How do I file my taxes in Canada?

All residents of Canada must file their taxes every year. Here’s everything you need to know.

Why do Canadians pay taxes?

The government collects taxes to pool money and pay for services and infrastructure that Canadians rely on. 

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) collects residents’ income taxes and sales taxes, then distributes them to provinces and cities. Your municipal government collects property taxes, which is the tax paid on land you buy. 

Your tax dollars fund:

  • The military
  • Prisons, border safety, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Healthcare 
  • Canadian crown corporations like CBC, Via Rail and Canada Post
  • Elected officials
  • Pension plans
  • Employment Insurance and Canada Child Benefit
  • Subsidies to businesses 
  • Public schools, libraries, parks, highways

Who is required to file taxes?

Every resident of Canada needs to file taxes regardless of their immigration status. Residency is determined by your residential ties in Canada, not by your citizenship or status. This means that newcomers are usually required to file taxes as well. 

Significant residential ties that require you to file taxes include:

  • Having a home in Canada
  • Having a spouse in Canada
  • Having dependents in Canada

Newcomers who’ve established residential ties may be:

  • Protected persons (including refugees)
  • Permanent residents
  • People who’ve received “approval-in-principle- from IRCC to stay in Canada
  • International students completing a degree in Canada on a study permit

If you’re an international student, make sure to review your residency status and tax obligations.

When do I file my taxes?

The income tax year is from January 1 to December 31 and all residents must file their taxes by April 30 every year. If April 30 falls on a weekend, then it’s due on the following Monday.

When you file your taxes, you will either get money back, or you will owe an amount to the government. You can estimate your tax refund or tax owed by searching for a free income calculator online.

Late submissions are accepted, but remember that if you file your taxes after April 30, you may get a penalty or get charged interest on any money you owe. 

Where can I file my taxes?

There are many free and paid ways to do your taxes.

You can file your taxes either:

  • Electronically through a CRA-approved tax software application called NETFILE, or
  • Manually on a paper return by mail

Whether you choose to do it electronically or manually, you have the option of filing your taxes by yourself or getting support.

Your filing options include:

  • Using a tax software to submit your taxes online on your own. These products use CRA’s NETFILE web service to submit your tax return. There are several free and paid tax software available, but make sure you choose one approved by the CRA
  • Authorizing a representative to file your taxes on your behalf. Your authorized representative will have access to your tax information, so make sure you choose someone you trust. You can authorize your spouse, a family member, a friend, an accountant, a group of people or a business to be your authorized representative. You can authorize your representative electronically through your CRA account
  • Going to a free tax clinic in your community where volunteers help you complete  your taxes at no cost. Community organizations across Canada receive funding by the government to help low-income families and individuals file their taxes. These clinics may offer walk-ins, drop-offs, or appointments. Learn more about community volunteer tax clinics and find one near you. 
  • Hiring a tax preparer to calculate your refund, pay you what you’re owed immediately, and file your return with the CRA. Some tax filing services offer to pay you what you’re owed immediately, instead of waiting for the CRA to review your return. These discounters must pay you at least 85% of the first $300 of the estimated refund, and at least 95% of the remaining amount. 

Whichever option you choose, you should create an account through the CRA to manage your tax affairs online. My Account allows you to track your refund, make changes, set up direct deposit, and more. 

What do I need to file my taxes?

Generally speaking, all tax filers need the following information to submit their tax return:

  • Identification 
  • Contact information (i.e., address, email, and phone number)
  • Social Insurance Number
  • T4, which is a form your employer must provide you with that details your income and deductions 

You may need more documentation depending on your situation (e.g., if you’re a student, newcomer, property owner, parent, etc.).