A procrastinator's guide to filing your taxes quickly
It's that time of year again when Canadians start scrambling to get their tax return filed on time. The deadline to file this year is May 1st 2017 at midnight. If you owe money, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) starts charging interest on the balance one day after the deadline passes. Whether you file your taxes yourself or use a tax professional, there's still time to get all your information filed to the CRA by the deadline.
Here are my top tips for tax procrastinators!
Gone are the days you had to sit with a pencil and paper and fill out your tax return by hand. Now most Canadians file their return online, a method the CRA supports and recommends. Online filing means return is received immediately but another added benefit is that you have a digital record of it for reference and in case of any dispute. If you don't know which software to trust, the CRA has a list of certified software packages and web applications. With only a few weeks to go this is the best way to get your return to Ottawa as quickly as possible.
Register for My Account
You can "up the power" of your online filing by registering for a My Account on the CRA website. It's a secure service for tax filers to view all their information. It can save time that you might spend searching for documents or filling out information the CRA already has. With a My Account you get access to your previous notice of assessments, a list of all the government benefits you qualify for, any credits that are due to you and once filed you can track the status of your return. With a My Account you can use the autofill function in the CRA certified tax preparation software NETFILE. It allows parts of your return to be automatically filled in, including your information from your T3, T4, and T5 slips.
File no matter what
Without a doubt if you owe money you must file your tax return by the deadline and pay any balance owing to the CRA at that time too. The CRA says, if you cannot pay your full balance owing on or before May 1st, you can avoid the late-filing penalty by filing your return on time. Even if you are expecting a return, it's still a good idea to keep the CRA up to date on your income situation, otherwise benefits payments, such as the Canada child benefit, goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax credit, or child disability benefit payments could be delayed. This applies for anyone with zero income as well, file your return in order to take advantage of all government tax credits due to you.
Talk to a professional
Tax time can be overwhelming for many of us, but don't panic. There is a lot of help out there, regardless of your budget. Accountants and tax preparation professionals are all working late during this time, as well, the CRA is a great resource to answer any of your questions. You can call them and ask any question—anonymously. There is also help for low income Canadians who may need help but might not be able to otherwise afford to go to a professional, called the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program clinic. To see if you're eligible and to find a clinic near you, go to www.cra.gc.ca/volunteer.
Don't stress too much about the documents
Filing online means you don't need to send any physical documents to the CRA. If, for example, you have misplaced the receipt for your child's sports program, you can still enter in the amount, as long as you are certain it's correct. If you're confident go ahead and claim those tax credits. You will need to find and secure those documents eventually, in the case the CRA asks for supporting documentations, but meanwhile your online signature is your bond.
A note for the self-employed
If you are self-employed you have until June 15th to file your return. But if there is a balance owing to the CRA, that is still due the by the deadline May 1st. If your income situation increased dramatically this year, and you have been making income tax installment payments, you may want to figure out what balance you may owe by the deadline.