How to File Your Canadian Income Tax Return

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If you owe income tax and file your income tax return after the deadline, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will charge a penalty and interest on the unpaid amount.

Who Has to File a Canadian Income Tax Return?

Most Canadian residents have to file a Canadian income tax return for the previous year to pay the accurate amount of income tax owed, to pay back overpayment of benefits such as Employment Insurance, and/or to claim certain benefits, such as the GST/HST Credit or the Guaranteed Income Supplement under the Old Age Security Program.

Some international and non-resident individuals must also file a Canadian income tax return.

Before You Prepare Your Income Tax Return

Before you tackle your income tax return, make sure you have the following information:

  • Social insurance number
  • Tax information slips - information slips sent by employers, banks, and businesses to tell you and the Canada Revenue Agency how much income you received and the amount of income tax that was deducted.
  • Information on other income, including self-employment income
  • Receipts for tax deductions
  • Personal income tax information you might need from the My Account tax service, such as your RRSP contribution limit.

Collect Your Income Tax Package, Forms and Information Guides

To file your taxes, you need an income tax package for the province in which you lived on December 31 of the previous year. The package includes a return (form), federal tax worksheet, schedules (more forms), a provincial or territory tax worksheet and an information guide.

In 2013, in order to reduce waste, the CRA stopped automatically mailing income tax packages to everyone who had filed an income tax return the year before. 

If you file your taxes online, the tax package comes with the software. Be sure you get the version of the software that meets your tax situation.

Choose the Best Way to File Your Income Taxes

The Canada Revenue Agency is encouraging Canadians to file their income taxes online. You can still file your taxes by mail or by hiring someone to do it for you. There are 4 Ways to File Your Canadian Income Taxes. Select the one that's most appropriate for you and your income tax situation.

Find Detailed Information and Help

There are a variety of sources available to answer your specific tax questions. Here are some good places to find help with your Canadian income taxes.

Pay Your Taxes

You can pay your Canadian income taxes by mailing a cheque to the CRA using your regular online or telephone banking, using the CRA's My Payment Service or paying at a Canadian financial institution. If you have to pay your taxes by installments, you can also set up a pre-authorized debit plan. 

Arrange for Direct Deposit of Canadian Tax Payments

The Canadian government is phasing out the use of paper cheques by April 2016. Here are several ways to request the CRA to make a direct deposit of Canadian tax payments to your bank account. Direct deposit is convenient and secure, ensures your payments arrive on time and saves on trips to your community mailbox.

Check on Your Income Tax Refund

For many, the hardest part of doing their income taxes is waiting for their refund. There are several ways to check on your income tax refund.

Change Your Canadian Income Tax Return

You can make some changes to your income tax return online; others you have to make by mail. If you need them, you can get the income tax packages for past years online.

Keep Your Address Current With the CRA

Be sure the CRA has your current address, otherwise you will need to change your address with the CRA. That way you'll receive refunds and benefit payments, as well as important notices, without interruption.