How to Use Netfile for Online Tax Filing in Canada

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NETFILE is an electronic service that allows you to file your personal taxes online directly with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). NETFILE-certified tax software allows you to file your tax returns while avoiding errors.

Once you file your return using a NETFILE-certified tax filing software, you will get a confirmation that it has been received. NETFILE simplifies the process—you don’t have to send in any receipts unless asked at a later date.

Depending on the NETFILE-certified tax preparation software you use, you may file provincial and territorial tax returns with your federal income tax return. Most provincial/territorial income taxes are administered by the CRA. Forms to calculate your provincial/territorial income tax are included with the T1 Income Tax Return. Check if your tax software is certified for all provinces and territories. Revenu Québec has a separate list of authorized software that can be used to NETFILE your taxes.

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Your tax return will be processed faster when using NETFILE vs. mailing a paper return. NETFILE also means getting your tax refund faster if you elect direct deposit rather than waiting on a paper check in the mail. Your refund may be deposited in your account in as little as two weeks.

What is the Difference Between EFILE and NETFILE?

The main difference between EFILE and NETFILE is the intended user.

EFILE is the CRA’s electronic tax filing system used by tax professionals, such as accountants, to file a client’s tax return. NETFILE is the CRA’s electronic tax filing system for individuals looking to file their own tax return.

Not every tax preparer can use the CRA’s EFILE system. They need to apply for and receive a Preparer ID, EFILE number, and password. (Before using a tax preparer to file your taxes, check that they have the necessary credentials to EFILE your tax return.)

If you’re doing your own taxes, make sure to use a NETFILE-certified tax software. Check out the list of CRA-certified tax software for free and pay-what-you-want options that can save you money.

NETFILE Canada Eligibility

To submit your return digitally, CRA’s NETILE or EFILE is what you use in Canada. You may be able to use NETFILE to file your personal tax return if you meet certain criteria. However, not everyone is eligible to use NETFILE to file taxes electronically in Canada.

Tax preparers cannot file taxes on a client’s behalf using NETFILE. They will need to use EFILE to file taxes. In addition, there are restrictions as to the types of tax returns that can be sent to the CRA electronically.

The CRA won’t accept electronic tax returns…

  • For any year prior to 2017; only tax returns for 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 or 2021 can be filed electronically using NETFILE. Revenu Quebec only accepts returns for the current tax year plus three previous years; for the 2021 tax year, this means returns for 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

  • For another person, such as a spousal/family return; every taxpayer must file a separate tax return

You can’t use NETFILE to file your tax return if any of the restrictions below apply to you:

  • Declared bankruptcy in 2020 or 2021 (excludes proposals for bankruptcy)

  • Non-resident of Canada or an emigrant. This excludes certain income and tax forms.

  • Your tax return was discounted by a third party (i.e. your tax return was prepared by a registered EFILE tax preparer who calculates your refund and pays part of it before filing your income tax and benefit return with the CRA)

  • Filing tax return for someone who died in 2020 or 2021

  • Have a social insurance number (SIN) starting with zero and are not a newcomer to Canada

  • Your address is outside Canada

  • Elect to defer tax on distributions of spin-off shares by foreign corporations

  • Claiming less than the maximum for the federal foreign tax credit

Check out the full list of NETFILE eligibility restrictions to find out if you can file your tax return online.

Can I Use NETFILE for My First Tax Return?

Yes, if you are a first-time tax filer, you can file your tax return using NETFILE. Check out the list of CRA-approved online tax preparation software, and make sure you download the latest version before starting your tax return.

Can I NETFILE HST/GST to file returns to the CRA?

If you own your own small business, you may need to collect goods and services tax (GST) or harmonized sales tax (HST) depending on the province where your business is located.

The requirement starts if you meet a certain threshold income, which is $30,000 for the 2021 tax filing year. You will need to register for the GST/HST based on the small supplier limit calculation guidelines by the CRA. GST/HST registrants (those who need to collect and remit GST/HST) need to file a GST/HST return. You can use GST/HST NETFILE to file your GST/HST tax return and eligible rebates directly to the CRA over the Internet.

GST/HST NETFILE is available to all GST/HST registrants, excluding those with accounts that are administered by Revenu Québec.

When can I NETFILE My Taxes in Canada?

If you need to NETFILE or ReFile (an online service that lets individuals and EFILE service providers send online adjustments) your tax return for 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020, you have until Jan. 28, 2022 to do so. The 2022 online tax filing starts February 2022, and you can also file for previous years starting with 2017 at that point.

The tax deadline depends on your employment and/or your spouse’s employment status. Most Canadians need to NETFILE their tax return by May 2, 2022 (the normal deadline is April 30, but it falls on a weekend in 2022). If you are self-employed or your spouse is self-employed, the filing deadline is June 15, 2022. Please note that if you owe any taxes, the payment deadline is May 2, 2022.

How Do I NETFILE My Tax Return?

To NETFILE your tax return, you will need to use a NETFILE-certified tax software. Check out the list of CRA-approved software for free or pay-what-you-want options. Make sure you use tax software that is certified for the year(s) you want to use it to file your return.

Free NETFILE Tax Software in Canada

The CRA certifies tax software every year. There are both free and paid options. Some free options offer pay-what-you-want software and some paid software offer a free option if you meet certain criteria.

Free tax filing software is sometimes based on a person’s tax situation or income. Make sure you meet the qualifications for the free option before getting started.

Make sure the software you choose is certified for the tax year you want to file. If the software you have is not certified for the year you need, go with a different option.

Frequently Asked Questions

Filing taxes online requires using one of the NETFILE-approved tax software options. However, if your tax return is complicated, you can have a tax professional prepare it and file it online using EFILE. There are many ways to file your taxes online from your home computer. This includes purchasing tax preparation software at a store, downloading it from the internet, filing using an app or by using online tax return software.

Yes, the CRA is accepting tax returns via NETFILE as long as you use one of the CRA-approved tax preparation software options to submit your return. NETFILE is now open for electronic filing of T1 personal income and benefit returns for the years 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Revenu Quebec will only accept returns for the previous three years plus the current tax year, (2018-2021). Once you receive your Notice of Assessment (NOA) for 2020, you can get ready to NETFILE your 2021 tax return. For 2021 tax returns, the tax-filing deadline for most Canadians is May 2, 2022. If you’re self-employed or your spouse/partner is, the tax filing deadline is June 15, 2022.

Note that although the mailing deadline is May 2 because the normal tax deadline of April 30 falls on a weekend, any amounts owing must still be paid by April 30.

To access NETFILE CRA, you will need a CRA-approved tax filing software for the year for which you’re looking to file. The CRA certifies tax filing software every year. Make sure you use tax software that is certified for the year you want to file.

Many no-cost or low-cost CRA-approved tax filing software options such as Wealthsimple Tax are NETFILE-certified. In addition, some paid software has free offerings based on income levels and your individual tax situation.

The CRA has a list of approved tax software, including no-cost or low-cost options. You should be able to find an option on the list that allows you to file your taxes for free or for a small fee.

There is no need to register for NETFILE, but you should need to register for a CRA My Account if you haven’t already. This will make it easier when submitting your tax return since you can take advantage of features such as “Auto-fill my return”.

This does not apply to first-time filers since the CRA requires you to file at least one tax return before you can register for a CRA My Account. If you haven’t registered for an account, you can still use NETFILE to submit your tax return electronically.

If you use CRA-approved tax preparation software to file your taxes through NETFILE, you may receive your refund in two weeks with direct deposit. Filing your taxes online through NETFILE means no mailing of printed forms or slips and faster processing.

To expedite the process, NETFILE recommends using the Access Code found on last year’s Notice of Assessment (NOA). While it’s not mandatory, it helps you use information from your previous year’s tax return to confirm your identity with the CRA. If you’re a first-time filer, this does not apply to you.

You don’t need a code to NETFILE your taxes, but it will make filing your tax return easier. If you’ve filed a tax return with the CRA, you will find your NETFILE access code on last year’s Notice of Assessment (NOA), near the top right.

Prior to filing your tax return with NETFILE, you will be asked for the access code after filling in your name, date of birth, and social insurance number. The access code will be made up of letters and numbers below the “Notice details” section of your assessment.

While the code is not mandatory, it makes it easier to use information from your previous year’s tax return to confirm your identity. If you don’t have this code or decide not to use it, you will have to use other information for authentication.

Please note, if you’re a first time filer, the access code does not apply to you.

You can get your tax refund with NETFILE in as little as two weeks. That’s only if you have direct deposit set up and all the information you entered is correct. Make sure you have all tax slips before filling out your tax return. If you don’t have direct deposit set up or you have to submit additional information to complete your tax return, your refund will take longer. If you choose to have your refund mailed via check, the CRA will send it out four to six weeks after receiving your tax return.

No, you cannot NETFILE a tax return for a deceased person. The deceased’s legal representative (i.e. executor or estate administrator) will need to file what is called the Final Return, but may also need to file other returns, such as Optional Returns and the Trust Returns.

There is a timeline when each type of return must be filed. If the person died between January 1 and October 31 of 2021, the Final Return is due on May 2, 2022. If the person died between November 1 and December 31, 2021, the return is due six months after the date of death. Check with the CRA for the timeline requirement for other types of returns that must be filed.

Last Updated June 9, 2022

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