Canada Tax Return Basics and Checklist

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A tax return refers to the forms an individual or a corporation must submit to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) if earning an income in Canada. The Canadian income tax year starts in January and runs through December, and includes all taxable income and tax credits.

Individuals and corporations are taxed on both the federal level and on the provincial level. If you’re an individual (except for Quebec residents), you can file a single tax return with the CRA that includes both federal and provincial taxes. Quebec residents will need to file a separate income tax return with Revenu Quebec in addition to their federal tax return.

If you work in Canada, your employers must deduct income tax, Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) premiums from your wages, then remit them to the CRA. Deductions are based on an individual completing the federal and provincial TD-1 forms.

Each individual is responsible for filing their own tax return. Filing an income tax return can be done using a tax preparation service or individual, such as an accountant; or a tax preparation software.

Who should file a tax return?

You should file a tax return in Canada if you live and work in Canada, or if you immigrated and settled as a resident in Canada.

You should also file a tax return if you’re considered a factual resident of Canada, meaning you’re still considered a Canadian resident for income tax purposes. This applies to anyone who is on a temporary work assignment outside of Canada, attending school in another country, spends part of the year in another country, or is commuting for work from Canada to the U.S.

If you’re appointed the legal representative for someone who has died, you will have to file a final return for the deceased.

Individuals who lived in Canada for 183 days or more during a tax year may be considered deemed residents of Canada and are subject to federal taxation. This includes international students who attend a Canadian college or university.

Additional rules apply to non-residents of Canada, including those with rental income from Canadian properties, and seasonal workers. Check with the CRA to find out what your tax obligations may be if you live in Canada temporarily or permanently, or if you leave the country.

How do tax returns work in Canada?

Individuals can either use a tax preparer, such as an accountant, or do their own tax return using tax return software.

If you choose to have your taxes prepared by a professional, you will need to have all relevant documents ready to go before your appointment. Professional tax preparers file personal tax returns using the CRA’s EFILE system. If you use tax return software, such as Wealthsimple Tax, you will use CRA’s NETFILE system to file your tax return.

Tax preparation software comes with a tax return calculator that tallies up your refund or taxes owed as you go through the prompts. Your CRA tax return filing must include all earned income for the tax year—from January through December. The standard Canada tax return deadline is April 30 of each year for the previous year’s return. If you or your spouse are self-employed, the deadline is June 15. (Note that any amount owing to the CRA must be paid by April 30, regardless of filer status.)

Below is a list of documents needed for tax returns in Canada. What specific documents you need will depend on your individual situations.

Who should file a tax return in Canada?

Not everyone is eligible to file a tax return in Canada. You should file a tax return in Canada if you live and work there, or if you immigrated and settled there. If you are on a temporary work assignment in Canada or are an international student, you may have to file a tax return.

Check out the CRA qualifications for who needs to file a tax return.

How do I file a tax return in Canada?

To file a tax return in Canada, you need to go to a tax preparer such as an accountant or use tax preparation software such as Wealthsimple Tax. Going to an accountant will be pricier, but it may be a good option for you if you prefer to ask questions and have someone walk you through all the steps.

Tax preparation software makes it easy to file your return, as long as you follow all the steps and have all of your documents ready to go. Ensure you have all documents needed for tax return in Canada (check out the list below to ensure you don’t leave out anything) and follow all the steps and prompts closely.

There are many free and low-cost options for filing your tax return. Check out our list for affordable NETFILE-approved software.

How do I calculate my tax return?

To calculate your tax return, you need all T4 slips and other relevant slips from your employer or other sources of income.

A tax professional, such as an accountant, can help you calculate your tax return for a given tax year for a fee, then file your return for you. Alternatively, you can use one of the NETFILE-certified tax preparation software options to calculate your tax return and file it with the CRA.

How do I pay a tax return online?

There are several ways to pay tax returns online in full or over a period of time. The deadline to pay the taxes you owe for the 2021 tax year is May 2, 2022, since April 30 is a Saturday.

To pay your tax return online, you can use one of the following options:

  • Online banking: Make a payment to the CRA or schedule future payments through your Canadian financial institution through the “Add a payee” option

  • CRA My Payment: Use an Interac debit, Visa debit, or Mastercard debit card to make an online payment directly to the CRA. You cannot use a credit card with CRA My Payment. The CRA does not charge a fee for using this service, but your financial institution may have separate limits and fees. You will need to log in to My Account and create a Pre-authorized debit (PAD) agreement by selecting the “Proceed to pay” button and selecting the “Schedule” option. You can also create a PAD agreement within MyCRA by selecting the “Proceed to pay” button and the “Pay later” option.

  • Pre-authorized debit: Using My Account, you can authorize the CRA to withdraw a set payment amount from your Canadian checking account on the date(s) you choose.

  • Third-party service provider: You can make a payment using a third-party service provider such as PaySimply or Plastiq for a fee. PaySimply accepts credit cards, debit cards, PayPal, and Interac e-transfer. Plastiq accepts debit cards and all credit cards.

  • Wire transfer: All wire transfers must be in Canadian dollars and must include the total amount owed, plus the wire transfer fee to ensure you don’t underpay.

Please note that the CRA does not accept cryptocurrency, gift cards, or cash for tax return payment online.

Where do I mail my tax return in Canada?

If you want to mail your tax return, you will need to select the right tax centre. This depends on the province, territory, or area where you live.

For residents who live in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon, or the following cities in Ontario: Hamilton, Kitchener, Waterloo, London, Thunder Bay, or Windsor, mail your return to:

Winnipeg Tax Centre

Post Office Box 14001,

Station Main

Winnipeg MB R3C 3M3

Residents of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island; the following cities in Ontario: Barrie, Belleville, Kingston, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, or Toronto; and the following cities in Quebec: Montréal, Outaouais, or Sherbrooke, mail your return to:

Sudbury Tax Centre

1050 Notre Dame Avenue

Sudbury ON P3A 5C2

For Quebec residents of all areas other than Montréal, Outaouais, or Sherbrooke, mail your return to:

Jonquière Tax Centre

2251 René-Lévesque Boulevard

Jonquière QC G7S 5J2

If you are a non-resident and need to mail your income tax return, the tax centre mailing address depends on your country of residence.

Non-resident individuals who live in USA, United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, or in the following cities in Ontario: Belleville, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, Waterloo, London, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Thunder Bay, or Windsor, should mail their tax return to:

Winnipeg Tax Centre

Post Office Box 14001,

Station Main

Winnipeg MB R3C 3M3

Canada

Fax: 204-984-5164

Non-residents who live in countries other than the ones listed above, or reside in Canada in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, or Barrie, Sudbury, or Toronto in Ontario, should mail their tax return to:

Sudbury Tax Centre

1050 Notre Dame Avenue

Sudbury ON P3A 5C2

Canada

Fax: 705-671-3994 and

1-855-276-1529

Please note: Because of international mail delays right now, the CRA is temporarily accepting non-resident income tax returns through fax.

When can I file taxes for 2021 in Canada?

The deadline to file taxes for 2021 in Canada is May 2, 2022, since April 30 is a Saturday. The deadline to file personal income taxes in Canada for both residents and non-residents is April 30 of each year.

If you or your partner are self-employed, the deadline to file a tax return is June 15, 2022. However, if you owe any taxes, regardless of employment status, they must be paid on or before April 30, 2022, to avoid interest or penalties.

If you are filing taxes for a deceased person, the filing deadline may vary.

How long does a tax return take in Canada?

Processing times for your tax return depend on how you filed it. For tax returns filed online, the Canada Revenue Agency strives to process most electronically filed returns within 2-4 weeks and paper filed returns within 8 weeks.

You can expect to get your tax refund within this time period. This timeline is only valid for tax returns completed on or before their due date. If you live outside of Canada and file a non-resident personal income tax return, your return may take up to 16 weeks.

Returns selected for a detailed review may take longer. If you select to receive your refund through direct deposit, you will get it faster than a check in the mail.

How do I get a copy of my tax return in Canada?

If you need a copy of your notice of assessment or tax slips from previous years, you can get those from the CRA website. You can sign into your My Account or use the CRA mobile app to view it.

For copies of a previous year’s tax return, how you get it will depend on how you filed it. If you used a tax preparation service, you should be able to access PDFs through that service. If you used a preparation service or an account, you can contact them to get a copy of your tax return.

Canadian tax return document checklist

Before you start working on your tax return, you’ll need to gather a few things. To make sure you don’t miss something, and to help you get every deduction and credit you can, we’ve prepared this handy checklist.

If you prefer, you can also download and print a copy of our Tax Return Checklist (non-QC residents).

The Tax Return Checklist for residents of Québec can be found here. Vous pouvez télécharger ces aides-memoire en français aussi. Pour les résidents hors Québec l’aide mémoire se trouve ici et pour les résidents du Québec l’aide mémoire se trouve ici.

Tax Slips

  • Employment income (T4)

  • Employment insurance and other benefits (T4E)

  • Pension, retirement, annuity, and other income (T4A)

  • COVID-19 Benefits received (T4A)

  • Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan slips: T4A§ and T4A(OAS)

  • Investment income (T3, T5, and T5008)

  • Tuition (T2202 or TL11)

  • Social assistance and worker’s comp (T5007)

  • RRSP and RIF income (T4RSP, T4RIF)

  • Partnership income (T5013)

  • RL-1 / Relevé 1 (QC only)

Receipts

  • Charitable donations and political contributions

  • RRSP contributions

  • Medical expenses

  • Child care expenses

  • Children’s fitness and arts expenses (MB, YT, PEI)

  • Adoption expenses

  • Student loan interest

  • Professional or union dues (if not included on your T4)

  • Investment advisor fees and interest expenses

  • Moving expenses

  • School supply expenses (teachers)

  • Tools expenses

  • Employment expenses & form T2200/T2200S including work-from-home due to COVID-19 expenses

  • Examination fees for professional designations

  • Rent or property tax (ON, MB)

  • Legal expenses to collect alimony, pension or retiring allowance

  • Home renovation/accessibility expenses (if a senior or eligible for the disability tax credit)

  • Transit passes (Ontario seniors only)

Last Updated May 3, 2022

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