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Preparing and filing your tax return

​​Start your tax planning in January – at the beginning of the tax year. This allows you to take advantage of opportunities to minimize and defer your taxes.

Plan ahead in 5 steps

1. Start your tax planning early

At the beginning of the tax year, plan how you're going to arrange your financial affairs to lower your tax bill. To help you get started, check out these tax tips from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

If your financial affairs are more complicated

You may need expert advice. For example, if you are self-employed or earn investment income, you may want to hire a tax professional to recommend strategies for minimizing and deferring your taxes. Their fees may pay for themselves in terms of tax savings. Speak with a chartered professional accountant who specializes in income tax. Depending on your needs, you may also need to hire a lawyer to set up a corporation or draft documents.

2. Keep good records and receipts throughout the year

Organize and file your receipts as they come in. This will make it easier at tax time. This includes tax information slips, as well as supporting documents, such as bills, credit card statements, receipts for car, home office and other business expenses, stock transactions, and housing, business and rental property records.

3. Make sure you receive all tax information slips

This includes receipts for RRSP contributions and charitable donations. It also includes:

  • T4 slip – if you are an employee,
  • T4A – if you have received pension income, lump-sum payments, self-employed commissions or annuity income,
  • T3 – if you have earned income from a trust, and
  • T5 – if you have received investment income.

All slips must be issued by February 28, except for the T3, which is issued 90 days after a trust's tax year-end.

4. Decide if you need tax preparation help

If your tax return is fairly simple (for example, you only have employment income and an RRSP deduction), you can prepare it yourself using one of the many software programs available. The ones on this list are compatible with the CRA’s NETFILE Program.

Free tax clinics for low-income earners

Free CPA Tax Clinics are held each year in Ontario for low-income residents with very simple tax situations (no rental or business income, no returns for deceased taxpayers).

If your affairs are more complicated (for example, you have business, rental or investment income), you will likely need professional help. Your options include:

  • hiring a chartered professional accountant to prepare and file your return. Fees are often calculated on an hourly basis.
  • using a tax preparation service. Ask for a fee estimate when you go in for your consultation.

5. Prepare summaries and organize your receipts

Before going to a tax professional, summarize your different sources of income, and your deductions and tax credits. This will save you money in tax preparation fees.

Keep your tax records for 6 years

Organize and file your tax returns, receipts and supporting documents by tax year so you can retrieve them easily in case you are ever reviewed.

Filing your tax return

In most cases, you have to file your personal tax return — the T1 Income Tax and Benefit Return — by April 30 of the year following the tax year. You can send your return by mail or file it online. Learn more about sending your return to the CRA.

If you're self-employed:

  • The filing deadline is June 15.
  • You must pay any amounts owing by April 30.

When a return due date falls on a Saturday, a Sunday or a public holiday, your payment is considered to be made on time and your return is filed on time if it is received by the CRA or postmarked on the next business day.

If you file your tax return too early – before you have all your documents and tax slips – it could trigger a review of your return by the CRA.