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Doing your taxes

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Plan ahead for tax-filing season. To avoid delays and to reduce your potential exposure to COVID-19, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) encourages you to sign up for direct deposit, and file online as early as February 22, 2021.

To receive benefit and credits to which you’re entitled to, you need to:

  • sign up for direct deposit to avoid delays
  • File your income tax and benefit return
  • keep your personal information up to date with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

Deadlines

For individuals

The due date for filing an income tax and benefit return and paying any related tax balance due is April 30, 2021.

Filing on time helps to avoid having any of your benefit and credit payments interrupted or stopped.

For self-employed individuals

If you are self-employed or have a spouse or common-law partner who is self-employed, you both have to file a return by June 15, 2021.

To avoid late-filing penalties, pay any amount you owe by April 30, 2021. After this date, the CRA charges interest on what you owe until your balance is paid.

For a deceased person

If you are filing a return for a deceased person, the due date depends on the date of death and if the person owned a business in 2020.

If you are the surviving spouse of a deceased person or common-law partner and you were living with the deceased, the due date for filing your return is the same as the due date for the deceased person’s return. However, if you have a balance owing, you must pay it on or before April 30, 2021.

Gather your tax information

Get everything you need to calculate your income and support any credits, deductions and expenses you want to claim.

If you were employed or had an investment income in 2020, your employer or financial institution will send you statements commonly referred to as ‘’slips’’. Here are some common examples:

  • T3 Statement of Trust Income Allocation and Designations
  • T4 Statement of Remuneration Paid
  • T5 Statement of Investment Income

If you received Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), or Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) payments, these are considered taxable income. You will need to file, and enter the total amount you received on your return. For any such payments, you will receive a T4A (for benefits issued by the CRA) and/or a T4E (for benefits issued by Service Canada) tax slip in the mail with the information to enter on your return. You can view tax slips online as of February in My Account.

Note: 

If you have not received a tax slip for the current year, or you misplaced it, you can ask the issuer of the slip for a copy. You can also get copies of your slips by logging into the CRA’s My Account service.

Ways to file your tax return

To file your return, choose one secure option below.

Using software:

You will find a list of certified desktop, online, and mobile software products at canada.ca/netfile-software. Some of the software is free.

On paper

Due to COVID-19, paper filing may delay your assessment

COVID-19 may cause significant delays in processing paper returns, as well as delivering notices of assessment and cheques in the mail. The CRA will process paper returns in the order it receives them.

Since these delays do not impact processing electronic returns, the CRA encourages you to sign up for direct deposit and file your 2020 return online. This will help you get any refund faster and avoid interruptions to any benefit and credit payments. If you are registered for direct deposit, you will receive your payments without delay.

If you filed your taxes on paper last year, the CRA will automatically mail you the 2020 Income tax package by February 19, 2021.

You can see, download and order forms and publications as of January 18, 2021 at canada.ca/taxes-general-package. Starting February 5, 2021, you can call the CRA at 1-855-330-3305 to order forms and publications.

By phone with File my Return

The CRA offers an automated phone service called File my Return. This free service lets you complete and file your return by phone. The service is available to eligible Canadians who have low or fixed incomes and whose tax situation doesn’t change from year to year. If you are eligible for File my Return, the CRA will mail an invitation letter to you by mid-February.

Using the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program

Through the CRA’s Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, community organizations host free tax clinics for Canadians with a modest income and simple tax situation. Volunteers may be able to complete and file returns for free, by videoconference, by phone, or through a document drop-off arrangement. Free tax clinics are generally offered between March and April across Canada, with some offered year-round. To learn more or to find a tax clinic near you, go to canada.ca/taxes-help.

Complete your tax return

Step 1: Provide and update your personal information

To save time when you file your return, keep your personal information up-to-date with the CRA. Tell the CRA if any of the following has changed:

  • your marital status
  • the number of children in your care
  • your banking information
  • your home address

It is important to let the CRA know about these changes as soon as possible, to make sure you get the right benefit and credits you are entitled to.

The fastest way to update your information is online through My Account.

Step 2: Report your income

Income is money you earn through employment, self-employment, and investments you have, or benefits you receive. On your return, you must report income from all sources, both inside and outside Canada. This is true even if you were paid in cash, which includes money you earn as a side job or tips you have received.

If you received Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), or Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) payments, these are considered taxable income. You will need to file, and enter the total amount you received on your return. In addition, you may owe tax when filing your return. This will depend on your personal circumstances, and the type of COVID-19 benefits you received:

  • If you received the CERB or CESB, no tax was withheld when payments were issued, therefore you may owe this tax when filing your 2020 tax return.
  • If you received the CRB, CRSB, or CRCB, 10% tax was withheld at source. However this may not be all the tax you need to pay. When you complete your personal income tax return, you may need to pay more (or less), depending on how much income you earned in 2020.

There may be other impacts to filing your tax return that are specific to the COVID-19 benefit you received, or if you are a resident in Quebec.

Step 3: Claim your deductions, tax credits and expenses

Reduce the amount of tax you pay by claiming your deductions, expenses and tax credits. You’ll have to use the receipts and records you kept during the year to support your claims.

Send your tax return

There are several ways to send your tax return to the CRA:

  • using software (electronically): If you selected a NETFILE certified software, it will show you how to send your return
  • on paper: Mail your completed income tax package to your tax centre.
  • by phone: If the CRA sent you an invitation letter for File my Return, follow the instructions in the letter

Keep all your receipts. 

Regardless of how you send your return, you must keep all your tax documents for at least six years. For example, if you are filing for the 2020 tax year, you have to keep your documents for that year and for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015. If you claimed expenses, deductions or tax credits, keep all your receipts and any related documents in case the CRA asks to see them.

What to do after you send your return

If you file online and are registered for CRA email notifications, you can use the Express NOA service to get your notice of assessment (NOA) soon after you file.

When to expect your refund

If you file online and choose direct deposit, you could receive your refund in eight business days. To help provide better service to Canadians, we have partnered with many Canadian financial institutions to offer CRA direct deposit enrolment online through your financial institution’s website. If you send the CRA a paper return, it generally takes eight weeks before the CRA issues your notice of assessment and any refund. This may take longer due to COVID-19, so the CRA encourages you to file online and sign up for direct deposit.

Pay a balance owed

There are many ways to pay a balance owed to the CRA. To avoid interest or penalties, pay any amount you owe no later than April 30, 2020. After this date, the CRA will charge interest on what you owe until your balance is paid. Interest applies after April 30, 2020, even if you are self-employed.

If you cannot pay the full balance you owe, you can make a payment arrangement with the CRA. In certain circumstances, the CRA can grant relief from penalty and interest.

Change your return?

If you forgot to include information or made a mistake on your tax return, wait until you get your notice of assessment from the CRA. Then, you can change your return. To avoid delays due to COVID-19, the CRA encourages you to make any changes to your return electronically.

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