How to File Taxes Online for Free in Canada

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Andrew Goldman

Andrew Goldman has been writing for over 20 years and investing for the past 10 years. He currently writes about personal finance and investing for Wealthsimple. Andrew's past work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, New York Magazine and Wired. Television appearances include NBC's Today show as well as Fox News. Andrew holds a Bachelor of Arts (English) from the University of Texas. He and his wife Robin live in Westport, Connecticut with their two boys and a Bedlington terrier. In his spare time, he hosts “The Originals" podcast.

Aja McClanahan is a personal finance writer who has a story of getting out of over $120,000 in debt. She's been featured in Yahoo! Finance, MarketWatch, U.S. News and World Report, Kiplinger and has written for publications like Business Insider, Credit Karma, Inc., and many others. Aja writes about investing and personal finance for Wealthsimple. In her spare time, she manages her own investment portfolios for herself, husband, and two kids. Aja double majored in Spanish and Economics and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Filing and paying taxes as a Canadian citizen is an inevitable part of life. Skipping out on this responsibility could mean many negative consequences down the road, so it’s best to understand get ahead of the deadlines and requirements as soon as possible.

You definitely don’t want to file late and owe a larger tax balance than necessary. Accruing interest, penalties and fees is no fun. Plus, late tax payments can impact your government benefits negatively—all bad things if you’ve got financial goals like getting out of debt, building wealth or both.

The good news is that you can get through the process much quicker with an online filing. If you want to know how to file taxes, this guide will help you with the basics of filing your taxes online if you live in Canada. If you need more help beyond this, be sure to engage a professional to ensure your taxes are filed correctly.

Wealthsimple Tax is a simple way to file your taxes. File your return with confidence it’s done right, and pay what you want—there’s no catch.

What are the benefits of filing taxes online?

Filing your taxes online can be beneficial for a few reasons. For one, you can complete the process relatively quickly and receive an almost immediate confirmation that your filing has been submitted and accepted. Electronic filing is preferred, especially since COVID-19 has reduced the amount of office staff to process paper filings. The CRA has already admitted there could be massive processing delays for paper returns in the 2022 filing season. If you don’t want to wait around to hear about errors or receive any refunds due, then filing online is the way to go.

The CRA’s mobile app allows you to view your return status, change your address, update your direct deposit information, view RRSP and TFSA contribution limits and update your marital status on your mobile device.

You could also get information about the status of your return via telephone. However, if you don’t file electronically, it could take longer for this information to appear in your account along with related updates.

Another reason you’d want to file online is that the interfaces or online applications that file on your behalf can make the tax filing process much easier and reduce the chance of errors. For instance, software like TurboTax or Wealthsimple Tax, can help you get the most accurate results while maximizing the amount of your return. Plus, there’s no need to send in receipts with your online filing unless the CRA requests them at a later time.

Finally, filing online means you’ll get your refund faster. With direct deposit, you may receive your refund in as little as 2 weeks.

Be aware of key dates

Before you file your taxes, you should be aware of key dates:

Filing dates for 2021 taxes

  • Apr 30, 2022: Deadline to file your taxes

  • Jun 15, 2022: Deadline to file your taxes if you or your spouse or common-law partner are self-employed

Payment date for 2021 taxes

  • Apr 30, 2022: Deadline to pay your taxes (Note, that April 30, 2022, is a Saturday, so a tax return will be considered filed on time if it is received on or before May 2, 2022, OR it is postmarked on or before May 2, 2022.)

Knowing these dates will help you prepare enough in advance, so you don’t miss any deadline for filing, payment or both. You can begin preparing for these deadlines as early as the January before your taxes are due. Much of the supporting documentation you’ll need should arrive by the end of February so you can file your taxes in time.

Prepare supporting documentation

Much of the supporting documentation you’ll need to file your taxes online should arrive by the end of February, if not well before. If you start your online filing without this information, you won’t be able to move ahead without basic data points and details pertaining to your income, expenses, deductions, credits, etc. Some tax software will allow you to enter some information and save your return for a later time when you can enter the rest.

Here are some common documents most people will need when filing their taxes:

Income

If you are required to file taxes in Canada, you may have one or more types of income to report. Here’s a list of the types of income you’ll need to report according to the Canada Revenue Agency website:

Employment and self-employment income

This is any income related to employment and self-employment, including commissions and foreign employment income.

Pension and savings plans income

This is pension and savings plans income like old age security, CPP or QPP benefits, or pensions from other countries

Investment income

This is income earned through investments like interest, dividends, and capital gains.

Benefit income

This includes benefit income from EI and other benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, social assistance payments, or UCCB.

COVID-19 benefit amounts

This includes income from CERB from CRA, CESB, CRB, CRCB, CRSB, provincial or territorial COVID-19 benefits and issues on T4A slips. Also, you’ll include CERB from Service Canada, EI benefit payments and issues with your T4E slip. You’ll also have to include Interest relief if you have a taxable income of $75,000 or less in 2020 and received a COVID-19 benefit.

Claim deductions, credits, and expenses

There are many claim deductions, credits and expenses that you might be eligible for to help reduce your taxable income any tax payments due as a result. Here are some common deductions, credits and expenses you may be eligible for:

Credit and deductions

  • Registered Pension Plan (RPP)

  • Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) Deduction

  • Deduction for an Elected Split-Pension Amount

  • Union, Professional, or Like Dues

  • Child Care Expenses

  • ​​Disability Supports Deduction

  • Business Investment Loss (ABIL)

  • Moving Expenses

  • Support Payments Made

  • Exploration and Development Expenses

  • Other Employment Expenses

  • Clergy Residence Deduction

  • Other Deductions

  • Canadian Forces Personnel and Police Deduction

  • Security Options Deductions

  • Limited Partnership Losses of Other Years

  • Non-Capital Losses of Other Years

  • Capital Gains Deduction

  • Northern Residents Deductions

  • Carrying Charges and Interest Expenses

Nonrefundable

  • Basic Personal Amount (BPA)

  • Age Amount

  • Spouse or Common-law Partner Amount

  • Amount for an Eligible Dependent

  • Canada Caregiver Credit or Amount

  • Volunteer Firefighters’ Amount

  • The Home Buyers Amount

  • Home Accessibility Expenses

  • Adoption Expenses

  • Disability Amount for Self

  • Disability Amount Transferred from a Dependant

  • Interest Paid on your Student Loans

  • Tuition, Education, and Textbook Amounts

  • Tuition Amounts Transferred From a Child

  • Eligible Medical Expenses

  • Donations and Gifts

  • Provincial or Territorial Tax Credits

Tax slips

Tax slips detail the income you earned from a specific employer, along with any deductions, such as income tax, employment insurance, and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions. There are many types of tax slips which may include a version of a T3, T4 or a T5 statement.

Once you have gathered all of this information, you should be set to start the online filing process.

Determine how you will file your taxes

Now that you are ready to file your taxes online, you must determine how to complete the online filing process. There are a few different ways to file your provincial and federal taxes with the CRA. (You may have to follow separate instructions for filing in Quebec.)

To file your taxes online, you’ll have to make sure that you are filing using a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) certified tax software platform. In many cases, you can even file your taxes returns for free with one or more of these applications.

Any CRA-certified app will allow you to connect to and submit your tax filing through NETFILE. NETFILE is an electronic tax-filing service that lets you file taxes online and send your income tax and benefit return directly to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

As long as you’ve filed taxes at least once since 2017, your information should be stored in the CRA’s database and retrievable by any CRA-certified tax software. Also, if your employer has been completing filings and making remittances on your behalf throughout the current tax year, your information should already be stored in the CRA database. In this case, your information should pre-populate using Auto-fill my return.

It’s important to know that not all tax software is certified for all years. So whether you are filing for the current tax year or before, check this page for a list of CRA-certified tax software developers along with the years they are approved for.

Filing taxes online for free

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to file your Canada taxes for free. Here are some examples of CRA-certified software you can use. Many of these have a free version you can use, with an option for in-app purchases to buy premiums services as needed:

  • Wealthsimple Tax

  • TurboTax Free

  • CloudTax

  • GenuTax Standard

  • H&R Block Online

  • TaxTron

  • StudioTax

  • EachTax.com

  • Fastneasytax.com

  • eFile Canadian Tax Return

  • myTaxExpress

If you meet eligibility requirements, you can have your taxes done for at no charge via free tax clinic. These clinics accept both in-person and virtual appointments.

Filing your taxes online

Once you have gathered your information and chosen the software to complete your online filing, you’ll navigate to the mobile app or desktop version of your certified tax provider and create an account by entering the following information:

  • Name

  • Social Insurance number

  • Date of birth

  • Whether or not the return is for a deceased person

  • Preferred language

  • Home address

  • Telephone number

Note, for the 2020 tax year, before filing your tax return electronically with NETFILE, you will be asked to enter a NETFILE Access Code (NAC) after your name, date of birth, and social insurance number.

This number can be found on the right side of your Notice of Assessment for a previous tax year. The access code is not required, but if you don’t put it in, you can’t use any information from your 2020 tax return to confirm your identity with the CRA. You’ll have to use other information to authenticate your identity. This code does not apply to you if you are filing your tax return for the first time.

It’s also possible that you may receive a prompt to autofill your return with Auto-fill my return based on the account information that you enter. From here, you’ll start entering information about your income, expenses, deductions, etc. if the information isn’t already populated.

Submitting your tax filing online

Once you’ve entered all of the required information, your tax software will submit your return by connecting directly to NETFILE, which electronically submits your return to the CRA. You should get an immediate confirmation that your return has been received. From here, you can check the status of your return via phone or via your CRA “My Account” site. Your return should show one of four statutes:

  • Assessed

  • In process (The CRA is assessing your return)

  • Received (Received, but not assessed)

  • Not received (The CRA did not receive your return, or the CRA received your return but did not yet update this status.)

Frequently Asked Questions

You can use a CRA-certified tax software to file your taxes online for both provincial and federal taxes. Once you complete your tax filing in one of these approved apps, the software will connect to NETFILE and submit your return electronically.

Although the exact date to file for 2021 has not been officially announced by the CRA, you can typically begin to file taxes in February. Last year, the 2021 tax filing season (for 2019 taxes) started on February 21, 2021.

Your Access Code can be found on the right side of your Notice of Assessment for a previous tax year.

Last Updated April 13, 2022

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