Filing a Tax Return in Canada

Understand the Canadian tax system and how to fill out and file your income tax return...

If you have to pay tax or have earnings on which CPP (Canadian Pension Plan) contributions must be paid, you must file a tax return. You must include your worldwide earnings in your taxable income. You will usually have to pay tax if your taxable income exceeds the amount of the basic personal exemption. See the tables of non-refundable tax credits for amounts for federal and provincial/territorial basic personal exemptions and other tax credits. If you have net self-employment income or pensionable employment income in excess of $3,500, you may have to remit CPP contributions.

There are other circumstances which also may require a tax return to be filed:

  • You were requested by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to file a return
  • You have disposed of capital property (real estate or investments, for example) during the tax year
  • You claimed a capital gains reserve on your previous year's tax return
  • You have withdrawn amounts from your RRSP under the Home Buyers' Plan or the Lifelong Learning Plan, and have not yet repaid the entire amount

Even if you are not required to file a tax return, it will often be to your advantage to do so.

How to file a tax 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 Québec, see Québec personal income tax return forms on

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.

How to file a tax return using NetFile

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.

  • 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
  • Not all tax returns qualify for NetFile - see the CRA web page on NetFile Restrictions
  • You no longer need an access code from CRA in order to NetFile. Only your social insurance number and date of birth are required.
  • The NetFile system is available 11 February to 30 November 2013 for filing 2012 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
  • For more information, visit the Canada Revenue Agency web page on NetFile

Due Dates for Personal Income Tax Return

Personal income tax returns, except for those of self-employed individuals, are due by 30 April, as is any amount owing. Penalties and interest may be charged for late returns or late payments.

If you are filing online, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) sometimes allows a grace period for taxpayers who may experience delays in submitting their return online. Any amount owing is still expected to be paid by 30 April to avoid any penalties. See the CRA website for more information. You can NetFile your tax return online until 30 September, but it will be considered late if filed after the due date.

Self-employed individuals have until 15 June to file their personal tax returns, but any amounts owing must still be paid by 30 April. In 2013, because 15 June falls on a Saturday, self-employed individuals have until midnight on 17 June 2013 to file their 2012 income tax returns.

Many CRA offices stay open until midnight on the personal income tax return filing due date to accept returns.

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