For some Canadians, tax season is a breeze, especially if you only have one T4 slip to submit. For others, tax season can be an added stress to an already busy schedule. Here is some information to help you with common tax-time problems that will (hopefully) make this year a bit more stress-free.
If you’re missing information…
No one is perfect, and losing a piece of paper, such as a T4 slip, is pretty easy. Rest assured, all hope is not lost and there is a way to recover your information.
If you’re unsure, a T4 is a tax slip that indicates how much you were paid before deductions by an employer, in addition to your CPP, QPP, EI contributions as well as other amounts deducted from your pay cheque during the tax year. No matter if you’re a salaried or hourly-paid employee, ideally, each employer should give you a T4 if you worked for them within the last tax year. This means you may have multiple T4s that you’ll need to rely on to file your tax return, depending on how many companies you worked for last year.
Employers are regulated to send out T4s by Feb. 28 at the latest. Even if you’re not with the same employer, they are still obligated to send you a T4. But sometimes addresses and contact information changes, things slip through the cracks, and you’re stuck without a T4 as the tax deadline looms.
Luckily, the Canadian Revenue Agency now features a service called My Account Online that allows you to easily access slips that have been already processed by CRA. You can also check if there are balances you can forward from the year before, such as tuition credits, and your RRSP contribution limits.
Only some of your slips may be available online, but you can also give the CRA a call at 1-800-959-8281 for more information. When you call, make sure you have last year’s return and personal information on hand because they’ll need to verify your account. This also goes for when you initially set up your online account.
When you know you’re going to be filing expenses on your return, keep track of them throughout the year and keep all of your receipts. If you can’t find all of your information, you can always file an adjustment later on, or claim it on next year’s return.
If worse comes to worst and you can’t find your T4 and it has not already been processed by CRA, you can also use old paystubs to figure out prorated figures for the year. Your return will be reviewed, but it’s much more important to file your return on time and make adjustments later.
If you’re self-employed…
The best advice you can follow if you’re self-employed is to keep track of everything, including income and expenses, throughout the year. Log all your business receipts with accounting software and keep them for at least six years, in case you’re audited. It’s best to keep your personal and business affairs separate – for example, keep two separate banking accounts – so you can easily follow your cash flow. Using an Excel sheet can make it simple for you to calculate how much you owe in income taxes and HST each month.
When it comes to filing business expenses, just be reasonable. CRA will consider items that are essential to your company as reasonable expenses. This could include business meeting lunches and company car use. If you are uncertain, check with CRA or an accountant.
If you’re self-employed, you’re responsible for deducting your own income tax. It’s easiest to pay every month to avoid the huge bill at the end of the financial year. This also goes for HST, if you’re collecting it. You only have to file an HST and income tax return once a year (unless you’re making $1.5 million or more per year).
When to call in extra help…
Some people are simply old pros when it comes to filing their taxes, but if you just don’t have the time to figure everything out, there’s no harm in calling in reinforcements.
Online program can make filing you return quick and easy or, if your taxes are really complicated, you can hire an accountant. An accountant may be able to suggest other expenses you can claim on your return, which is why it’s important to save all of your receipts.
If an accountant just isn’t in the budget and you also don’t want to file online, many communities offer no-charge tax return consulting sessions. Some schools and community centres offer to even file your return for free if it’s simple enough. Happy filing, and don’t forget the deadline to file your taxes this year is April 30!
This post has been updated.