Filing taxes in Canada can seem overwhelming. Especially if it’s your first time to file, it can look complicated. What you need to know is that when you have the right information, things will start to become simple. Take it one step at a time. And remember, help is always available.
To start with, you may have some of these basic questions in mind. Let us help you out with some answers:
I’ve just arrived in Manitoba. Do I need to file a tax return?
In Manitoba, filing an income tax return is a way to get into the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) system and to avail of government benefits. If you’re arrived just a few months before tax filing season, you may not need to file a return. But to start receiving permanent resident benefits like the Canada Child Benefit and GST/HST credit, fill out Form RC66 (and RC66SCH) and RC151 and mail them to CRA. You should file a return when the next tax cycle comes.
I’m a refugee. Do I need to file a return?
If you enter Canada as a refugee and acquire Permanent Residency status, there are government benefits due to you, like the GST/HST credit and Canada Child Benefit. You can receive these benefits once you apply for them (see question above) or file your return. Read Tax returns open doors for refugees. If you need help in preparing your return, contact SEED.
Why does the government need my info?
CRA needs your information to correctly assess the benefits due to you. When they get your return, they will be able to evaluate whether you are eligible for certain programs, as well as correctly calculate the amount of benefits you qualify for. This is why it is also important to update your information with CRA as soon as they change.
What documents should I have in order to file a return?
You should have your SIN (Social Insurance Number), income statements from Canada and abroad, information slips such as your T4 (if you are employed), and the General Income Tax and Benefits Guide to know the steps in preparing a return and get the proper forms. You can also read Filing your first tax return in 5 steps on Live & Learn to know more.
I don’t know how to prepare a tax return. Who should I ask for help?
If you are an individual who has a modest income and a simple tax situation (meaning you are not a business-owner or self-employed, or not filing for bankruptcy) you can ask help from free tax clinics running the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP). Ask your nearest Immigrant Settlement Provider Organization or check these directories: Tax Preparation Clinics (Manitoba), 211 Manitoba or Manitoba Housing. You can also go to:
I saw an ad that said it can help me get my tax refund immediately. Is this service safe?
Tax Discounters are tax preparers that calculate your tax refund before you file with the CRA. They immediately pay you the refund, usually on the same day. However, they charge a fee. The cost is a percentage of your refund depending on the amount calculated. The Tax Rebate Discounting Act regulates the practice of tax discounting. Discounters can be a good option depending on your need. However, if you can wait for your refund, there are other options for tax preparation services such as using certified software (like NETFILE), CVITP, or not-for-profit financial counselling agencies. These services are free. If you do decide to go to a tax discounter, make sure that you understand all the forms and documents that they give you before you agree and sign.
What happens if I don’t file?
Aside from not being able to enjoy government benefits that are due to you, you may also be liable for penalties, fines and even imprisonment for tax evasion. Even if Canada’s income tax system is based on voluntary compliance and self-assessment, it does not mean that you can pay taxes only when you feel like it. It means that the government expects you to respect the law and fully comply with your obligations.
What if I file late?
The general deadline for filing taxes is on or before April 30. But when that day falls on a Sunday or a holiday, the deadline is moved to the next business day (for example, April 30, 2017 was a Sunday and so returns postmarked on May 1, 2017 were considered on time). If you are self-employed, your deadline is June 15, unless you have a balance owing the previous year, then you have to pay on or before April 30.
If you don’t owe any balances to the CRA, you don’t have to worry if you filed late. There is no penalty. But this may affect the schedule you receive your benefits depending on when you were able to file.
If you do have balance owing however, you will be charged a late-filing penalty. The penalty is 5% of your balance owing the last year plus 1% of your balance owing for each full month your return is late, to a maximum of 12 months. So even if you can’t pay the full balance you owe, it will be better to file your return on time to avoid the penalty.
What if I file my returns and my personal information changes. Should I report it to CRA? How?
Marital status changes, having a new address, and other changes in your personal information are important. These may have an effect on the calculation of your benefits as well as the schedule you receive them. To update your information, you may change it online through MyAccount or MyCRA; or call 1-800-959-8281 (you need to provide specific information to verify your identity); or mail a completed Form RC325 (address change request) and a signed letter that includes your SIN, new address and moving date, or Form RC65 (marital status change) to your tax centre.
I lost my job and did not earn anything in the last year. Do I need to file an income tax return?
Yes, you should file a return even if you have no income at all. Any change in your personal information will help the CRA calculate your benefits and credits, and any related provincial and territorial payments.
Sources: Taxes, Canada Revenue Agency; and What new Canadians should know about filing taxes in Canada, Caroline Battista, Huffington Post Canada.com. All accessed on October 3, 2017. With special thanks to SEED for information from the Tax Filing and Access to Benefits Forum.
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