). Taxpayers are also entitled to claim a 15% tax credit for their Employment Insurance (EI) premiums to a maximum contribution of CAD 856.36 outside Quebec; the EI premium rate is lower for Quebec residents, who also pay into the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan; the maximum combined credit for a Quebec resident is CAD 1 038.19.

  • Canada Workers Benefit1 (CWB): The CWB provides a non-wastable tax credit equal to 26% of each dollar of earned income in excess of CAD 3 000 to a maximum credit of CAD 1 381 for single individuals without dependents and CAD 2 379 for families (couples and single parents). The credit is reduced by 12% of net family income in excess of CAD 13 064 for single individuals and CAD 17 348 for families. This is the default national design; provinces may choose to propose jurisdiction-specific changes to this design, subject to certain principles.

  • Canada Employment Tax Credit: A tax credit of up to CAD 186.75 on employment income.

A number of non-standard tax reliefs are available to the average worker in Canada. The main ones are:

  • Medical expenses credit: Taxpayers are entitled to a 15% tax credit for an amount of eligible medical expenses that exceeds the lesser of 3% of net income or CAD 2 397.

  • Charitable donations credit: The credit is 15% on the first CAD 200 of eligible charitable donations and 29% on eligible donations in excess of CAD 200, with the exception of donors with taxable income exceeding CAD 214 368, who may claim a 33% tax credit on the portion of total annual donations over CAD 200 made from taxable income greater than CAD 214 368. Eligible donations are those made to registered charities, to a maximum of 75% of net income.

  • Registered pension plan contributions: Employees who are members of a registered pension plan are entitled to deduct their contributions to the plan. Employee contributions required to fund the actuarial benefit liabilities under a defined benefit registered pension plan are permitted (annual benefit accruals are limited to a maximum of 2% of earnings up to a dollar amount of CAD 3 092). Employee contributions to a defined contribution registered pension plan are limited to 18% of earned income up to a maximum of CAD 27 830.

  • Registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) premiums: Individuals can deduct their contributions to an RRSP up to a limit of 18% of the previous year’s earned income, to a maximum of CAD 27 230 a year, unless they are also accruing benefits under a registered pension plan or a deferred profit sharing plan. Members of those other plans are limited to RRSP contributions of 18% of the previous year’s earned income to a maximum of CAD 27 230, minus a pension adjustment amount based on pension benefits accrued in the previous year.

  • Union and professional dues: Individuals with annual dues paid to a trade union or an association of public servants or paying dues required to maintain a professional status recognised by statute are allowed to deduct such fees in computing taxable income.

  • Moving expenses: Eligible moving expenses are deductible from income if the taxpayer moves at least 40 kilometres closer to a new place of employment.

  • Child care expenses: A portion of child care expenses is deductible if incurred for the purpose of earning business or employment income, studying or taking an occupational training course or carrying on research for which a grant is received. The lower income spouse must generally claim the deduction. The amount of the deduction is limited to the least of:

    1. 1. the expenses incurred for the care of a child;

    2. 2. two thirds of the taxpayer’s earned income; and

    3. 3. CAD 8 000 for each child who is under age seven, and CAD 5 000 per child between seven and sixteen years of age (or older if has a mental or physical impairment, but not eligible for the Disability Tax Credit). The amount for a child who is eligible for Disability Tax Credit is CAD 11 000.

All provinces and territories levy their own personal income taxes. All, with the exception of Quebec, have a tax collection agreement with the federal government, and thus use the federal definition of taxable income. They are free to determine their own tax brackets, rates and credits. Quebec collects its own personal income tax and is free to determine all of the tax parameters, including taxable income. In practice, its definition of taxable income is broadly similar to the federal definition.

The calculation of provincial tax for the average worker study assumes the worker lives in Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces and 3 territories. The main features of the Ontario tax system relevant to this report are summarised below:

Tax Schedule


Wastable tax credits

  • A basic tax credit of CAD 544.54.

  • A maximum credit of CAD 462.38 for a dependant spouse or eligible dependant that is withdrawn as the income of the spouse or eligible dependant exceeds CAD 915 and is completely withdrawn when the income of the spouse is at least CAD 10 071.

  • 5.05% of contributions made to the Canada Pension Plan and of Employment Insurance premiums.

  • A maximum credit2 of the lower of CAD 850 or 5.05% of earned income per filer with earned income that is reduced by 10% of the greater of:

    • Adjusted individual net income over CAD 30 000

    • Adjusted family net income over CAD 60 000.

Tax Reduction

An earner is entitled to claim a tax reduction where the initial entitlement is equal to CAD 249 plus CAD 460 for each dependent child under the age of 19. Where someone has a spouse, only the spouse with the higher net income can claim the dependent child tax reduction. If this amount is greater or equal to the liable provincial tax, then no tax is due. If the amount is less than the liable tax, then the actual tax reduction is equal to twice the initial entitlement amount less the liable tax (if this calculation is zero or negative, the reduction is equal to zero).

Generally, all employees are eligible for coverage under the CPP or QPP. Starting in 2019, as part of the CPP and QPP enhancements announced in 2016 and 2017 respectively, a 1-percentage point increase in employee and employer contributions will be phased-in over five years. Employee contributions with respect to the enhanced portion of the CPP and QPP (i.e., the additional contributions associated with the higher contribution rate – additional 0.15% of income for 2019, and 0.30% for 2020) can be claimed as a deduction for federal tax purposes (a deduction for employee contributions to the enhanced portion of the CPP and QPP will also be claimed for Quebec income tax purposes) to a maximum of CAD 165.60 for a total maximum contribution of CAD 2 898.00 (CAD 3 146.40 in Quebec). Employee contributions with respect to the base portion of the CPP at a rate of 4.95% of income (5.40% for the QPP) will continue to be claimed as a wastable tax credit at the rate of 15% (to a maximum contribution of CAD 2 732.40 and CAD 2 980.80 for the CPP and QPP respectively). Income subject to contributions is earnings (wages and salaries) less a CAD 3 500 basic exemption. The maximum base contribution of CAD 2 732.40 is reached at an earnings level of CAD 58 700 (i.e. (CAD 58 700 - CAD 3 500) x 4.95% = CAD 2 732.40). Employers are also required to contribute to the CPP or QPP on behalf of their employees at the same rate and can deduct their contributions from taxable income (refer to Section 2.2.1).

Self-employed persons must also contribute to the CPP or QPP on their own behalf. However, the self-employed are required to contribute at the combined employer/employee rate on their earnings. Self-employed individuals will continue to pay both the employee and employer portion at a rate of 10.5% and 11.4% per cent respectively after the phase-in of increased contributions under the enhanced CPP and QPP. Self-employed individuals will continue to claim a wastable tax credit at the rate of 15% on the employee share of contributions to the base portion of the CPP and QPP (same as employees). For the remaining amounts, the entire enhanced portion and the base employer portion, self-employed individuals will claim a maximum deduction of CAD 2 898.00 (CAD 3 146.40 in Quebec).

There is no national sickness benefit plan administered by the federal government. However, all provinces have provincially administered health care insurance plans. Three provinces, Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, levy health premiums on individuals separately from the personal income tax to help finance their health programmes.

In the case of Ontario, the premium is determined based on taxable income. Individuals who earn up to CAD 20 000 are exempt. The premium is phased-in with a number of different rates to a maximum of CAD 900 for taxable income levels greater than CAD 200 600. The following table provides further details on the structure that is applicable in 2020.

In general, all employees are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). Eligibility to receive benefits is determined by insurable hours worked (with a minimum entry threshold of 420 to 700 hours, depending on region and the unemployment rate at the time the claim for benefits starts). For 2020, employees outside Quebec are required to contribute at the rate of 1.58% of insurable earnings. Insurable earnings are earnings (wages and salaries) up to a maximum of CAD 54 200 per year. The maximum employee contribution is therefore CAD 856.36 per year. EI contributions give rise to a tax credit equal to 15% of the amount contributed. Employers are also required to contribute to the plan. (See Section 2.23)

Quebec residents contribute to EI at a rate of 1.20%; the same earnings ceiling applies. They also contribute to the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan at a rate of 0.494% of insurable earnings; maximum insurance earnings for 2020 are CAD 78 500. For a Quebec resident, the maximum employee contribution (EI plus Quebec Parental Insurance Plan) is CAD 1 038.19.

See section 2.2.4.

Employers are required to contribute to the CPP on behalf of their employees an amount equal to their employees' contributions. Thus, employers also contribute at the rate of 5.25% of earnings (less the CAD 3 500 earnings exemption) to a maximum of CAD 2 898.00. For the QPP, the contribution rate is 5.70% of earnings, to a maximum of CAD 3 146.40.3

There is no national sickness benefit plan administered by the federal government. However, all provinces have provincially administered health care insurance plans. Three provinces levy a special tax on employer payrolls to finance health services (Québec and Ontario) or health services and education (Manitoba). These payroll taxes are deductible from the employer’s income subject to tax. In the case of the province of Ontario, employers pay an Employer Health Tax on the value of their payroll, tax rates varying from 0.98% on Ontario payroll less than CAD 200 000, up to 1.95% for payroll that exceeds CAD 400 000. Certain employers are eligible for a higher exemption of CAD 490 000.

Employers are required to contribute to the employment insurance scheme. The general employer contribution is 1.4 times the employee contribution, that is, 2.21% of insurable earnings (outside Quebec). Premiums are adjusted for employers who provide sick pay superior to payments provided under the employment insurance regime. All employment insurance contributions are deductible from the employer’s income subject to tax.

There is no national work injury benefit plan administered by the federal government. However, employers are required to contribute to a provincial workers’ compensation plan which pays benefits to workers (or their families in case of death) for work related illness or injury. The employer contribution rates, which vary by industry and province, are related to industry experience of work related illness and injury. Premiums are deductible from the employer’s income subject to tax. In the case of Ontario, employers broadly corresponding to industry Sectors B-N inclusive pay, on average, 1.40% of the wages paid to each employee to a maximum of CAD 95 400.


Children’s benefits are provided through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB). In the autumn of 2017, the Government announced that the CCB benefit amounts and income thresholds will be indexed to inflation starting with payments in July 2018. Entitlement to the CCB for the July 2020 to June 2021 benefit year is based on 2019 adjusted family net income. The CCB provides a maximum benefit of CAD 6 900 per child under age six and CAD 5 822 per child for those aged six through seventeen. On the portion of adjusted family net income between CAD 32 345 and CAD 70 082, the benefit is phased out at a rate of 7% for a one-child family, 13.5% for a two-child family, 19% for a three-child family and 23% for larger families. Where adjusted family net income exceeds CAD 70 082, remaining benefits are phased out at rates of 3.2% for a one-child family, 5.7% for a two-child family, 8% for a three-child family and 9.5% for larger families, on the portion of income above CAD 70 082. The Goods and Services Tax Credit provides a relief of CAD 301 for each adult 19 years of age or older and CAD 159 for each dependent child under the age of 19. Single tax filers without children and with an employment income higher than CAD 9 782 receive an additional CAD 159 that is phased in at a rate of 2%. Single tax filers with children receive an additional CAD 159 that is not subject to phase-in. The credit received for the first dependent child of a single parent is also increased from CAD 159 to CAD 301. The total amount is reduced at a rate of 5% of net family income over CAD 39 277. The amount is paid directly to families.4

For each child under eighteen, qualifying families can receive up to CAD 1 490 from the Ontario Child Benefit. The benefit is withdrawn at a rate of 8% of family income that exceeds CAD 22 749.

Ontario has a Sales Tax Credit that provides a relief of up to CAD 320 for each adult and each child. It is reduced by 4% of adjusted family net income over CAD 24 597 for single people and over CAD 30 746 for families. The amount is paid directly to families.

An extra $300 per child was delivered through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) to families already receiving CCB for 2019-20. This benefit was delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment on May 20, 2020.

A one-time special payment through the Goods and Services Tax credit for low- and modest-income families was delivered on April 9, 2020. The amount was calculated based on information from tax filers’ 2018 income tax and benefit return. The maximum amounts for the 2019-2020 benefit year were effectively doubled increasing from:

  • $443 to $886 for singles

  • $580 to $1,160 for couples

  • $153 to $306 for each child under the age of 19 (excluding the first eligible child of a single parent)

  • $290 to $580 for the first eligible child of a single parent.

The earnings data refer to production workers in the industries B to N. To obtain the annual average wage figure, the average weekly earnings for the year for employees (including overtime) are multiplied by 52.6

These do exist but no information is available on the amounts involved.

2020 Parameter values

2020 Tax Equations

The equations for the Canadian system are mostly repeated for each individual of a married couple. But the spouse credit is relevant only to the calculation for the principal earner and the non-wastable credits are calculated only once. This is shown by the Range indicator in the table below.

The functions which are used in the equations (Taper, MIN, Tax etc) are described in the technical note about tax equations. Variable names are defined in the table of parameters above, within the equations table, or are the standard variables “married” and “children”. A reference to a variable with the affix “_total” indicates the sum of the relevant variable values for the principal and spouse. And the affixes “_princ” and “_spouse” indicate the value for the principal and spouse, respectively. Equations for a single person are as shown for the principal, with “_spouse” values taken as 0.


← 1. The Canada Workers Benefit (CWB) represents a rebranding and enhancement to the previous Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) effective for the 2019 tax year.

← 2. Ontario implemented a new low-income credit in 2019 named the Low-income Individuals and Families Tax (LIFT) credit.

← 3. Contributions rates will continue to gradually increase until the 2023 tax year as the 1-percentage-point increase is phased-in as part of the enhancements to CPP and QPP.

← 4. The payments that relate to income from the 2020 tax year and shown in the 2020 model are payable between July 2021 and June 2022. The amounts shown in this Report assume indexation of 1.9% for the 2020 tax year (and 2021-22 benefit year); the actual indexation parameter will be announced in December 2020.

← 5. Notwithstanding note 4, COVID-19 related temporary increases to the CCB and GSTC are captured in the Canada 2020 Taxing Wages model even though the income eligibility for these new COVID-related benefits is actually based on the information from tax filers’ 2018 income tax and benefit returns and they were paid in April and May of 2020.

← 6. The average wage is calculated by the Department of Finance using data from Statistics Canada’s Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours.

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