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The "Eqivalent to Spouse" Credit

As most readers are likely aware, you are entitled to the spousal credit if you have a spouse or common-law partner with no or little income. The federal credit is 15% of $10,527 for 2011 and is indexed annually for inflation. The credit is reduced if your spouse has any income and disappears completely once their income reaches the $10,527 threshold. Provinces have similar credits with different amounts and rates.

If, at any time in a taxation year, you are single, or married or in a common-law relationship but not living with or supporting your spouse and not being supported by them, you may be eligible for the wholly dependent person credit, also known as the "equivalent to spouse" credit. The credit is known as such because it is equal in amount to the spousal credit and is similarly reduced and phased out when the person you are supporting ("dependant", described below) has income up to the $10,527 threshold (for 2011).

In addition to the above criteria, you must support the dependant in a home that you "maintain" (this can be a rented or owned property). The dependant must be

  • related to you (e.g. children, grandchildren, siblings, parents);
  • wholly dependent on you forupport; and
  • except in the case of a parent or grandparent, either under 18 years of age or dependent upon you by reason of mental or physical infirmity.

Similar to the spousal credit, you may claim the equivalent to spouse credit for only one person in a taxation year. Similarly, only one person per household may claim the credit.

Interaction with other dependant credits

You cannot claim the spousal credit and the equivalent to spouse credit in the same year.

You cannot claim the equivalent to spouse credit for a person who is married or in a common-law relationship and is being claimed under the spousal credit by someone else.

You can claim the regular child credit (for children under 18) and the equivalent to spouse credit for the same person.

If you are eligible to claim the equivalent to spouse credit for a person, you cannot claim the caregiver or infirm dependent credit for the same person (although a "top-up" credit may be allowed if the caregiver credit would otherwise exceed the equivalent to spouse credit).