According to the CRA, tax season officially started in Canada on February 18, 2019. As of that date, the agency started processing tax returns. You could file your 2018 tax return online using NETFILE.
People who filed a paper return last year should have received a tax package in the mail by February 11. However, mail delivery problems at Canada Post caused delays into January. And besides postal disruptions, icy conditions this winter caused complications for both residents and mail carriers.
In some regions, mail wasn't delivered for weeks. As a result, CRA's delivery target for last year's paper filers may have come and gone for many taxpayers. Blame it on the weather!
If you didn't receive the package on time or at all, you have a few options. You can call the CRA or use an online form to order tax forms by mail, or download it and print it yourself. Tax packages are also available in limited quantities at Canada Post, Service Canada, and Desjardins branches (in Quebec only).
If you can't download and print the forms, it might be easier to order a package from the CRA, than trying to find one at an outlet. To order forms from Revenu Quebec, call 1-800-267-6299 or order them online.
Tax preparation software for the upcoming tax season is generally available to taxpayers around the beginning of January. On January 16, SimpleTax used a nifty three-verse song to announce their 2018 tax year software was ready.
Printed tax forms are available from the CRA starting early February 2019. If you mailed in a paper return last year, the CRA would mail you an income tax package. Taxpayers who didn't file a paper return last year can download forms from the CRA and Revenu Quebec for printing.
If you can't print the forms or want to use government forms, you can have them mailed to you. As mentioned above, simply call the CRA or Revenu Quebec to order.
If you filed a paper return last year, your tax package by mail includes:
The CRA strongly encourages people to file online using NETFILE through a certified tax software product. The agency stopped sending out personalized printed tax packages in 2013. At the time, it didn't do a great job of communicating the change to taxpayers.
In fact, many taxpayers only found out they wouldn't get anything in the mail when they called the CRA. The change caused a scramble for forms at postal and other outlets.
Despite the confusion, the government's move to reduce paper usage continues. Not only to save taxpayer dollars but to reduce waste. The truth is, many Canadians still want or need to file paper returns.
According to a 2018 CRA news release, "approximately two million Canadians who filed hardcopies last year were mailed their tax guide and forms." Canadians will see the number of printed packages the CRA mailed out declined significantly in 2019.
The move to mail out packages to Canadians who had mailed their return in 2018 was billed as a new service by the government. It was designed to help Canadians with reduced mobility, who live far from service locations or don't have internet access.
For some taxpayers, using government-printed forms is a necessity. Others choose paper filing based on personal beliefs or habits. Here are some of the factors that drive people to file their taxes by mail and alternatives to help you decide if filing by mail is the right choice for you in 2019 and beyond.
People who file by mail because they don't trust the internet might not have all the facts. While it's true that data breaches are commonplace and costly, the Canadian government isn't going back to storing files on paper to prevent hackers from accessing them.
If you're filing a paper return because you don't trust the internet, you might want to consider using tax software instead, to save time, trees and to prevent mistakes.
Government data breaches do happen. However, mailing your tax return isn't more secure than filing online. In fact, once the CRA processes your paper return, it stores your personal data on the same servers it uses for all Canadians. We can only trust that our data is being protected by the government using the best security technology and practices available.
Also, in the "trust" category, some people may believe that only a form or booklet printed by the government is official and valid. Others might prefer to hand-deliver their tax return to a tax office, worried that mail or online transmission won't guarantee delivery.
Those taxpayers can continue to mail in their tax returns until the CRA and Revenu Quebec stop accepting paper returns. That's probably still years away.
Finally, when you file your tax return, NETFILE provides a confirmation and time stamp. This verification is proof that the CRA or RQ duly received your tax return.
Is the cost of the software the only thing stopping you from filing your taxes online? If so, most tax preparation programs, such as QuickTax and SimpleTax, have free or "pay what you want" options. They can do the work for you, and help you save on stamps too.
Other taxpayers can't file their tax return online due to a variety of barriers. Some do not have access to a computer or the internet; others have disabilities or health issues. Many Canadians don't feel they have the financial knowledge to prepare their tax returns.
Some individuals may be able to use the CRA's File My Return (FMR) service. Close to a million people with low or fixed incomes were invited to use the service last year. Eligible taxpayers receive a special phone number to call and only need to answer a few questions. They don't need to worry about calculations or forms.
Otherwise, individuals with a modest income and a simple tax situation may be able to use the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. Free tax clinics across the country can provide help. For people who have disabilities, including visually and hearing-impaired individuals, the CRA offers tax forms and publications in alternate formats.
As a final note, if you don't use software to prepare your return, the odds of making a mistake are higher. And mistakes can cost you money if you miscalculate what you owe. You also need to make sure you have the right forms and schedules for your province of residence.
Simple tax programs, even the free ones mentioned above, calculate everything for you and help to ensure you don't miss any deductions. Using tax software (with NETFILE built-in) is easy, accurate and fast. Unless you're eligible for File My Return or you face specific challenges such as access issues or disabilities, it might be worth revisiting tax software and online filing.
As mentioned earlier, you can file your taxes online starting February 18, 2019. NETFILE begins receiving returns on that date. Taxpayers start thinking about taxes at the end of February, which is the RRSP contribution deadline. And most Canadians don't file their return until mid-March or later after they've received all their tax slips.
Slips and other documents start to trickle in around the third week of February. If you usually file as early as possible and you're waiting for a refund, it should follow within a couple of weeks.
Increasingly, financial institutions provide certain tax documents online to clients, such as slips for interest and investment transactions. This service lets customers view or download their tax slips at any time. It also means there's no need to worry about misplacing crucial tax slips at home.
Most Canadians should aim to file their tax return by April 30, the 2019 tax filing deadline in Canada. If you're self-employed, you have until Monday, June 17, 2019. If you don't have a balance owing, you can file your return at a later date without incurring any penalties or interest.
Many Canadians put off filing their return until the last day. But if you're a well-organized small business owner with good accounting practices, you've probably been preparing your taxes and keeping track of expenses. All that hard work will make preparing your tax return a lot easier.
From February 18 until April 30, 2019, 3,000 additional CRA telephone agents can help with your personal tax enquiries. They're also working longer hours: on weekdays from 9 am to 9 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am to 5 pm (except Easter weekend).
According to CRA information, tax returns for 2015 and later tax years can be filed using NETFILE. NETFILE stopped accepting tax year 2014 returns on January 25, 2019. Tax returns for 2014 and prior years must be printed and mailed in.
If you can't pay your balance at all, call the CRA as soon as possible. You may qualify for a payment arrangement. You'll need to prove that you don't have the income, assets or borrowing facilities to pay your taxes. If you meet the CRA's strict criteria, the CRA will allow you to pay your tax debt over an extended period.
In particular situations, you may be able to delay your tax obligations and qualify for tax relief. Illness, hardship due to a natural disaster and loss of employment are examples of circumstances the CRA will consider.