Filing Your Return -> Income Tax Software and Forms
How to File Your Personal Tax Return
If you are doing your own tax 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 approved for NetFile, and the list indicates whether the package includes a free option.
A feature provided by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), first available for the 2015 taxation year, 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. Most information slips will be received by CRA by early March. However, 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.
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.
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 is available February 26, 2018 to Friday January 25 2019 for filing 2014 to 2017 initial personal income tax returns and 2015 to 2017 amended personal income tax returns. EFile dates and hours of operation are available on the Canada.ca 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.
On January 8, 2018 CRA announced the launch of the "File my Return" service, so that eligible individuals with low income or a fixed income that is unchanged year-to-year can file their tax returns by answering a series of short questions and giving some personal information. This will be done through a dedicated, automated phone service. They will send out personalized invitation letters to eligible Canadians starting in the middle of February 2018. The File my Return service is available 21 hours per day, from 6 am to 3 am Easter time, 7 days a week, throughout the tax-filing season.
Note: If you have a simple return and received the invitation letter from CRA, but your spouse has recently retired and is now in receipt of a pension which can be split with you, it is probably not advisable to use the File my Return service, as you might not be able to do the pension splitting.
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 (2017 tax year is the last year these will be available), or using forms from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). If you live in Quebec, see Quebec personal income tax return forms. Starting February 2018, tax filers who have filed paper tax forms in the past will now receive a tax package by mail. These forms should arrive by the end of February. If you want to file on paper and have not received the tax package by mail by the end of February, you can call CRA at 1-855-330-3305 (English) or 1-855-330-3310 (French), or you can order them online at the above link to forms - scroll down the page for the buttons to order the Forms Book or the General Guide.
Once you have prepared your return on paper, you can mail it (see the CRA web page where to mail your paper 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 (included in tax forms packages for each year) 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.
Community Volunteer Income Tax Program - free tax preparation for certain individuals.
Tax Tip: File your return well ahead of the due date!
Revised: August 20, 2018
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