March 15, 2009
Many questions remain for members of the landscape industry as to the specifics of the Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC) announced in the federal government’s economic budget of Jan. 31.

The Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association (CNLA) held a conference call on Mar. 2nd with members of a action group that includes, Vic Krahn CHT, chair of CNLA’s Political Action Committee, Michael Murray, CNLA past president, Victor Santacruz, CNLA’s executive director, Werner Knittel, BCLNA executive director, Joe Salemi and Allan Dennis, representing Landscape Ontario.

The season is about to begin for landscapers and some clarity is required immediately from the government on the rules for the tax credit. Since the plan was announced by finance minister Jim Flaherty in January, the landscape industry have been unable to find answers to questions, such as if the purchase and installation of plant material (ie. trees and shrubs), landscape irrigation, outdoor lighting, ponds, and pools would be considered eligible.

Early March news reports revealed that the tax cut plan is so complicated that finance officials couldn’t get legislation ready to include it in the first budget implementation bill that made its way through Parliament. It has been announced that the second bill won’t be introduced until the fall.

The consensus of those participating in the telephone conference is that an answer is required from the finance minister by Mar. 16. If an answer is not been received at that time, press releases from both CNLA and provincial associations will be sent demanding answers. As well the landscape associations will ally with counterpart building trade associations to pressure the government for concrete answers on the tax credit.

All that has been announced is that eligible home renovation expenditures for work performed, or goods acquired, are those between Jan. 27, 2009 and Feb. 1, 2010. A 15 per cent credit may be claimed on the portion of eligible expenditures exceeding $1,000, but not more than $10,000, meaning that the maximum tax credit is $1,350.

Properties eligible for the HRTC include houses, cottages and condominium units that are owned for personal use. Expenses such as labour, building permits, equipment rentals, professional services and incidentals are also eligible. Do-it-yourself labour is not eligible for the tax credit.

To date, the government has announced the HRTC eligible and ineligible expenditures are:

Eligible Projects
  • Building an addition, deck, fence or retaining wall
  • Painting the interior or exterior of a house
  • Resurfacing a driveway
  • Laying new sod

Ineligible Projects
  • Purchase of tools
  • Maintenance contracts such as furnace cleaning, snow removal, lawn care, pool cleaning, etc.

Calls to Canada Revenue by both CNLA and Landscape Ontario have failed to result in any clarification on the specifics of the tax credit. Promises from ministry officials to call back to clarify if homeowners may claim that trees and perennials, irrigation and lighting systems, decks, pools, ponds, walkways are included in the tax credit plan never materialized.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is quoted as saying that nobody should worry that they won’t get credit for renovations done before the legislation passes. He is reported to have said, “The legislative changes needed for the tax credit are complex and were not included in the first budget implementation bill that is currently making its way through Parliament.”

Opposition MPs have noted that the present government will face at least three more confidence motions tied to the budget before the fall, which any one of could lead to the government’s defeat.

Landscape Ontario and CNLA plan to release recommendations for members by Mar. 16.