Each year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) publishes a statistical summary of the tax filing patterns of Canadians during the previous filing season. Those statistics for last year show that the vast majority of Canadian individual income tax returns — just over 90%, or just over 28 million returns — were filed online, using one or the other of the CRA’s web-based filing methods. About 2.8 million returns — or just over 9% — were paper-filed.
Clearly, electronic filing is the overwhelming choice of Canadian taxpayers, and those who choose electronic filing this year have two choices — NETFILE and E-FILE. The first of those — NETFILE (used last year by just under 33% of tax filers) — involves preparing one’s return using software approved by the CRA and filing that return on the Agency’s website, using the NETFILE service. The second method, E-FILE, involves having a third party file one’s return online. Almost always, the E-FILE service provider also prepares the return which they are filing. It seems that most Canadians want to have little to do with the preparation of their own returns, as last year just over 58% of all the individual income tax returns filed came in by E-FILE.
The majority of Canadians who would rather have someone else deal with the intricacies of the Canadian tax system on their behalf can find information about E-FILE on the CRA website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-individuals/efile-individuals.html. That site will also provide a listing (searchable by postal code) of authorized E-FILE service providers across Canada, and that listing can be found at https://apps.cra-arc.gc.ca/ebci/efes/epcs/prot/ntr.action.
Those who are able and willing to prepare their own tax returns and file online can use the CRA’s NETFILE service (which is available as of February 21, 2022), and information on that service can be found at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/esrvc-srvce/tx/ndvdls/netfile-impotnet/menu-eng.html. While there are some kinds of returns which cannot be filed using NETFILE (for instance, a return for a non-resident of Canada, or for someone who declared bankruptcy in 2020 or 2021), the vast majority of Canadians who wish to do so will be able to NETFILE their return.
At one time, it was necessary to obtain and provide an access code in order to NETFILE. While such a code is no longer a requirement, the CRA has provided tax filers with a taxpayer-specific code which can be included with the return for 2021. That eight-character alpha-numeric code is found (in very small type) in the top right hand corner of the first page of the 2020 Notice of Assessment, just under the Date Issued line for that Notice of Assessment. Including the code with your return is not mandatory; however, the taxpayer will be able to use information from the 2021 return when confirming their identity with the CRA only if the code was provided on that return.
A return can be filed using NETFILE only where it is prepared using tax return preparation software which has been approved by the CRA. While such software can be found for sale just about everywhere at this time of year, approved software which can be used free of charge, or for a nominal charge, is also available. A listing of free and commercial software approved for use in preparing individual returns for 2021 can be found on the CRA website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-individuals/netfile-overview/certified-software-netfile-program.html.
Taxpayers who want to obtain hard copy of the tax return and guide package for 2021 can order that package online, at https://apps.cra-arc.gc.ca/ebci/cjcf/fpos-scfp/pub/rdr?searchKey=ncp%20, to be sent to the taxpayer by regular mail. Taxpayers can also download and print hard copy of the return and guide from the CRA website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/tax-packages-years/general-income-tax-benefit-package.html. Finally, the CRA will have sent, by regular mail, hard copy of the 2021 tax return and guide package to anyone who paper-filed a return for 2020 before November 12, 2021. That package should have arrived by February 21, 2022; taxpayers who should have received such a package but did not can call the CRA Individual Income Tax Enquiries line at 1-800-959-8281 to follow up and, if necessary, to request that a package be sent by mail.
A minority of taxpayers will have the option of filing their returns using a touch-tone telephone. That option, called File my Return service will be available to eligible lower-income Canadians whose returns are relatively simple and whose tax situation remains relatively unchanged from year to year. For such taxpayers, it is important to file, even if there is no income to report, so that they receive the benefits and credits to which they are entitled. The telephone filing option is, however, available only to taxpayers who are advised by the CRA of their eligibility for the File my Return service, and letters advising those individuals of their eligibility were sent out by the CRA in mid-February 2022.
Finally, taxpayers who are not comfortable preparing their own returns, but for whom the cost of engaging a third party to do so is a financial hardship, have another option. During tax filing season, there are a number of Community Volunteer Tax Preparation Clinics where taxpayers can have their returns prepared free of charge by volunteers. Once again this year, most such clinics have had to change their usual in-person operation and adopt alternate methods. Volunteers can prepare an individual’s return, for free, by videoconference, by phone, or through document drop-off. A listing of the available clinics (which is updated regularly throughout the filing season) and their method of operation this tax season can be found on the CRA website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/campaigns/free-tax-help.html.
While there are a number of filing options available to Canadian taxpayers, there’s no element of choice when it comes to the filing and payment deadlines for tax returns for 2021. The deadline for payment of any balance of taxes owed for 2021 is April 30, 2022. As April 30 falls on a Saturday this year, the CRA has announced that payments of 2021 taxes owed will be considered to have been made on time if they are made on or before Monday May 2, 2022. There are no exceptions to this deadline and, absent very unusual circumstances, no extensions are possible.
For the majority of Canadians, the tax return for 2021 must also be filed on or before April 30. Here again, the CRA has extended that deadline to provide that returns will be considered filed on time if they are filed on or before Monday May 2, 2022. Self-employed taxpayers and their spouses have until Wednesday June 15, 2022 to file their returns for 2021 (but they too must pay any balance of 2021 taxes owing on or before May 2, 2022).
A summary of filing and payment due dates for returns for the 2021 tax year can be found on the CRA website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/important-dates-individuals.html.