Dear Uncle Bean,

My boyfriend and I moved in together about a year ago.  He is telling me that we have to select common law on our personal tax return for this year.  I don’t want to do this because it is almost like saying that we are married.  I’m not sure that I am ready to make this kind of commitment.  Do we have to do this?

Unsure and Confused

Dear Unsure and Confused:

Moving in with a boyfriend is a big step.  So it makes sense that you might not want to jump into the common law label.  Unfortunately, you might have to for tax purposes.

In general, the Canada Revenue Agency considers a couple to be common law after they have lived together for a year.  Even if you and your boyfriend have lived together for a year or more, you can still declare yourselves as single as long there are no children that live with you.  If children do live in the same house, then being single allows the parent to take advantage of the eligible dependent deduction which is a significant tax saving.  So selecting the single choice on a tax return in these cases would be considered fraud.

It should be noted, though, that it might be in your best interest to declare yourselves in a common law relationship.  If you do this, then you and your boyfriend can pool the charitable donations and medical expenses to reduce taxes.  If one of you makes less than $11,500, then there can be a significant savings for the higher earner in the relationship.  So you need to determine if being common law might help save you or your boyfriend some tax dollars.

Having said this, I know that declaring yourself in a common law relationship is a big step so if both of you don’t have children, don’t sweat it.  Declare yourselves as single and enjoy life.

Uncle Bean

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