We are a nation of procrastinators, at least when it comes to filing our taxes. As of this week, the Canada Revenue Agency has only received about 10.4 million individual income tax returns for the 2016 year, out of an expected total of around 29 million, the amount that were ultimately filed for the 2015 tax year. That means that nearly two-thirds of us haven’t filed yet.
That being said, among those who have filed so far, the majority (67 per cent) of filers are still getting a tax refund, with the average amount refunded to date being $1,629. Only 15 per cent of tax returns showed a balance of tax owing for 2016, while 18 per cent of filers had a nil return.
Here’s a few things you need to know to help you to meet the filing deadline.
The normal filing due date for tax returns is April 30, but since this date falls on a Sunday in 2017, the CRA will consider your return filed on time (and any payment owing made on time) as long as they receive it by midnight on May 1, 2017, or if, mailed, it is postmarked May 1, 2017. If you or your spouse or common-law partner is self-employed, you have until June 15, 2017 to file your returns but any balance owing is still due by May 1.
If you end up owing the government tax for 2016, perhaps because of some profit taking and realized capital gains on your portfolio, and don’t file your return on time, the CRA charges a late-filing penalty of 5 per cent of your 2016 balance owing, plus 1 per cent of your balance owing for each full month your return is late, to a maximum of 12 months. For repeat-offenders, if you were charged a late-filing penalty on your returns for 2013, 2014, or 2015, your late-filing penalty for 2016 doubles 10 per cent of your 2016 balance owing, plus 2 per cent of your 2016 balance owing for each full month your return is late, to a maximum of 20 months.
While the May 1 deadline is still just over three weeks away, filing your return electronically has never been easier. Statistics published to date show that the overwhelming majority of Canadians are filing electronically. Electronic filing opened on Feb. 20, 2017 and to date, 89 per cent of returns received so far have come in via either EFILE (55 per cent), for returns prepared by a professional tax filer, or NETFILE (34 per cent) for those of us who choose to file our own returns using tax preparation software.
Should you choose to file on your own, the AutoFill feature will do most of the work for you. Launched in 2015, this is a secure CRA service that allows individuals and authorized representatives to automatically fill in parts of a 2016 and 2015 income tax return with information that the CRA has available at the time of filing the return. It includes the most commonly-used information slips, such as: the T4 slip for employment income, the T3 and T5 slips for investment income, along with T4RSP and T4RIF slips for RRSP and RRIF withdrawals. It even includes the RC62, Universal Child Care Benefit Statement, to facilitate the reporting of any UCCB payments you received in the first six months of last year, before the benefit was eliminated and replaced with the Canada Child Benefit.
Most popular CRA questions
Finally, before you spend time on hold trying to ask the CRA a question, last month, the CRA published its list of the top five most asked questions:
How do I change my address?
If you’ve previously registered for the CRA’s online services, you can change your address by going to the “My Account” feature on the CRA’s website or through the CRA’s mobile app. For those less electronically-inclined, you can still fill out a form (Form RC325, Address change request), or simply write a letter and send it by snail mail to your tax centre.
How do I change my marital status?
You can also change your marital status online by selecting “Change my marital status” in the My Account site or by selecting “Marital status” in the MyCRA mobile app. Of course, you can also do this by phone, fax or mail using “Form RC65, Marital Status Change.”
What is my balance owing or where is my refund?
You can check your balance owing or the status of your refund, including the refund method (direct deposit or mailed cheque), the date it was sent, and the amount either through My Account or the MyCRA app. You can also call the Tax Information Phone Service (TIPS) at 1-800-267-6999.
How can I get a copy of my notice of assessment or reassessment?
You can easily get a copy through My Account, where you can view and print detailed information on an (re)assessment or reassessment for the current year along with the past ten tax previous years. You can also get your notices electronically by signing up for online mail.
Where can I get help with my income tax and benefit return?
Last but not least, if you need help filing your return, have a low income, and a simple tax situation, volunteers can help file your return for you through clinics that operate from now until the end of April. For more info, see the CRA’s website for info on the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program.