2020 tax filing season launch

Backgrounder

Income Tax in Canada

Over one hundred years ago, The Income Tax War Act of 1917 was introduced to fund the expenses of the First World War. At the time, the Department of Inland Revenue, which became the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), had 36 employees across the country. Today, the CRA has over 40,000 employees serving Canadians. Income tax in Canada plays a huge role in funding public services, like healthcare, Old Age Security, child benefits, infrastructure such as libraries and schools, road maintenance, scientific research and access to clean drinking water.

Each year, most Canadians start getting ready to do their taxes at the end of February, once they receive their tax slips and receipts needed for tax-filing. Canadians will have received most of these slips and receipts by March.

The CRA’s goal is to be trusted, fair, and helpful by putting people first. It is constantly listening, changing, and improving to provide a better service experience for Canadians. It is now easier and faster than ever to file a return, whether filed electronically, on paper, or even over the phone.

Canadians expect to be treated with respect in a meaningful way that goes beyond service standards. We are proud of the new and improved services we’re making available this tax season, but they’re only one part of the story. The other part is our new approach to designing and delivering services, which will ensure we’re making meaningful improvements that matter to Canadians over the long term.

The deadline for filing an income tax and benefit return is April 30, 2020. Self-employed people, their spouses, or common-law partners have until June 15 to file. However, any balance owing is due by April 30.

Tax-filing by the numbers

More and more Canadians are filing their taxes electronically. Since 2012, the rate of electronic filing has increased significantly, from approximately 63% to 88% for the 2019 tax-filing season.

Last year, over 29 million people filed returns, with approximately 30% of them using NETFILE-certified software. Over 57% of filers had their taxes prepared by authorized representatives, such as tax preparers and accountants, using EFILE.

The CRA’s goal is to issue a Notice of Assessment (NOA) within eight weeks of receiving a paper return and within two weeks of receiving an electronic return. To help Canadians quickly finish the tax-filing process, the CRA will also deliver a NOA to individuals and representatives right after the return has been received and processed using the Express NOA service available in tax software packages.

The CRA sends refunds to approximately 62% of people who file returns. Last year, the average refund was $1,740.

More than tax collection, the CRA administers a range of ongoing benefits and one-time payment programs for the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. These benefit programs support the economic and social well‑being of Canadians across the country and are accessed by filing tax returns.

Benefits include the goods and services/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit, a tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low or modest incomes offset all or part of the GST or HST they pay; and the Canada child benefit (CCB), a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. In the 2018‑2019 benefit year, the Agency paid $34.6 billion in benefits and credit payments to 15.6 million recipients.

The CRA keeps Canadians updated on the progress of tax filing season by posting these statistics online.

What we do to better serve Canadians

We are extending our call centre hours again this tax season from February 24 to April 30, 2020. Agents will be available from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. local time, and from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturdays (except Easter weekend) to ensure that the CRA is more accessible and accommodating of Canadians’ varying schedules. This makes it easier for Canadians to fit tax filing into their busy schedules.

Most Canadians do their taxes online. The CRA’s My Account helps Canadians save time to:

  • quickly track their refund
  • view or change returns
  • check benefit and credit payments
  • view Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) limits
  • set up or update direct deposit
  • receive email notifications

Auto-fill my return, available when using certified tax software, helps individuals or their authorized representatives automatically fill in parts of their income tax and benefit returns with information the CRA already has on hand, saving time and reducing possible filing errors.

Making a mistake on your tax return doesn’t need to be a headache. Taxpayers can request that an adjustment be made to current or prior year tax returns after filing. If an error is made, Canadians or their representatives can use ReFILE to adjust their return using certified software products.

There are plenty of benefits to filing taxes online, but the CRA knows that it isn’t for everyone. There are lots of good reasons why some people may file their taxes on paper. They may live in rural or remote areas with limited internet access, or just prefer the feel of paper between their fingers. The CRA recognizes this, and is committed to improving service to them as well. This is why the CRA mails the income tax package to those who filed returns on paper last year.

Furthermore, to make it easier for Canadians on low or fixed incomes whose situations remain unchanged from year to year, the CRA has an automated telephone service called File my return, which allows eligible individuals to file their taxes over the phone by answering a few simple questions.

The CRA also knows that many Canadians want in-person help. For Canadians with a low income and simple tax situation, the CRA is expanding the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP), ensuring that more people can meet face-to-face with trained volunteers and have their taxes done for them for free. The CRA continues to operate its Northern Service Centres, so territorial residents have access to the help they need. Additionally, the CRA offers free, in-person help to self-employed individuals and individuals with rental income through the Liaison Officer service. This service helps them better understand their tax obligations, possible tax deductions, and explains how to avoid common tax errors.

These are just a few of the enhanced services that the CRA is making available this tax-filing season to meet Canadians’ evolving expectations.

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