Tax season is a love-hate time of year. We hate doing our taxes and we love getting our refunds. But with online filing, getting them done has never been easier. And getting our refunds has never been faster.
In fact, 75 per cent of Canadians now file electronically through the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA’s) NETFILE system. It’s fast, relatively painless and secure. Certified software, both paid and free, is widely available. All you have to do is plug in the numbers and the software does the rest – although you still have to pull all those receipts and forms together.
If you start early, doing your taxes isn’t that hard. Here’s what you need to know:
Know the Deadlines
For most of us April 30 is the most important day on the taxman's calendar – that's the day that income tax returns are due for everyone except self-employed workers and their spouses or common-law partners. It is also the day taxes owing for 2013 must be paid.
Returns for self-employed workers and their spouses or common-law partners are due June 16.
More time equals less stress. Doing your taxes is much easier if you're not battling the clock. We suggest starting as soon as you receive your T4 and other official slips. Gather all the paperwork together and start. When you're relaxed, there won't be so much pressure and you're likely to make fewer mistakes.
Register for CRA’s My Account
It's not necessary to register for CRA's My Account to file online, but you should. When you have access, you can track your refund, view and make changes to your return, set up direct deposit and more. It can take a while to set up access, so the sooner your register the better.
Update Your Info Before Filing
Big changes in your life? If you need to change your address, direct deposit information or update anything else in your account, do so before you file your taxes.
Get the Software
To file via CRA's NETFILE system, your tax return must be prepared by CRA certified tax preparation software or web application. There are a number of paid and free programs available for Windows, Mac and iPhone/iPad. You can find a list of CRA certified software for the 2013 tax year here.
Know Your Tax Credits
It's hard to keep up with all the changes to our tax system. But one easy way is to check and see what tax credits you might be entitled to. Did you know that there is a tax credit for using public transit? If you're eligible, you may be able to reduce the amount of taxes that you have to pay. You can find a list of current tax credits here.
Doing it Old School
Not everyone can (or wants to) file online. You'll find a list of tax returns that can't be submitted electronically here.
If you prefer to file the old fashioned way, you can do that too. You can read and download the 2013 tax package here.
Simply print and submit.
Save Those Receipts
Just because you're filing online doesn't mean you don't need to keep your receipts. If you get audited, you'll need them as proof of your claims. Make sure you organize them before you file them away. And tuck in a copy of your return, too.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Preparing your return is much easier with software, but you may still run into trouble. Luckily the CRA has a number of options to help you out:
There are a series of CRA videos about preparing and filing your return here.
You'll find videos for other, more specific questions and situations here.
If you need personal help in completing your return, volunteer tax preparation clinics are offered at locations across the country. They generally operate between February and April, but some run year-round. You'll find a list of them here.
You can also contact the CRA directly at one of the phone numbers listed here.
If you have technical difficulties while filing, contact the e-Services Helpdesk.
File and Pay on Time
If you're filing online, your software will take care of submitting your return to the CRA. If you use a tax preparation company, they'll file on your behalf. And if you're mailing in your return, make sure that it's postmarked before midnight April 30.
And remember: if you owe, you'll have to make payment by April 30. The CRA starts charging compound daily interest on outstanding balances beginning May 1. If you owe AND you file late, you'll get hit with a late-filing penalty.
Many happy returns!