It's tax time.
The Canada Revenue Agency's personal income tax filing deadline lands on April 30. And while many Canadians have long filed their documents, the rest have put off their annual date with the tax man due to fears, resignation, or reluctance.
But according to Vancouver tax lawyer Allison Suter, there are ways to make the yearly event a little easier on your pocketbook.
1. Filing online
One of the simplest ways to save money during tax season starts long before your documents are even filed.
"This year, about eight million Canadians will file their own tax returns online," said Suter. "Sixteen million people will still go to a tax preparer."
There are a plethora of online-based tax filing applications that are free and easy to use. Free versions of Turbotax are recommended by the CRA for the 2016 tax year, as well as the Vancouver-based Simpletax.
Suter says Simpletax even suggests different rebates and credits that you might qualify for, based on the program's questionnaire. The platform constantly displays how much money a user owes or will get back, so there's no surprises after you've filed.
2. Employment expenses
If you find yourself spending a good chunk of change for employment purposes, there's a good chance you get some of it back.
"If you're eligible for employment expenses, or your spending a lot of your own money on stuff for your job, there are certain things that are deductible," she said. "But your employer does need to sign off before you submit your return."
Working a job that requires your own tools, vehicle, or gasoline might mean you're eligible to file employment expenses. Talk to your employer about form T-2200.
3. Beware of shortchanging the tax man
Dodging the tax man altogether might be the easiest way to save a few extra dollars — but Suter says it isn't worth it.
"If you get caught eventually [not claiming income], there can be penalties — and they're fairly severe," she said.
"If you don't report income for two out of any four years, you can be subject to what's called a repeated failure to report income penalty. And that can amount to 10 per cent of the unreported income."
Not reporting income from an AirBnb or a rental property, for example, can result in these fines.
"Lets say you didn't report $10,000. Your penalty is going to be an extra $1,000 on top of the tax that you didn't pay — and the interest on the tax you didn't pay."
The CRA currently uses algorithms in an attempt to monitor and thwart tax evasion. Reports suggest the agency is increasingly turning to cutting-edge data analysis techniques to improve service and 'compliance'
"They certainly are trying to crack down."
With files from CBC's BC Almanac