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Tax Filing Season May be More Fun Than Ever This Year

Clock5 min. read
byDavid Christianson, “Dollars and Sense” onFebruary 17, 2021

Do you prepare your own taxes? If you’re a self-filer, you are much more likely to understand the inner workings of the tax system and how the gears turn to affect your amounts owing. Explore why self-filers say they are celebrating a new range of CRA options this year, and why we should be alert to others.

Do you prepare your own taxes?

Drop me an email and let me know, with “Tax filing confessions” in the subject line. What has been your experience?

I am of two minds here.  First, I am always pleased when someone tells me they prepare their own returns, as it means they are much more likely to understand the inner workings of the tax system and how the gears turn and affect their amounts owing. 

Self-filers tend to understand the difference between credits and deductions, and things like the medical expense threshold amount and how donations reduce taxes.

So, all of that is very positive.

On the other hand, I occasionally cringe when I meet people who try to do their own taxes and either have a very complicated situation that begs for professional help, or they don’t have a hot clue what they’re doing. 

Those situations seldom result in an optimal outcome for the taxpayer.

Like a lot of DIY projects, you might end up a lot smarter for the next attempt, or you might end up smart enough to not try it again. 

The purpose of today’s column is to celebrate the unprecedented range of options that a self-filer has this year, and to alert you to some changes this year.  

At the same time, I’m strongly recommending that anyone with a complex situation, like self-employment or rental income, extensive investment income, a private corporation or options for things like family income sharing, may be best served by using an accounting professional. 

For self-filers, tax filing options abound! You can file your income taxes digitally, using approved software and E-file or Net File. You can prepare your return on paper and mail it, or even file by telephone, if you qualify. 

With questions, you can now “chat” online with the new Charlie the Chatbot. The fun never ends!

I strongly recommend registering for My Account or the MyCRA mobile web app. These give you the status of your return and amounts owing, benefit and credit info, RRSP and TFSA limits and immediate access to your Notice of Assessment. This info is helpful whether you file yourself, electronically or on paper, or with a professional preparer. 

CRA has been very active lately with press releases, one reassuring traditional filers that “… the CRA has not forgotten you, the Paper Filer.” And you know when the CRA uses capitalized terms to describe you, you still count.

CRA still mails income tax packages to well over 1 million individuals who filed a paper return in the previous year. If you are one of those, you should receive your package in February or early March.

You can order a paper filing package online at Canada.ca/get-cra-forms or by calling 1-855-330-3305. Forms are no longer available at Canada Post.

Remember, it is important to file, even if you have no tax owing or no income, to make sure you qualify for benefits and credits, like the Canada Workers Benefit for working people with low incomes, the Canada Training Benefit and Child Tax Benefit. 

Changes and online improvements in the last couple of years include:

  • Revised line numbers on tax forms, with new zeros added (line 150 is now line 15000);

  • Schedule 1 is now part of return;

  • Using Auto-fill my return to populate your filing with approved software;

  • Express NOA to immediately see you Notice of Assessment within minutes of filing;

  • ReFILE for adjustments after receiving your NOA.

  • A new tuition form;

  • Home Buyers’ Plan withdrawals from RRSP increased to $35,000;

  • Improvements to My Account on-line access and the Check CRA Processing Times tool on Canada.ca;

  • Cannabis as a medical expense; 

  • Expansion of kinship care claims.

It looks like a banner year for tax preparers. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!

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Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.

Please consult legal, tax, insurance and investment experts for advice on your unique situation. 

David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIM is recipient of the FP Canada™ Fellow (FCFP) Distinction, and repeatedly named a Top 50 Financial Advisor in Canada.  He is a Portfolio Manager and Senior Vice President with Christianson Wealth Advisors at National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance

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