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Taxpayer relief provisions

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Important notice

As part of government actions taken in dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, tax filing and payment deadlines have been extended. Penalties and interest will not be charged if the new deadlines are met.

Taxpayers who are unable to file a return or make a payment by the new tax-filing and payment deadlines because of COVID-19 can request the cancellation of penalties and interest if they have been charged to their account.

While the CRA continues to accept requests for taxpayer relief during this period, there will be delays in processing requests. Once normal business operations resume, the Taxpayer Relief Program will review requests related to COVID-19 on a priority basis.

Our online submission methods remains the best options to submit a request at this time. For more information about how to submit a request to have penalties or interest cancelled, please go to Submitting your request.

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Attention: Public service employees affected by Phoenix payroll system issues

If you believe that the penalties or interest assessed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for your 2016, 2017 or 2018 tax year are a direct result of Phoenix payroll system errors, you can submit a claim under the Phoenix Claims Process administered by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Each claim will be considered on its individual merits and settled based on valid receipts and other supporting documentation.

If you are not reimbursed through the Phoenix Claims Process for the penalties or interest assessed by the CRA, you can submit a request for review under the taxpayer relief provisions. Go to Cancel or waive penalties or interest for more information. Be sure to include the decision letter from your department or agency and any relevant documents when submitting your request.

For more information on the tax implications of Phoenix payroll issues, go to Frequently Asked Questions.

Video: Taxpayer Relief

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administers legislation that gives the Minister of National Revenue discretion to:

  • cancel or waive penalties or interest
  • accept certain late, amended, or revoked income tax elections
  • issue a refund or make an adjustment to refund or reduce tax payable beyond the normal three-year period for an individual, a graduated rate estate, and for certain tax years, a testamentary trust

This legislation is commonly called the taxpayer relief provisions.

Cancel or waive penalties or interest

The Minister may grant relief from penalty or interest when the following types of situations prevent a taxpayer from meeting their tax obligations:

  • extraordinary circumstances;
  • actions of the CRA;
  • inability to pay or financial hardship;
  • other circumstances

For more information about the circumstances that may warrant relief from penalties or interest, see Cancel or waive penalties or interest. To submit your request for relief, we recommend you use Form RC4288, Request for Taxpayer Relief - Cancel or Waive Penalties or Interest.

Late, amended, or revoked elections

The Income Tax Act and its Regulations contain many election provisions that give you the opportunity to decide on an alternative tax treatment in conducting your financial affairs for income tax purposes. Most election provisions do not:

  • permit you to file an election once the due date for making the election is missed; or
  • give you the ability to modify or cancel an original election that was filed on time.

For details about the income tax elections that can be filed late, amended, or revoked, and how to send your request, see Late, amended, or revoked elections.

Refund or reduce the amount payable beyond the normal three-year period

For individuals (other than a trust) and graduated rate estates, the Income Tax Act sets a three-year limitation period from the:

  • end of the tax year to file an income tax return to claim a tax refund
  • date of the original notice of assessment to request an adjustment to an assessment issued for a previous tax year

As of January 1, 2016, a testamentary trust that is not a graduated rate estate can no longer file an income tax return or ask for an adjustment for a refund or reduction in tax payable after the normal three-year period has expired for the 2016 and later tax years. Testamentary trusts can file a return or ask for an adjustment for the 2015 and previous tax years.

To get more information about filing an income tax return to claim a refund or requesting an adjustment to a return beyond the normal three-year period, see Refund or reduce the amount payable beyond the normal three-year period.


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