First-time filing taxes? Get it right from the start

First-time filersThe saying “there’s a first time for everything”, also applies to taxes! The first time you file an income tax and benefit return with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is a proud moment. We don’t always realize it, but our tax system funds most of the infrastructure and services that we all rely on each and every day—like our roads, education, and health care. Whether you’ve just landed your first part-time job and need to pay taxes or claim a refund, want to receive the goods and services/harmonized tax (GST/HST) credit, or moved to Canada and want to fulfill your tax obligations, the CRA is there to help.

Most Canadian income tax and benefit returns for 2015 are due on April 30, 2016. However, since this date is a Saturday, the CRA will consider your return as filed on time and your payment to be made on time if it receives your submission or it is postmarked by midnight on May 2, 2016. Self-employed individuals and their spouses or common-law partners have until June 15, 2016, to file their income tax and benefit returns, but any balance owing is still due no later than May 2, 2016.

Filing on time will ensure you receive your credits and benefits without delay or, if you owe taxes, avoid a late filing penalty. Over twenty-two million Canadians took advantage of the CRA’s electronic filing services last year. To file online, all you need is your social insurance number, your birth date, your income tax information, and access to certified software or a web application. The CRA provides a list of software options at www.cra.gc.ca/netfilesoftware including some that are free for everyone. The amounts to include in your tax return are those that appear on your various information slips and receipts. However, you don’t need to send these documents to the CRA. If the CRA wants to review your slips or receipts, they will contact you at a later date. Generally, you must keep all required records and supporting documents for at least six years from the end of the last tax year they related to.

When you file your income tax and benefit return, the CRA will automatically determine if you are eligible for the GST/HST credit. For more information on benefits and credits you may be eligible for, go to www.cra.gc.ca/benefits.

If you’re entitled to a refund, you can enjoy 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 www.cra.gc.ca/directdeposit.

Completing a tax return is not as confusing as you may think. Not sure where to begin? Go to www.cra.gc.ca/getready to learn some of the ways to reduce your taxes. You can also use the search function on the CRA’s website to get information on the Learning About Taxes program, an online, self-paced learning unit that explains Canada’s tax system and teaches you how to prepare a simple tax return.

Once you’ve filed your taxes, you can register for My Account, available at www.cra.gc.ca/myaccount. My Account gives you access to the CRA’s full suite of self-service options—track the status of your return, change your address, check your RRSP and TFSA limits, register for online mail, print proof of income, and so much more, all with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Online mail is the fast, easy and secure way to manage your tax correspondence. When you register for online mail we will no longer print and mail eligible correspondence. Instead, we will send you an email when there is mail to view in My Account. Receive statements such as your notice of assessment and benefit statements online.

As tax season approaches, be cautious of phishing or other fraudulent scams that could lead to identity or financial theft. The CRA will not request or provide any personal information by email. Visit www.cra.gc.ca/fraudprevention for examples of current scams and for information on how to detect and avoid them.

If you’ve gone through the website and still need help filing your tax return, you can call 1-800-959-8281 and speak with a CRA agent, who will answer any questions you have.

If you have a modest income, and a simple tax situation, you can also contact the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. As part of this program, community organizations host free volunteer tax clinics across the country. To find a volunteer tax preparation clinic near you, go to www.cra.gc.ca/volunteer. With so many choices available to guide you through this tax season, there’s no excuse to delay filing your taxes.