Preparing income tax returns: before, during and after
Before preparing income tax returns
There are many steps to consider when completing tax returns. To ensure that you have everything you need before preparing income tax returns, we recommend you follow these guidelines:
Before you begin to prepare income tax returns, you will need to affiliate yourself with a CVITP organization and register:
as a CVITP volunteer (annual registration)
for EFILE, to allow you to electronically file tax returns (initial registration and annual renewal)
for a RepID (a one-time registration and only if you will be using Auto-fill my return)
You will also need to provide a valid police records check (PRC) to your organization, if you plan to use Auto-fill my return.
Note: If you do not plan on EFILING but will have access to taxpayer information, you will also need a PRC.
For more information, please refer to Register to volunteer.
Supplies and logistics
Check with the organization to confirm the availability of supplies and the logistics of the clinic.
Desktop or laptop computer
Forms TIS60 (mandatory) and Authorization request – signature page (if using Auto-fill my return)
UFile activation key
EFILE number and password
Printer and USB flash drive
Pens, pencils, paper, notepad, post-it notes, calculator, stapler, and remover
Forms T1 Adjustment request (T1-ADJ), Address change request (RC325), Disability Tax Credit Certificate (T2201)
Federal Income Tax and Benefit Guide, tax centre envelopes, and Direct deposit enrollment form
Time of arrival (before the start of your shift)
Duration of appointments (how much time is scheduled for each appointment)
Note: We recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before the start of your shift. Doing so will ensure you have sufficient time to setup your workstation. Verify with your host organization if they can allow you some time to prepare ahead of time.
A new version of the UFile CVITP software is released each year. If you intend to download the software onto your personal laptop for use at CVITP clinics, your organization or your CRA coordinator will email you the link required to download the UFile CVITP software, along with an activation key. In instances where the organization supplies the computer/laptop, they may install and activate the software for you.
Prior year versions of the UFile CVITP software can also be downloaded and the applicable activation keys can be obtained. If you require the UFile CVITP version of the software for a previous tax year, contact your organization or a CRA coordinator.
Always download the updates to UFile to ensure you are using the most current version available. We recommend that you set your tax software to Check for updates automatically.
UFile 2018 start page
Update your copy of UFile 2018 pop-up window is open
EFILE Netfile setup in settings
If you are working on a computer that is also used by other volunteers with the same community organization, go to the EFILE-NetFile setup to ensure that the EFILE number and password are entered correctly before completing returns.
Preparing income tax returns
Establishing a consistent process can help you prepare returns more efficiently.
The following section will provide you with an overview of the steps required when completing a tax return, as well as suggestions and tips that may help you fine‑tune your own working method.
Screening to confirm eligibility
Screening taxpayer information to ensure that they meet the eligibility criteria for the CVITP may be done by a volunteer whose specific role is screening or by a volunteer tax preparer. If you are responsible for screening taxpayer information, see eligibility criteria.
Validating the individual's identification
You must get proof of identity from the individual whose return you will be preparing before you begin their return. You can find a list of valid identification under Volunteer responsibilities – Getting proof of identity from the taxpayer.
Signing the authorization forms
In order to be authorized to complete an individual’s tax return (paper or electronic), as a CVITP volunteer, you must have the individual sign the applicable authorizations:
Form TIS60, Community Volunteer Income Tax Program – Taxpayer Authorization:
see image below, followed by Step 1 of 2 – Completing form TIS60
Authorization request – signature page (only required if you will be using Auto-fill my return)
Note: If you are using the Auto-fill my return service, be sure to read the script before having the individual sign the Authorization request – signature page. See the Useful forms tab under Resources for a copy of the script.
TIS60, Community Volunteer Income Tax Program – Taxpayer Authorization
Community Volunteer Income Tax Program – Taxpayer Authorization form
Section I – Authorization
Part A – Identification section is blank
Part B – Disclaimer section is blank
Step 1 of 2 - Completing form TIS60
Before you start preparing the return, Section I – Authorization needs to be completed and signed. By signing the TIS60, the taxpayer consents to have their tax return prepared by a CVITP volunteer. A TIS60 must be signed for each return being completed by a volunteer.
Part A – Identification identifies the taxpayer
Part B – Disclaimer, the taxpayer acknowledges with their signature that their return is being prepared by a volunteer. The taxpayer whose information is in Part A must sign Part B
Note: Step 2 is only applicable for electronic filing (EFILE) and will follow later in this topic.
Verifying the information on the slips and receipts
Ensure the information on the slips is correct (for example, name, SIN, and issuer).
Confirm that the individual has all required information slips and receipts.
Some information slips and receipts may include:
T4, T5, T5007, T4A, and T4(OAS)
receipts for child care, medical expenses, and RRSP contributions
charitable donation receipts, including those made in the current year and any donations made and not claimed within the last 5 years
tuition receipts, such as T2202, TL11A, or TL11B
Note: If the individual is missing a slip, there are several ways for you to try to obtain the information. You can call the dedicated help line for volunteers at 1‑866-398-3488, use Auto-fill my return, or the client can contact their employer or payer. If a slip is not available, use pay stubs or statements to estimate the missing income and deductions.
If you call the dedicated help line for volunteers to obtain the individual’s information, the individual must be present. They will need to speak with a telephone agent to answer and pass confidentiality questions, and can provide verbal authorization for you to speak on their behalf. Verbal authorization is only valid for the duration of that telephone call.
Organizing the slips and receipts
It is good practice to organize the slips into categories as they apply to sections of the Income Tax and Benefit Return, such as income and deductions and credits. Next, sort the documents into similar types (for example, keep all T4 slips together). This follows how UFile is structured and can help make entering the slips easier.
Questions to ask the individual
Although your community organization may have already confirmed the information with the individual when the appointment was booked, or during the screening process, it is recommended to ask the following questions:
How many tax years do you need to complete? For what years?
Will we be preparing returns for other family members?
Do you have children? How many?
Have you or any of your family members been approved for the T2201, Disability Tax Credit Certificate?
How many places did you work at this year?
Since last year, was there a change in your marital status, address, or dependants?
Did you receive or earn any tips?
Keep in mind, the list of questions is not exhaustive!
Note: Income, such as tips, gratuities, or occasional earnings may or may not be shown on a T4 slip. If they are not included, it is the individual’s responsibility to provide you with the amounts.
Entering the information in UFile
Enter the information in the different areas in the Interview tab. Read each question carefully to ensure the correct information is provided.
Note: We strongly recommend that you read the Frequent client scenarios to get familiar with the most commonly seen situations when preparing tax returns at free tax clinics. Within each scenario you will find screen by screen tax software instructions.
Be sure to also familiarize yourself with the provincial and territorial benefits and credits.
Enter the individual’s identification information, such as name, social insurance number, date of birth, province of residence, and marital status.
Complete all items found on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) questions page.
If the individual has never filed a tax return and you will be completing multiple years for them, only select Yes for the question Are you filing an income tax return with the CRA for the very first time? on the oldest return you are preparing. For example, if the individual has to file 2017, 2018, and 2019, make sure to only answer Yes in the 2017 return. For subsequent years after 2017, you would select No.
If the individual indicates that they have sold their principal residence in the tax year, see Individuals reporting a sale of a principal residence.
Under the Elections Canada section, if you answer Yes to the question Do you have Canadian citizenship?, an additional question will populate and ask whether the individual authorizes the CRA to share their name, address, date of birth, and citizenship information with Elections Canada. Doing so will update the National Register of Electors (the Register).
Additional questions may also be generated on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) questions page, as well as in the left side menu, based on the individual’s province of residence on December 31 of the tax year. For more information, see CRA questions in UFile overview.
When selecting a response to the question I accept the terms and conditions and I choose to receive email notifications from the CRA, we recommend that you always answer No.
Note: Selecting Yes will authorize the CRA to provide all correspondence to the individual electronically through My Account, including their notice of assessment. Paper copies will no longer be issued.
Electronic filing – EFILE
As a CVITP volunteer, you can electronically transmit (EFILE) tax returns to the CRA for the 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 tax year(s). If you are completing a return for any of these years, select Yes to the question Will you be using EFILE to submit this return to the CRA?
In order to complete prior year returns with the UFILE CVITP software, you must install the applicable version for each year you wish to prepare. If you will be preparing prior year tax returns, select Yes in response to the question Will you be using EFILE to submit a prior year federal return, today or within the next two days?
Although you cannot transmit returns electronically prior to 2016, you can still complete and print the returns using the UFile CVITP software. You can file tax returns as far back as 10 calendar years. For information on how to print the return, see Printing the tax return and forms.
Note: When preparing previous year returns, it is recommended that you begin with the oldest year and proceed in order.
Once you reach the Review tab, make sure:
all personal information (for example, name and address) has been entered correctly and is up to date
the spouse and dependant information is accurately recorded
all of the information slips and receipts have been entered correctly
you have claimed the applicable provincial credits and benefits
you go over any UFile warnings and error messages
you inform the individual and refer them to Payment options for individuals and businesses if there is an amount owing
Note: If applicable, make sure that a profile has been added for each of the individual’s eligible dependants, as it may affect the calculation of the benefits and credits they are entitled to. For more information, see Individuals with a dependant.
Completing Section II of form TIS60
TIS60, Community Volunteer Income Tax Program – Taxpayer Authorization
TIS60, Community Volunteer Income Tax Program – Taxpayer Authorization form
Section II – Electronic filing (EFILE)
Part C – Declaration section is blank
Part D – Declaration and authorization section is blank
Part E – Electronic filer identification section is blank
Part F – Document control number section is blank
Step 2 of 2 - Completing form TIS60
If the return is being electronically filed, both the volunteer and the individual must complete Section II.
Part C – Declaration, the volunteer must enter the income amounts from the completed tax return
Part D – Declaration and authorization, by signing, the individual authorizes the volunteer to electronically file their tax return
Part E – Electronic filer identification, the volunteer will enter their name and EFILE number
Part F – a Document control number, is provided by EFILE, once the return is completed
Always give the completed TIS60 to the individual for their records
Do not tell the individual to send it to the CRA
Never keep a copy of the TIS60 or send it to a CRA coordinator
Ensure that TIS60 has been signed by the individual and, if you are preparing returns for a family, ensure each family member that you will be filing a tax return for has signed their own TIS60.
Printing the return and forms
Not all organizations have the capacity to print or access to printers. If printing is available, print the necessary documents to give to the individual (for example, T1 summary and TIS60). See Printing the tax return and forms.
If printing is not an option, you can obtain the TIS60 by contacting your CRA coordinator.
Note: If you print tax returns or other documents containing the individual’s information using a shared printer, ensure that you pick them up promptly. Do not leave them for others to see.
Some printers, scanners, and copiers may retain memory.
If you are using a personal printer that retains memory, it is important that you clear the memory regularly.
Transmitting the return
Each person’s return must be transmitted individually. See EFILING the tax return.
Verifying EFile transmission errors
If you receive any error messages when transmitting the tax return, refer to the RC4018, Electronic Filers Manual, Chapter 2, for an explanation.
The manual provides explanations of how the codes are set, what they mean, and how to respond to them.
If you receive an error message(s), ensure that you correct the information as instructed before transmitting the return again.
You can review your EFILE transmission history by going to EFILE for electronic filers. Step-by-step instructions can be found later in this topic, under After preparing income tax returns.
If you are unable to re-transmit, print a paper copy of the return and have the individual mail it to their designated tax centre.
If you cannot find an error code in the RC4018, or need additional help regarding the error code(s), contact your regional EFILE Helpdesk support. See Resources.
Here are a few reminders for volunteers who are preparing paper returns:
Add all box numbers from similar types of slips and enter the totals into the lines on the paper return
Have the individual sign the paper return at the bottom of page 8
Enter a 1 in box 48700 of the paper return to show that it was prepared by a volunteer. Box 48700 is located at the bottom of page 8 of the paper return. This is done automatically when using CVITP UFile
Attach all completed schedules, information slips, required forms, and receipts
Instruct the individual to mail their paper return to their tax centre
Remind the individual to file their paper return by April 30 to avoid delays in the processing of their benefit payments and possible late filing penalties
Returns must be filed by the due date, even if there is a balance due and the individual is unable to pay the full amount owing
Note: The CRA’s goal is to issue an individual’s notice of assessment within 8 weeks of receiving the paper return.
After preparing the income tax return
There are several steps to consider once the tax return has been prepared. Here are some points to keep in mind so that you can end your shift knowing you have met your responsibilities as a tax preparer. By following these steps you are ensuring that you have successfully transmitted the return and safeguarded taxpayer information.
Ensuring the return was accepted by CRA
Verify that the return was successfully transmitted and accepted. Even if UFile provides a report showing that the CRA successfully received the return, you must verify that the transmission was accepted. Follow these steps:
Step 1: Log in to your EFILE account.
Step 2: Select Accepted transmission(s).
Step 3: Verify that the transmission was accepted by entering the transmission date and selecting Submit. A list of accepted transmissions is displayed, with the most recent at the top.
If the transmission does not appear in the list of accepted transmissions:
Use the Select action button to go back to the main menu of your EFILE account
Select Rejected transmission(s) requiring correction(s)
Enter the transmission date and Submit
Select the file name to see the acknowledgement file
Take note of any error clues or activity codes:
If there are error clues, refer to the guide RC4018, Electronic Filers Manual, Chapter 2
If there are no error clues, note the activity code and contact the dedicated help line for volunteers
Correct the errors on the return
Retransmit the corrected return
Verify that the retransmitted return was accepted
Note: If the EFILE transmission or retransmission is not successful, give a paper copy of the return to the taxpayer and ask them to mail it to the CRA. See Tax centres to confirm the mailing address.
Return all documentation to the individual
Do not keep any of the individual’s documents (paper or electronic).
Note: In the event of any type of security breach, such as lost, stolen, or compromised data, tell your community organization and your CRA coordinator immediately.
Clear all user information from UFile
Go to EFILE-Netfile setup in settings
You can click Clear Part A to remove information in Part A - Identification Information
EFILE-NetFile setup screen
Clear All button is highlighted
Clear Part A button is highlighted
Save button is highlighted
The information about the business/organization will still remain in the software from Part B. If you need to delete all information including the organization, click Clear All and Save.
Formatting your USB flash drive to erase the data
If it was necessary to save the return, be sure to format your USB flash drive no later than 48 hours after the CRA accepts the return. Formatting it will erase all of the data. To format your USB flash drive, follow the steps:
Connect the USB flash drive to your computer
Click the Windows icon, search, and select This PC
This PC is highlighted
In the displayed window, find the name of the USB flash drive that you would like to format under the Devices and drives section
Right-click on the USB flash drive and select Format from the pop-up menu
Unlock Drive option
Format option is highlighted
5. Select the Quick Format option and then Start to format the drive
Quick format is checked and highlighted
Start button is highlighted
Select OK to confirm that you will erase all data on the drive
Note: You do not have to save the tax return to EFILE or print it; therefore, this step is only necessary if you had to save the tax return. See Save a tax return.
Post filing - Good to know
If an individual returns to the organization where their tax return was completed with additional information that they forgot to provide at the time of filing, it is not your responsibility to adjust the return.
You can suggest that the individual submit a T1 Adjustment request (T1-ADJ), along with any supporting documentation, to their tax centre to have the return adjusted.
The form is available on the Canada.ca website or you may choose to supply them with one.
If an individual returns to the organization with follow-up questions about their return, please refer them to the CRA’s Individual tax enquiries line at 1‑800‑959‑8281.
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