Here's what you need to know to navigate the CRA this tax season
Nearly 60 per cent of Canadians learned how to dissect a frog in high school, yet only eight per cent who learned this skill felt it was relevant outside of school. These stats come courtesy of a new survey commissioned by TurboTax Canada, the tax preparation software giant, which also found that algebra, finding a library book, photosynthesis and trigonometry were all widely learned by Canadian high school students but today, just 26 per cent (or less) consider them relevant to life after school.
By contrast, 80 per cent of Canadians never learned how to do their taxes in high school, and of those who didn’t learn, 76 per cent wish they did. It’s no wonder, then, that the majority of Canadians will be turning either to tax software or a professional tax preparer to get their 2019 tax returns done this filing season.
A second survey, commissioned by Xero, a creator of cloud-based accounting software, found that two-in-five Canadians intend to file by themselves this year, with the help of software or apps. The data found women (42 per cent) are more likely than men (36 per cent) to use software and Canadians aged 35-54 (43 per cent) more likely than their younger (36 per cent) or older (38 per cent) counterparts to file their taxes with software or apps. Albertans lead the way on having filed with software or apps (47 per cent), followed by Atlantic Canadians (44 per cent) and Ontarians (42 per cent).
If you decide to file your own return, rather than engage a tax preparer, there are a few ways to file: online, on paper, or by phone (for those who qualify.) Each year, more and more Canadians choose to file their taxes electronically. Since 2012, the rate of electronic filing has increased significantly, to 88 per cent for last year’s tax-filing season from approximately 63 per cent in 2012.
In 2019, over 29 million people filed returns, with approximately 31 per cent of them using NETFILE-certified software. Over 57 per cent of filers had their taxes prepared by authorized representatives, such as tax preparers and accountants, using EFILE.
While there are plenty of benefits to filing your taxes electronically, the Canada Revenue Agency recognizes “there are lots of good reasons why some people may file their taxes on paper.” For example, they may live in rural or remote areas with limited internet access, or “just prefer the feel of paper between their fingers.” To this end, the CRA has mailed income tax packages to those who filed paper returns last year.
To make it easier for Canadians on low or fixed incomes whose situations remain unchanged from year to year to file, the CRA has an automated telephone service called file my return, which allows eligible individuals to file their taxes over the phone by answering a few simple questions.
The deadline for filing the 2019 tax return is April 30, 2020. Self-employed people, their spouses, or common-law partners have until June 15 to file; however, any balance owing is still due by April 30. If you owe money on your 2019 tax return, the CRA has made it easier to pay this tax season by using the new “Proceed to Pay” button located in the CRA’s My Account site to make a secure and quick payment.
In a press release announcing the start of tax season, the CRA announced its intention to make the filing process “easier, faster, and more secure.” And the CRA is even getting into the AI game with “Charlie the Chatbot,” which will be online later this month to answer general tax filing questions. But it may not be up to speed right away, as the CRA warned, explaining that, “Since Charlie is still learning about the CRA, the questions you ask will help it become more knowledgeable and interactive.”
If you do require help from a CRA live agent, the Agency is offering extended evening and weekend hours from now until April 30 for individual tax enquiries. Telephone agents are now available Monday to Friday (except holidays) from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (local time), and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (local time) on Saturdays (except for the Easter weekend). Of course, the CRA’s automated service continues to be available 24/7.
Estimated wait times to speak to an agent are now provided both on the phone and on the new contact information web page to help callers decide when is the best time to call. For example, this past Thursday, at mid-afternoon, the average wait time was listed as 28 minutes for most categories of personal tax inquiries.
Once you’ve filed your return, the CRA will allow you (or your tax preparer) to access your notice of assessment (NOA) instantly in the certified tax software, right after the return has been received and processed by the CRA, seconds after filing. Your formal NOA will follow, typically within two weeks of filing an electronic return and within eight weeks of filing a paper return. Last tax filing season, the CRA sent refunds to approximately 62 per cent of people who filed returns, with the average refund being about $1,740.
You can check CRA processing times online by clicking on the Check CRA Processing Times tool on the government’s website, which uses the CRA’s published service standards to calculate expected completion times for tax returns.
Finally, if you’ve made a mistake on your tax return, you can request that an adjustment be made to current or prior year tax returns by using ReFILE, an online service that lets individuals and EFILE service providers send online adjustments for their tax returns with certified NETFILE and EFILE software. Individuals can use ReFILE to send adjustments for 2018, 2017 and 2016 returns while EFILE service providers can send adjustments for 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 returns. ReFILE lets you change the same lines on a return as Change my Return feature on the My Account website. But be sure to wait for your NOA prior to using ReFILE.
Wishing you and yours many happy returns!