Canadian Tax and
Financial Information
Tax Return Filing Methods

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Filing Your Return -> Income Tax Software and Forms

How to File Your Personal Tax Return

Auto-Fill of Tax Return - New for 2015 Tax Year

A new feature provided by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and available February 15, 2016, is "Auto-fill my return".  This allows individuals and authorized representatives who are using certified tax software that provides this service to automatically fill in parts of their current-year income tax return, based on information slips that have been filed with CRA.  Although it was available February 15th, many information slips will not be issued by this date.  T3 slips, which are issued for mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, are often not available until the end of March.  If you use the Auto-fill feature, make sure you reconcile the amounts on your tax return to the T-slips you have received, as we have heard of some problems with this.

For more information, see the CRA January 14, 2016 news release, and their information on auto-fill my return.

Use a Software Package to NetFile Your Return

We strongly recommend using tax software rather than pre-printed forms to prepare your return, because this can help to avoid errors and missed tax credits.  Many credits, such as the Canada Employment amount, are calculated automatically.  However, if your return is complicated, it may be best to have your return professionally prepared, or at least reviewed.

You can use NetFile to submit your tax return from your home computer.  You may either purchase tax calculation software at a retail store, download software over the internet, or file your tax using an online tax return.  It is not always necessary to spend money to file your tax return using income tax software.  Some of the software packages are free for everyone, and some are free if you have low net income and a simple return.   Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) provides a list of tax software packages which are approved for NetFile, and the list indicates whether the package includes a free option.

bullet When you use NetFile to file your return, you do not mail a printed return or information slips, and if you are expecting a refund it usually arrives within 2 weeks.
bullet Not all tax returns qualify for NetFile - see the CRA web page on NetFile Restrictions.
bullet You no longer need an access code from CRA in order to NetFile.  Only your social insurance number and date of birth are required.
bulletThe NetFile system will be available February 15, 2016 to January 20, 2017 for filing 2013, 2014 and 2015 personal income tax returns.  This means that returns can be NetFiled even after the tax return due date, but late filing penalties may be applicable.  NetFile is available 21 hours a day, 7 days per week during this time, from 6 am to 3 am eastern time.
bullet For more information, visit the Canada Revenue Agency web page on NetFile.

Restrictions on Using NetFile

There are certain types of tax returns that can't be sent by NetFile to the CRA.  See their NetFile Eligibility page for more information.

Use a Software Package to Print and Mail Your Return

You can print your return from your home computer using income tax preparation software, and sending the printed return to CRA.  See the CRA list of tax software packages approved for NetFile.

Although our Tax Calculators are intended as planning tools, and do not include every available tax credit, they can be used to check most tax returns.

Professional Tax Preparation

You can have an accounting or tax preparation firm prepare and file your tax return.  These firms usually file your return electronically, using EFile, so your refund would probably arrive quite quickly, as it does with NetFile.  See our Directory for links to accounting, bookkeeping and financial planning organizations in Canada.  EFile will be available February 15, 2016 to January 20, 2017 for filing 2012 to 2015 personal income tax returns.  EFile dates of operation and hours of operation are available on the CRA website.

If you wish to confirm that a business is registered for EFiling, or to find an EFiler in your area, you can use the CRA EFiler search, which allows you to search for an EFiler by postal code or by business name.

EFile is available to any individual, firm, or organization wishing to electronically file personal or corporate tax returns for members of the public, clients, or employees.  Those wishing to use E-file must register with CRA, and must use EFile certified software.  Before applicants are permitted to EFile returns on behalf of their clients, they are screened for suitability.  For details, see suitability screening on the CRA website.

Make sure that the person who prepares your tax return is trained in the preparation of tax returns.  In the end, if they do something wrong and CRA determines that you have underpaid your taxes due to negligence, penalties will be payable.  Even if someone else prepares your tax return, you are responsible for ensuring that the correct information is reported, so make sure you provide them with complete, organized information.  A box full of unorganized receipts is not helpful!  If a person charges you a fee for preparing your tax return, they must sign as the preparer in box 490 on page 4 of the return.  If they are not prepared to sign as the preparer, do not use them!  Use a reputable firm that will stand behind their work, and will also have errors and omissions insurance.  After all, even professionals make mistakes sometimes.

Manual Tax Return Preparation

Although we recommend using tax software to file your return, you can file a return manually.  Preprinted T1 personal income tax forms are available at the post office, or using forms from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  If you live in Quebec, see Quebec personal income tax return forms.

Once you have prepared your return on paper, you can mail it (see the CRA web page where to send your T1 return).

If you are mailing your return, you must include copies of all information slips, and most receipts, such as medical and donations.  The explanations in the CRA General Income Tax Guide and the return, schedules, or forms will tell you when to attach other supporting documents, such as certificates, forms, schedules, or official receipts.

Forms for prior years are also available on the CRA website.

Free Tax Return Preparation

Community Volunteer Income Tax Program - free tax preparation for certain individuals.

Telefile Service

In the past, if your return was very basic, you could have Telefiled it (by telephone).  However, CRA discontinued its Telefile and Telefile for Seniors service,  as of September 29, 2012.

CRA Resources

Completing a tax return


Tax Tip:  File your return well ahead of the due date!


Revised: March 31, 2016


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