There are a couple of ways you can file a tax return today. You can still paper file, though that is going to disappear within the next 5 years, I believe. You can electronically file using Netfile® for individuals. And, you can hire a tax preparer, such as Number Crunchers®, to prepare and Efile® your return. Note that tax preparers are now required by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to electronically file all returns, unless stated otherwise by CRA.
Note that personal tax returns are due by April 30th of each year for the prior year’s filing. Self-employed, or proprietorship/partnership, returns are due by June 15th; however, any taxes owing are due by April 30th. I believe making installments is the smarter way to handle you taxes each year. Yes, the government gets your money early, however, you won’t have a whopping balance on April 30th that you may not be able to pay.
That’s not just a Scout slogan, but what you have to be before you file your taxes.
Gather up all your slips T4s, T5s, etc., a copy of last years return, donations, medical receipts, etc. You can register for My Account which gives you online access to your notices of assessment, allows you to make any adjustments to an already filed return, and more. If you need to change your address or direct deposit information (or want to set it up) makes sure you have all that information handy including: old address, new address, bank information, etc. Also, look at the various tax credits and find out if you qualify, and if you do then have all necessary information for those available. For a comprehensive list of what you’ll need to prepare your taxes ask for a copy of our Tax Info Needed sheet.
You can still paper file (2013) and I believe it will be phased out over the next five years. You can get a copy currently at any Canada Post outlet or go online to CRA’s website and make sure you pick the return for your province. You must fill out the return as required and attached an original copy of all slips (T4s, T5s, etc.), donation receipts, medical receipts, arts credit and fitness credit, public transit receipts (monthly fare card as well as proof of payment), and any other slips/receipts for which you are claiming a deduction or income.
You must either mail or drop off your tax return to your local tax services office. CRA does not accept returns by email.
The Netfile® transmission service allows an individual to file your personal tax return directly to CRA, usually via a tax preparation software. You must use a CRA accredited software, and there are some free ones, check CRA’s website. With Netfile® you do not have to send your slips and receipts with the return. CRA will look at your return initially and send you a notice of assessment with your balance owing or refund. Since CRA does not get your slips/receipts with the return, they do ‘reviews’ either during the tax season or after the season (usually September onwards). Generally, CRA just wants proof of any deduction you’re claiming or may want to validate your income.
Netfile® is only for filing the current year tax return (2012 at the time of writing this). You cannot change your address, name or direct deposit information through Netfile®, do that before you file (see Be Prepared!).
The advantages to filing electronically are: faster refunds, it’s generally fast and easy (if you have a simply return), you can file for free (again, if you have a simply return), your information is secure and safe as CRA uses security levels equal to your bank, and filing electronically does not increase your chance of an audit.
Hire a Tax Preparer
The third option is to hire a tax preparer, and one that we recommend for those with a more complicated return, or you just don’t have the time to figure out the software or the paper return and file yourself.
Your tax preparer will have the software to be able to Efile® your return, and has the knowledge to get the job done right. Your tax preparer won’t need your Netfile® access code either as they would have their own account access for filing.
I have found many times deductions for clients they had no idea they were entitled, sometimes saving them thousands of dollars on their taxes. For what it costs to have someone prepare and Efile® your return, can be saved just in the hassle of filing and possible deductions you may have missed by filing it yourself.
Be prepared (see paragraph above) applies even more so with a tax preparer. Please ensure you have all your slips and receipts ready as anything you forget delays your return getting processed. Ask us for a copy of our Tax Info Needed sheet, which covers everything we’ll need to do your taxes.
For proprietorships/partnerships, I believe, it’s more imperative to get a professional tax preparer to prepare your tax return. A professional tax preparer will know what you can and cannot write off for tax purposes, or what deductions are only partially a write off. The three main things CRA looks at with proprietorships are automobile expenses, meals, and home-office expenses. So, you want your tax return to be as accurate as possible.
Filing your tax return is important and you want it to be accurate. Electronic filing is the best way to file your return. I find many people don’t file because they are going to owe taxes. That is a big mistake and can hurt you worse than filing and owing. As long as you file on time, you won’t be penalized, and you will only be charged interest on the balance owing. That is why it is better to make installment payments so you won’t have to worry about a balance owing at tax time.