Doing your taxes

1. Do you need to do your taxes?

Doing your taxes is part of your responsibilities as a taxpayer. Doing your taxes means you have to fill out various forms, including the ones in the income tax packages. They 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 do your taxes to get the benefits and credits you might be entitled to, such as the GST/HST tax credit, the Canada child benefit and the working income tax benefit.

For more information see Tax Obligations.

2. When is your tax return due?

Most Canadians have to fill out their return and send it to the Canada Revenue Agency no later than April 30. Since April 30, 2017, is a Sunday, we will consider that you filed your return on time if we receive it or it is postmarked no later than May 1, 2017.

To learn more about tax season deadlines, see Important dates for 2016.

Self-employed individuals

If you or your spouse or common-law partner carried on a business in 2016, you have to send in your tax return no later than June 15, 2017. However, if you owe tax for 2016, you must still pay it no later than April 30, 2017.

If you or your spouse or common-law partner carried on a business in 2016 whose expenditures are mainly for a tax shelter, you have to send in your tax return no later than April 30. Since April 30, 2017, is a Sunday, we will consider that you filed your return on time if we receive it or it is postmarked no later than May 1, 2017.

Deceased persons

If you need to do taxes for someone who died in 2016, the due date for their return will depend on the date of death and whether the person had carried on a business in 2016.

For more information, see What to do when someone has died.

3. Do you need help doing your taxes?

If you have modest income and a simple tax situation, you might qualify for help. From February to April, community organizations across Canada run free tax preparation clinics to help individuals who qualify.

To find out if you qualify for free help or to find a tax preparation clinic in your area, see Need a hand to complete your return?

4. How to fill out your income tax and benefit return

You can fill out your tax return online or on paper. Most Canadians, now choose the online method because it’s faster and they get their refund sooner, especially if they also signed up for direct deposit.

Be sure to read about our service enhancements and the major changes for the current year: What’s new for 2016.

These are the main steps to follow:

Step 1: Collect all your information and supporting documents that show your income, and any deductions and credits you plan to claim

To fill out your tax return, you need all your tax information slips that show your income, such as your original T4 slip. Your employer should have given it to you before the end of February.

There are several other types of tax information slips, such as the T4A, T4A (OAS), T4A (P), T4E and many more.

Note

T4 slips do not apply to self-employed individuals. Also note that T3 slips are issued before March 31.

My Account

If you register for My Account, you will have access to the secure Auto-fill my return service. If you use certain tax preparation software, it automatically fills in parts of your return, with information that the Canada Revenue Agency has on file for you.

Step 2: Select the software you will use to fill out your return or get the general income tax and benefit package for 2016

You can fill out your tax return by using a NETFILE-certified software product. Some of these products are free, depending on your individual tax situation or income. A NETFILE-certified software makes it easier to do your taxes.

Get the general income tax and benefit package for 2016

Step 3: Make sure your information is up to date

If there has been a major change in your life, for example, you had a child, you got married or you moved, tell the Canada Revenue Agency as soon as possible so that you continue to get your benefit payments on time.

For more information, see Personal and address information.

Step 4: Report your income

Report the income amounts you receive in the year from all sources, both inside and outside Canada.

Look on the back of your information slips to find instructions on where to report an amount.

Step 5: Find out which deductions, tax credits and expenses you can claim

Get information about the deductions and tax credits you can claim to reduce the amount of tax you have to pay. You will also find information on where to claim these amounts on your tax return a related form or schedule.

Step 6: Send your tax return to the Canada Revenue Agency

You can file your tax return online using NETFILE. This is a free electronic filing service that lets you send your completed tax return directly to the Canada Revenue Agency. This service makes it easy to send your tax return.

For more information on several ways to send your tax return, see Sending a tax return.

Step 7: Keep your supporting documents

You must keep all your tax documents for at least six years. If you claimed expenses, deductions or tax credits, make sure you keep all your receipts and related documents in case the Canada Revenue Agency asks to see them. 

5. When will you get your refund?

If you send your tax return electronically (EFILE or NETFILE) and choose direct deposit, you can get your refund in as little as eight days. If you send a paper return by mail and you choose to receive your refund by cheque, it generally takes eight weeks.

If you have any questions about your refund or you want to know at what state of processing your return is, go to Refunds.

6. Do you owe money?

You can pay the amount you owe in several ways:

To find out which payment method works best for you, go to How would you like to pay?

If you cannot pay your tax debt

Ignoring your debt does not make it go away. If you can’t pay the full amount you owe, you can make a payment arrangement. It’s up to you to contact the Canada Revenue Agency before May 1 to avoid any interest or penalties.

After May 1, the Canada Revenue Agency will charge interest on any amount you owe until your balance is paid.

The Canada Revenue Agency can grant relief from penalty or interest, but only in certain circumstances.

7. Do you need to make changes to a tax return after you sent it?

You can make changes to your return for any of the previous 10 tax years.

Before you ask for changes to your return, wait until you get your notice of assessment. Do not file another return. Instead, register or log on to My Account and click on “Change my return.”

If you sent your request electronically, it will take about two weeks for the Canada Revenue Agency to make a change. If you mailed your request, changes will take up to eight weeks.

To find out more, go to How to change your return.

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