The saying “there’s a first time for everything” also applies to taxes! Whether you just got your first job and want to claim a refund or get the goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit, or are a newcomer to Canada who wants to continue getting benefit payments, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is ready to help.
Do you need to file a return?
Every year, millions of Canadians fill out and send an income tax and benefit return to the CRA. By filling out a return, you will calculate how much tax you owe or how much you will get as a refund from the taxes you already paid. Even if you had no income in 2016, you still need to file a return to find out if you are entitled to benefits and credits like the GST/HST credit, the Canada child benefit, and any related provincial or territorial programs. The CRA uses the information you provide on your return to calculate your benefit payments. For more information on benefits and credits, go to cra.gc.ca/benefits.
If you are a newcomer to Canada, you are generally considered to be a resident for tax purposes on the date you arrive and set up residential ties in Canada, for example, having a home and a spouse living here. As a resident, you pay taxes on all the income you earn, even if you earned it outside of Canada.
Completing a return
Completing a return is not as hard as you might think. To find out where to start, go to cra.gc.ca/getready and learn about tax credits you can claim that may reduce your taxes. On the CRA website, you can also look up Learning About Taxes, a self-paced learning guide that explains Canada’s tax system and teaches you how to prepare a simple income tax and benefit return.
The legislated deadline for most Canadians to file an income tax and benefit return is April 30. Since that date is a Sunday in 2017, the CRA will consider your return as filed on time and your payment to be made if the CRA receives your submission or it is postmarked no later than May 1. Self-employed individuals and their spouses or common-law partners have until June 15 to file their returns. However, if those persons have a balance owing to the CRA, that amount is due no later than May 1.
This year you can file online as of February 20. The CRA has a list of certified tax preparation software on their website, including some that are free. Last year, more than 84% of individuals filed their returns online. To find out more, go to cra.gc.ca/netfile.
CRA online services and apps
To file online, all you need is your social insurance number, your date of birth, your income tax information, and access to NETFILE-certified software or a web application. Enter the amounts from your various information slips and receipts on your return. You don’t need to send your slips and receipts to the CRA. If the CRA wants to review them, they will get in touch with you. Generally, you have to keep all slips and receipts for at least six years.
If you are registered with CRA’s My Account and using certain tax preparation software, you can save valuable time when you use the CRA’s Auto-fill my return service and file your return online. Auto-fill my return makes filing your taxes easier by automatically filling in certain parts of your tax return. For more information, go to cra.gc.ca/auto-fill.
If you’re entitled to a refund, you can get your money in as little as eight business days if you combine online filing with direct deposit. Direct deposit is the quickest way to get your payments. For more information, go to cra.gc.ca/directdeposit.
Once you’ve filed your return and receive your notice of assessment, you can register for the CRA’s online services at cra.gc.ca/login or through cra.gc.ca/mobileapps. You can access all of the CRA’s self-service options through My Account, MyCRA mobile app, or MyBenefits CRA mobile app. You do this with a CRA user ID and password, or a sign-in partner. You can track the status of your return, apply for benefits and credits, change your address, check your registered retirement savings plan and tax-free savings account contribution limits, register for online mail, get a proof of income statement, and so much more, all with just a few clicks.
As tax season approaches, protect yourself from phishing, as well as types of fraud that could lead to identity theft or financial theft. The CRA does not send any emails with a link that you did not ask for, request personal or financial information of any kind by email or text message, or ask for payments by prepaid credit card. Go to cra.gc.ca/fraudprevention for examples of current scams and information on how to detect and avoid them. Once you have registered for CRA’s online services, you can sign up to receive account alerts. This means that you will receive an email notification when there has been a change to your address, your direct deposit information, or if mail we sent to you was returned to the CRA. This service is available through My Account, as well as the MyCRA and MyBenefits CRA mobile apps.
If you have a modest income and a simple tax situation, you can get help doing your tax return through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. Community organizations host free tax preparation clinics across the country. Use the MyCRA mobile app at cra.gc.ca/mobileapps to find a clinic near you, or go to cra.gc.ca/volunteer for more information.
With so many choices available to guide you through this tax season, there’s no reason to put off filing your income tax and benefit return