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Stop procrastinating and file taxes

Written by

Rubina Ahmed-Haq is a Journalist and Personal Finance Expert. She regularly appears on CBC Radio, CBC News Network, CTV Your Morning and Global Toronto. She writes for Homes Publishing group,

Rubina Ahmed-Haq

Tax time is stressful, even for those of us who are the most prepared. If you have left things to the last minute, like many of us, the tension dial can be turned all the way up. H&R Block’s new survey reveals that 44 per cent of Canadians had yet to file their taxes as of April 10. According to the tax preparation company, that’s the same proportion of people who had not filed last year at this time.

Here is a breakdown from H&R Block by province of how many people still need to file taxes:

British Columbia: 51%

Alberta: 43%

Saskatchewan: 46%

Manitoba: 48%

Ontario: 48%

Quebec: 35%

Atlantics: 38%

If you’re one of the procrastinators, here’s what you need to do to file taxes on time.

File taxes online

The majority of Canadians file their tax return online. It’s the fastest and most efficient way to get your information to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Gather all the information that you need to calculate your income, and the documents you need to support any credits, deductions and expenses you can claim. Then, you can use a host of different online software products to complete your return. The CRA has a list of certified desktop, online, and mobile software products, and some of these products are free of charge.

Don’t paper file taxes

You can print a copy of the 2018 income tax and benefit package from online, or you can order a copy from the CRA. But this cannot be automatically filed, and can take longer to get to the CRA. If your envelope is postmarked before April 30, your file will not be considered late, but online is still a safer and more efficient option. For some that have a simple tax situation that has not changed since last year, the CRA also has a phone system you can use. The CRA says that those eligible will have received a personalized invitation letter in the mail in mid-February. This invitation is to use the CRA’s automated phone service called File my Return. These letters are sent to eligible Canadians who have low or fixed incomes, and whose situation doesn’t change from year to year.

File taxes no matter what

If you’re like me, you probably have a shoebox full of receipts that are not always the easiest to wade through. If you are confident of your number but can’t find the documentation, file no matter what. This will avoid late penalties and fees if you owe money to the CRA. This also won’t delay you getting your tax return. The CRA already has copies of your key documents like your T4, and as long as you can prove that income or expenditure, add it to your tax return.  Many stores email you receipts; search the name of the merchant in your inbox to see if it’s there.

How to spend your tax return

You tax return is income tax you overpaid to the government. You may have reduced your taxable income by making a bigger Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contribution this year, or claiming losses on an investment from 2018. These are taxes you have already paid to the CRA, so don’t use that money to do anything other than contribute to your RRSP or TFSA or pay down debt. Tax returns are not bonuses from the government; they are your own hard-earned money.

Prepare for next year’s tax season

Take steps now to have your tax information better organized for next year. Create a space to keep all the important documents that could possibly result in a tax credit. If you owed money this year and your tax situation hasn’t changed, start putting money away now from each paycheck to avoid scrambling to find the extra cash next year. This way, you know the 2019 tax season won’t be nearly as stressful.

Whatever your reason for leaving you return to the last minute, now is the time to get it together and get that return in. The deadline for individual returns is April 30th, and for self-employed it’s June 15. If you owe money to the CRA, that bill is due on April 30th at midnight for everyone.

Struggling with debt regardless of your tax return this year? Take advantage of our free debt resources, and start getting out of debt today.

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