Federal Income Tax and Benefit Guide - 2020 - General information, identification and other information
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On this page...
- Is this income tax package for you?
- What’s new for 2020?
- Do you have to file a return?
- Due dates, penalties, and interest
- Gather all your documents
- Need help doing your taxes?
- How to file your return
- Which income tax package should you use?
- Step 1 – Identification and other information
This income tax package provides the basic information you need to get ready, complete and file your paper Income Tax and Benefit Return. Use this information along with the instructions on the return and schedules. It tells you what types of income you must report, and which deductions and credits you can claim to help you figure out if you owe tax or if you will get a refund. Even if you had no income in the year, you have to file a return to get the benefits, credits, and refund you are entitled to.
This income tax package also applies to you if you resided outside Canada on December 31, 2020, and have significant residential ties with Canada. To make sure you are using the correct income tax package, see Which income tax package should you use?.
We have outlined major tax changes and improvements to services below. We have also noted changes to income tax rules, including those that were announced, but that were not yet law when this guide was published. If they become law as proposed, they will be effective for 2020 or as of the dates given. You will find more information about some of these changes throughout the guide. New items are flagged with the word: New
The 2020 Income Tax Package includes the Federal Income Tax and Benefit Guide, return, schedules, and worksheet. It also includes a Provincial or Territorial Information Guide, provincial or territorial schedules and a worksheet. We have made several changes to this package to enhance our services, such as making the guide less complex and reducing paper use by removing text for income, deduction, and credit lines that are rarely used. If you need any information that is not provided in the guide, go to Taxes or call 1-800-959-8281.
Home Buyers’ Plan – If you are not considered a first-time home buyer for the purposes of the HBP, and you experience a breakdown in your marriage or common-law partnership, you may be able to participate in the HBP under certain conditions. For more information, see What is the Home Buyers' Plan (HBP)?.
Other employment expenses (line 22900 of the return) – If you worked from home in 2020 due to COVID-19, you may be able to claim certain employment expenses.
Basic personal amount (line 30000 of the return) – This amount has increased for most taxpayers.
Spouse or common-law partner amount (line 30300 of the return) – This amount has increased for most taxpayers.
Amount for an eligible dependant (line 30400 of the return) – This amount has increased for most taxpayers.
Digital news subscription expenses (line 31350 of the return) – For the 2020 to 2024 tax years, you may be able to claim a non-refundable tax credit for expenses you paid in the year for a digital news subscription with a qualified Canadian journalism organization.
Your tuition, education, and textbook amounts (line 32300 of the return) – The Canada training credit that the student claims for the year reduces the amount that they can use to calculate their tuition tax credit, transfer to a designated individual, or carry forward to a later year.
Donations and gifts (line 34900 of the return) – We have simplified the calculation on Schedule 9 for most individuals. Also, for 2020 and later tax years, you may be able to claim a non-refundable tax credit for donations made to registered journalism organizations.
Canada training credit (line 45350 of the return) – If you meet certain conditions, you will be able to claim a Canada Training Credit, a new refundable tax credit that is available for 2020 and later tax years.
Canadian journalism labour tax credit (CJLTC) (line 47555 of the return) – For 2019 and later tax years, if you are a member of a partnership that is a Qualifying Journalism Organization, you can claim this new, refundable credit allocated to you by the partnership.
Mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors – This investment tax credit is extended for an additional 5 years to March 31, 2024.
During the year, you may have received federal, provincial, or territorial government COVID-19 payments such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. If these amounts are taxable, you will have received a slip, such as a T4A or T4E, with instructions for how to report these amounts. These slips also are available in My Account for Individuals.
If you are self-employed, you may have received federal, provincial, or territorial government COVID-19 assistance for your business, such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Generally, you have to either include these amounts in business income or reduce your expenses by the amounts that you received. You may also have received a government loan. The loan itself is not taxable, but you have to include in your business income any portion of the loan that is forgivable.
Even if you received an information slip showing taxable income, if you received any part of these amounts based on income that is exempt from tax under the Indian Act, complete Form T90, Income Exempt From Tax Under the Indian Act.
If you received the Canada Recovery Benefit, you may have to repay all or part of it, if your net income after certain adjustments is more than $38,000. The repayment is calculated on the Worksheet for the return at line 23500, as part of the social benefits repayment calculation.
File a return for 2020 if:
- You have to pay tax for the year
- You want to claim a refund
- You want to claim the Canada workers benefit (CWB) or you received CWB advance payments in the year
- You or your spouse or common-law partner want to begin or continue receiving the following payments (including any related provincial or territorial payments):
- Canada child benefit (CCB)
- Goods and services tax ⁄ harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit
- Guaranteed income supplement (GIS)
If you have a spouse or common-law partner, they also have to file a return.
- The CRA sent you a request to file a return
- You and your spouse or common-law partner are jointly electing to split pension income. See line 11500.
- You disposed of capital property (which could be a principal residence) or you realized a taxable capital gain in the year
- You have to repay all or part of your old age security or employment insurance benefits
- You have not repaid all the amounts you withdrew from your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) under the Home Buyers’ Plan or Lifelong Learning Plan
- You have to contribute to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) for 2020. This can apply if your total net self-employment income and pensionable employment income is more than $3,500
- You are paying employment insurance premiums on self-employment income or other eligible earnings
- You have incurred a non-capital loss in the year that you want to be able to apply in other years
- You want to transfer unused tuition fees, or carry forward unused tuition, education, and textbook amounts to a future year
- You want to report income that would allow you to contribute to an RRSP, a pooled registered pension plan (PRPP), or a specified pension plan (SPP) to keep your RRSP deduction limit (see Schedule 7) for future years up to date
- You want to carry forward to a future year the unused investment tax credit on expenditures you incurred during the current year
- You want to report income that will allow you to increase your Canada training credit limit
If you are the legal representative (the executor, administrator, or liquidator) of the estate of a person who died in 2020, you may have to file a return for 2020 for that person. When there are no legal documents designating a legal representative, you may request to be the deceased person's legal representative by completing an Affidavit form for intestate situations. For more information about your filing requirements and options, and to know what documents are required, see Guide T4011, Preparing Returns for Deceased Persons, and Information Sheet RC4111, Canada Revenue Agency – What to Do Following a Death.
Your 2020 return and payment are due on or before the following dates:
|Person||Return due date||Payment due date|
|Most people||April 30, 2021||April 30, 2021|
|Self-employed persons (and their spouse or common-law partner) with business expenditures that relate mostly to a tax shelter investment||April 30, 2021||April 30, 2021|
|Self-employed persons and their spouse or common-law partner (other than those stated above)||June 15, 2021||April 30, 2021|
|Deceased persons and their surviving spouse or common-law partner|
When a due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or public holiday recognized by the CRA, your return is considered on time if the CRA receives it or if it is postmarked on the next business day. Your payment will be considered received on time if it is received on the first business day after the due date.
For more information, go to Important dates for Individuals.
Did you know...
Filing early helps ensure your benefit and credit payments are not delayed or stopped. These include:
- Guaranteed income supplement (GIS)
- GST/HST credit
- Canada child benefit (CCB)
- related provincial and territorial programs
If you have a spouse or common-law partner, they also have to file a return. For more information, see Booklet T4114, Canada Child Benefit and related provincial and territorial programs, and Guide RC4210, GST/HST Credit.
The CRA may charge you a penalty if any of the following applies:
- You filed your return late and you owe tax for 2020
- You failed to report an amount on your return for 2020 and you also failed to report an amount on your return for 2017, 2018, or 2019
- You knowingly or under circumstances amounting to gross negligence have made a false statement or an omission on your 2020 return
For more information, go to Interest and penalties.
If you have a balance owing for 2020, the CRA charges compound daily interest starting May 1, 2021, on any unpaid amounts owing for 2020. This includes any balance owing if the CRA reassesses your return.
The CRA will pay you compound daily interest on your tax refund for 2020 in some situations. The calculation will start on the latest of the following three dates:
- May 30, 2021
- the 30th day after you file your return
- the day after you overpaid your taxes
The CRA administers legislation, commonly called taxpayer relief provisions, that allows the CRA discretion to cancel or waive penalties or interest when taxpayers cannot meet their tax obligations due to circumstances beyond their control.
The CRA’s discretion to grant relief is limited to any period that ended within 10 calendar years before the year in which a request is made.
For penalties, the CRA will consider your request only if it relates to a tax year or fiscal period ending in any of the 10 calendar years before the year in which you make your request. For example, your request made in 2021 must relate to a penalty for a tax year or fiscal period ending in 2011 or later.
For interest on a balance owing for any tax year or fiscal period, the CRA will consider only the amounts that accrued during the 10 calendar years before the year in which you make your request. For example, your request made in 2019 must relate to interest that accrued in 2009 or later.
To make a request, fill out Form RC4288, Request for Taxpayer Relief – Cancel or Waive Penalties or Interest. For more information about relief from penalties or interest and how to submit your request, go to Taxpayer relief provisions.
Gather all the information slips, receipts, and supporting documents you need to report your income and claim any deductions or credits.
File your return on time even if you do not have all of your slips or receipts. You are responsible for reporting your income from all sources to avoid any penalties and interest that may be charged. If you have not received your slip by early April or if you have any questions about an amount on a slip, contact the payer.
Did you know...
If you know you won’t be able to get a missing information slip by the due date, use your pay stubs or statements to estimate your income and any related deductions and credits you can claim. Enter the estimated amounts on the appropriate lines of your return.
If you have a modest income and a simple tax situation, volunteers from the CVITP can complete your tax return for free. To find out if you qualify for these services and to locate a tax preparation clinic near you, go to Free tax clinics or call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281.
If you want to become a volunteer, go to Volunteer to do taxes for people in your community.
For personal and general tax information by telephone, use the CRA’s automated service, TIPS, at 1-800-267-6999.
If you are calling from Canada or the United States, call 1-800-959-8281. The CRA’s automated service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The CRA's agents are available Monday to Friday (except holidays) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (local time). From the end of February to the end of April, these hours are extended to 9 p.m. (local time) on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (local time) on Saturdays (except Easter weekend).
Call 1-800-959-5525. The CRA’s automated service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The CRA’s agents are available Monday to Friday (except holidays) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time).
Call 1-866-426-1527. Call this number for tax and benefit information for individuals living in the Territories. This is a dedicated phone line available only to residents of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut (with the 867 area code).
Call 1-866-841-1876. Call this number for tax information for businesses operating in the Territories. This is a dedicated phone line available only to residents of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut (with the 867 area code).
If you have a hearing or speech impairment and use a TTY, call 1-800-665-0354. If you use an operator-assisted relay service, call the CRA’s regular telephone numbers instead of the TTY number.
Use the CRA’s secure service to complete and file your return electronically using certified tax preparation software or a web tax application. Go to NETFILE – Overview for a list of software and applications, including some that are free.
This is a secure CRA service that lets authorized service providers, including discounters, complete and file your return electronically. For more information, go to EFILE for individuals.
Auto-fill my return – This secure CRA service allows you or your authorized representative to automatically fill in certain parts of your 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017 return. You must be registered with My Account (or your representative must be registered with Represent a Client) and be using a certified software product (NETFILE or EFILE) that offers this option. For more information, go to Auto-fill my return.
This is a free and secure CRA service available to eligible individuals who have low or fixed income and whose situations stay the same from year to year. If you are eligible, you will receive an invitation letter in the mail. You will then be able to file your income tax and benefit return simply by giving the CRA some personal information and answering a series of short questions through an automated phone service. You do not have to fill out any paper forms or do any calculations.
In the next section, find out which income tax package you need.
The CRA encourages electronic filing of your return. If you require a paper version of our forms and publications, go to Forms and publications or call 1-800-959-8281.
Use the income tax package for the province or territory where you resided on December 31, 2020. However, there are exceptions, such as if you have residential ties in another place. For more information on these exceptions, see the chart below.
If you resided in Quebec on December 31, 2020, use the income tax package for residents of Quebec to calculate your federal tax only. You must also file a provincial income tax and benefits return for Quebec.
In the following situations, use the income tax package specified.
(see the definitions below the chart)
|Use the following|
|On December 31, 2020, you had residential ties in more than one province or territory.||Income tax package for the province or territory where you have your most important residential ties. For example, if you usually reside in Ontario but were going to school in Alberta or Quebec, use the income tax package for Ontario.|
|You are filing a return for a person who died in 2020.||Income tax package for the province or territory where that person resided at the time of death.|
|You emigrated from Canada in 2020.||Income tax package for the province or territory where you resided on the date you left.|
|You resided outside Canada on December 31, 2020, but kept significant residential ties with Canada; you may be considered a factual resident of Canada.||Income tax package for the province or territory where you kept your residential ties. Also, complete Form T1248 Schedule D, Information About Your Residency Status.|
|You resided outside Canada on December 31, 2020, and are considered a deemed resident or non-resident of Canada.||Income Tax and Benefit Guide for Non-Residents and Deemed Residents of Canada. However, if you earned income from employment in a province or territory, or earned income from a business with a permanent establishment in a province or territory, use the income tax package for that province or territory.|
Significant residential ties to Canada include:
Secondary residential ties that may be relevant include:
To determine an individual’s residence status, all of the relevant facts in each case must be considered, including residential ties with Canada and length of time, object, intent, and continuity while living inside and outside Canada.
For more information, see Income Tax Folio S5-F1-C1, Determining an Individual’s Residence Status.
You are a deemed resident of Canada for income tax purposes if:
You are a non-resident for tax purposes if one of the following applies to you:
You may need to use one or more of the following publications if you did not live in Canada all year.
|Your situation||Use the following|
|You were a non-resident and you were employed in Canada, you carried on a business in Canada, or disposed of a taxable Canadian property.||Guide T4058, Non-Residents and Income Tax|
|You were a non-resident, and you received rental income from real or immovable property in Canada.||Guide T4144, Income Tax Guide for Electing Under Section 216|
|You were a non-resident, and you received certain other types of income from Canada (including pensions and annuities).||Pamphlet T4145, Electing Under Section 217 of the Income Tax Act|
|You were a newcomer to Canada in 2020.||Pamphlet T4055, Newcomers to Canada|
|You emigrated from Canada during 2020.||Go to Individuals - Leaving or entering Canada and non-residents|
|At any time in 2020, you were a non-resident of Canada receiving an old age security pension from Canada.||Form T1136, Old Age Security Return of Income. For more information, see Guide T4155, Old Age Security Return of Income Guide for Non-Residents.|
Use the instructions provided on your return to complete Step 1. This will provide the CRA with information about you and your spouse or common-law partner, if you have one, as well as other information needed to process your return.
In this section of the guide, you will only find information you may need to supplement the instructions provided on the return.
The CRA will send email notifications to the email address you have provided in order to notify you of any CRA mail available in My Account, and to notify you of certain changes to the account information, and other important information about the account. The notifications that are eligible for this service may change. As new types of notifications are added or removed from this service, you may not be notified of each change.
To view CRA mail online, you must be registered for My Account, and/or your representative must be registered for Represent a Client and be authorized on this account. All CRA mail available in My Account is presumed to have been received on the date that the email notification is sent. Any mail that is eligible for electronic delivery will no longer be printed and mailed.
It is your responsibility to ensure that the email address provided to the CRA is accurate, and to update it when there is any change to that email address. CRA email notifications are subject to the terms of any agreement with your mobile carrier or Internet Service Provider. You are responsible for any fees imposed by them.
These email notifications are sent unencrypted and unsecured. The email notifications could be lost or intercepted, or could be viewed or altered by others who have access to your email account. You accept this risk and acknowledge that the CRA will not be liable if you are unable to access or receive the email notifications, nor for any delay or inability to deliver notifications.
Enter the province or territory where you lived or of which you were considered to be a factual resident on December 31, 2020. The CRA needs this information to calculate your taxes, benefits, and credits correctly.
For more information about the social insurance number (SIN), including how to apply for one, go to Employment and Social Development Canada.
Enter your marital status on December 31, 2020.
“Married” means you have a spouse. This only applies to a person to whom you are legally married.
“Living common-law” means you are living with a person who is not your spouse, but with whom you have a conjugal relationship, and to whom at least one of the following situations applies:
a) They have been living with you in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 continuous months.
In this definition, 12 continuous months includes any period during which you were separated for less than 90 days because of a breakdown in the relationship.
b) They are the parent of your child by birth or adoption.
c) They have custody and control of your child (or had custody and control immediately before the child turned 19 years of age) and your child is wholly dependent on them for support.
“Separated” means that you have been living apart from your spouse or common-law partner because of a breakdown in the relationship for a period of at least 90 days and you have not reconciled. Once you have been separated for 90 days because of a breakdown in the relationship, the effective day of your separated status is the day you started living apart.
If you file your return before your 90-day separation period (which includes December 31) is over, you should continue to indicate a marital status of married or living common-law, as applicable. However, if after filing the return you continue to live separate and apart from your spouse or common-law partner for at least 90 days, you should complete and submit Form RC65, Marital Status Change. Use the date of the beginning of the 90-day period as your date of separation.
Did you know...
You are still considered to have a spouse or common-law partner if you were separated involuntarily (not because of a breakdown in your relationship). An involuntary separation could happen when one spouse or common-law partner is living away for work, school, or health reasons or is incarcerated.
“Widowed” means that you had a spouse or common-law partner who is now deceased.
“Divorced” means that you have legally been divorced from your former spouse.
“Single” should be chosen when none of the other marital status options apply to you.
Enter the amounts that are, or would be, reported on your spouse’s or common-law partner’s return. For the net income, enter the amount that is, or would be, reported on line 23600 of that return, even if it is zero.
Your spouse or common-law partner may still have to file a return for 2020, even if you enter this amount on page 1 of your return.
In some provinces and territories, you are also required to identify whether or not you resided on the settlement lands of an Aboriginal government on December 31, 2020.
These Aboriginal governments are:
- Nisga’a Lisims Government (in British Columbia)
- Nunatsiavut Government (in Newfoundland and Labrador)
- Tåîchô Government and Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government (in the Northwest Territories)
- eleven self-governing Yukon First Nations
Individuals who resided on the settlement lands of an Aboriginal government in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and British Columbia may also have to respond to another question in this section of the return, identifying if they are a citizen or member of one of these Aboriginal governments.
Your response to these questions will not impact the amount of tax you pay; however, it will ensure that the Aboriginal government receives the correct tax revenue in accordance with its personal income tax administration agreement. For more information, go to Information on the tax exemption under section 87 of the Indian Act.
Ticking the “Yes” boxes in the Elections Canada section is an easy way to keep your voter registration up to date, if you are qualified to vote. As well, Canadian youth aged 14 to 17 have the opportunity to add their names to the Register of Future Electors.
Elections Canada will use the information you provide to update the National Register of Electors, the database of Canadian citizens qualified to vote in federal elections, by-elections and referendums, or the Register of Future Electors, if you are aged 14 to 17. The Register of Future Electors allows young Canadian citizens aged 14 to 17 to register before turning 18; once they turn 18 and their eligibility is confirmed, they are added to the National Register of Electors.
Elections Canada uses the information in the National Register of Electors to prepare lists of electors for federal elections and referendums, and to communicate with voters. Other uses of the information permitted under the Canada Elections Act include providing voter information to provincial and territorial electoral agencies for uses permitted under their respective legislations, and providing voter information (not including birth dates) to members of Parliament, registered and eligible political parties and candidates at election time.
Information in the Register of Future Electors cannot be shared with members of Parliament, registered or eligible political parties, or candidates. It can, however, be shared with those provincial and territorial electoral agencies who are allowed to collect future elector information under their respective legislation. It can also be used by Elections Canada to provide youth with educational information about the electoral process.
Only persons who have Canadian citizenship and are 18 years of age or older are qualified to vote. Generally, you are a Canadian citizen either by birth or if you have obtained Canadian citizenship through the formal process of becoming a Canadian citizen (naturalization). If you are unsure about your Canadian citizenship status, refer to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website at See if you may be a citizen.
These questions are optional. If you are a Canadian citizen and are 18 and over, you will not lose your right to vote, regardless of whether you answer the questions or leave them blank. The CRA does not use this information for the purpose of processing your return.
If you have Canadian citizenship and authorize the CRA to share your name, address, date of birth, and Canadian citizenship confirmation with Elections Canada, tick “Yes” to both questions. If you do not authorize the CRA to share your information with Elections Canada, tick “No” to question B.
If you do not have Canadian citizenship, tick “No” to question A and leave question B blank.
If during the year you change your mind about the CRA sharing your information with Elections Canada, call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281 to remove your authorization. To be removed from either Register, contact Elections Canada.
If you tick “No” to question B
- The CRA will not give any of your information to Elections Canada
- Elections Canada will not remove your information from either Register if your name is already there or from federal lists of electors if you are a Canadian citizen and are 18 and over
- If there is a federal election, by-election or referendum and you are a Canadian citizen and are 18 or over but not already registered with Elections Canada, you will have to register before you vote
- If you are a Canadian citizen and are not yet 18, you will need to take steps to register with Elections Canada after you turn 18 in order to vote
Do not complete this section for a deceased person. If you are completing a return for a deceased person who consented to provide information to Elections Canada on their last return, the CRA will notify Elections Canada who will then remove the deceased person’s name from the relevant Register.
For more information, visit Elections Canada or call 1-800-463-6868. Teletypewriter users can call 1-800-361-8935.
Use the following information to help you answer the question on page 2 of your return.
Specified foreign property includes all of the following:
- funds or intangible or incorporeal property (patents, copyrights, etc.) situated, deposited, or held outside Canada
- tangible or corporeal property situated outside of Canada
- a share of the capital stock of a non-resident corporation held by the taxpayer or by an agent on behalf of the taxpayer
- an interest in a non-resident trust that was acquired for consideration, other than an interest in a non-resident trust that is a foreign affiliate
- shares of corporations that are residents of Canada held by you or for you outside Canada
- an interest in a partnership that holds a specified foreign property unless the partnership is required to file Form T1135
- an interest in, or right with respect to, an entity that is a non-resident
- a property that is convertible into, exchangeable for, or confers a right to acquire a property that is specified foreign property
- a debt owed by a non-resident, including government and corporate bonds, debentures, mortgages, and notes receivable
- an interest in a foreign insurance policy
- precious metals, gold certificates, and futures contracts held outside Canada
Specified foreign property does not include any of the following:
- property in your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), pooled registered pension plan (PRPP), registered retirement income fund (RRIF), registered pension plan (RPP), or tax-free savings account (TFSA)
- foreign investments held in Canadian mutual funds
- property you used or held exclusively in the course of carrying on your active business
- your personal-use property
You have to file Form T1135 for 2020 no later than April 30, 2021, (or June 15, 2021, if you or your cohabiting spouse or common-law partner carried on a business in 2020, other than a business whose expenditures are primarily made in the course of a tax shelter investment).
For more information on specified foreign property, see Form T1135, Foreign Income Verification Statement.
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