What To Do If You Forgot to File Taxes?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Savings And Finance Concept TNEvery year in Canada we must file a personal income tax return by April 30th (June 15th for those who are self-employed). As with anything in our busy, hectic lives, we do forget; however, what if it’s your tax filing that you forgot? That can have serious consequences depending on what you owe, and for what benefit programs you are qualified.

The first thing is Don’t Panic! Okay you will, but calm down. If you’ve realized you haven’t filed your taxes, and it’s not too late in the year, you’ll be okay. Yes, if you owe money, you’ll have a penalty and interest, however, catch it soon enough and it won’t be that much. Of course, if you are getting a refund, then you won’t be charged any penalty. And, getting benefit payments will definitely be delayed, as you haven’t filed, though you will get a catch-up payment.

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has now allowed the electronic filing of tax returns until January of the following year, so for the 2013 filing year you can electronically file until January 16th. Eventually, I believe, we’ll be able to file electronically for any tax year any time.

Many people end up not filing for fear that they will owe, or owe way more than they can pay at the moment. It’s much better to file and owe than not file and owe, as CRA tends to get a bit anxious when they realize you owe, but haven’t filed and paid yet. Of course, these same people think they’re going to owe tons of money, and, in the end, don’t owe near as much as they thought, or, hilariously, get a refund. I love the expression on peoples’ faces when I tell them they owe $X, and they were thinking $XXX.

What are the penalties for filing late? If you owe tax for 2013 and do not file your return for 2013 on time, CRA will charge you a late-filing penalty. The penalty is 5% of your 2013 balance owing, plus 1% of your balance owing for each full month your return is late, to a maximum of 12 months.

For example, you owe $3,200 and don’t file until November 15th 2014. In this case you owe $583.91 in penalties plus 5% interest compounded daily (approximately $194). That’s a total balance owing of $3,977.91. Your penalties/interest are 24.3% of the original balance owing.

If you failed to report an amount on your return for 2013, and you also failed to report an amount on your return for 2010, 2011, or 2012, you may have to pay a federal and provincial/territorial repeated failure to report income penalty. The federal and provincial/territorial penalties are each 10% of the amount that you failed to report on your return for 2013. Your late-filing penalty for 2013 may be 10% of your 2013 balance owing, plus 2% of your 2013 balance owing for each full month your return is late, to a maximum of 20 months. That can get quite steep depending on how much you owe.

Using our example above of owing $3,200, and this is another year of filing late your penalty would be $764.09 for a total of $3,964.09, and interest would be $203 for a total of $4,167.09 (30.2% of the original amount owing.

From our examples above it is much better to pay upon filing (or pay by installments when you believe you have a big balance owing). If you know you’re going to owe, but don’t have the funds at filing, file anyway and work out some kind of payment arrangement with CRA.

Do you have multiple years to file? Can’t find your slips? If your slips are normally filed with CRA (such as T4s, T5s, etc.) then you can request copies and use those to file your returns. You will have to paper file for 2012 and prior. If you believe you will owe for these prior years, you may also want to look into the Voluntary Disclosures Program.

With the Voluntary Disclosures Program, you may file a disclosure to correct inaccurate or incomplete information, or to provide information you may have omitted in your previous dealings with the CRA. More specifically, this includes information you have previously reported that was not complete, information you have reported incorrectly, or information you did not provide previously to the CRA.

Canada has a high compliance rate (94.5%) of people who file their taxes on time. If you find you’re not one of those, you may need to look into why you’re always late filing. Are you using a tax preparer now? Maybe you should. I hound my clients to get me their stuff, and most appreciate that. Of course, once you’re caught up always ensure you file on time after that so you avoid higher penalties.

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