Tax Tips From An Eager Tax Filer

Where’s my T4?!? I know it’s only mid-February but I’m eager to get started on my taxes so that I have the option to make an RRSP contribution before the deadline. But my employer has yet to issue our T4s and I can’t file my taxes if I’m missing such a key document.

Surprisingly, many Canadians are also champing at the bit to file their taxes this year. According to a recent TurboTax national survey, 80 percent of Canadians do their taxes as soon as they have their paperwork in order and over half (54 percent) of intend to file their taxes in March. Meanwhile, individuals have until May 1st, 2017 to file their 2016 tax return.

Why are Canadians so optimistic about their taxes? Perhaps because two-thirds expect to receive a tax refund this year! More than half of Canadians (55 percent) admit they enjoy organizing their receipts and files in preparation to doing taxes.

Tax Tips From An Eager Tax Filer

If you’re one of those keen tax-filers like me then you need an early-bird checklist to make sure you’ve got all your documents in place before you file.

Tax preparation checklist

  • Prior year’s tax return and notice of assessment
  • T4s for employment income
  • T3s for trust and dividend income
  • T5s investment income
  • Pension income
  • Child care payments
  • Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) slip for the first half of 2016
  • Receipts for fitness and arts activities
  • RRSP contributions during the year up to the end of February
  • Home office expenses
  • Charitable donations
  • Public transit passes
  • Medical expenses
  • Tuition fees
  • Moving expenses for which you were not reimbursed
  • Interest on loans paid to earn investment income

Tax changes for 2016

Not a tax change per se but if you sold your principal residence in 2016 then CRA wants information on the sale recorded on your tax return.

The Liberals have scrapped the Family Tax Cut, an income splitting tool introduced in by the Conservative federal government in 2014.

Also new this tax season is the Canada Child Benefit, which replaces the previously taxable Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).

Finally, tax credits for children’s fitness and children’s arts programs have been reduced to $500 per child for the fitness credit and $250 per child for the arts amount. 2016 also marks the final year for both of these credits.

File your own taxes or hire a professional?

Decades ago if you wanted to enjoy a game of bowling then you needed to understand how to keep score by hand. As bowling alleys modernized with computerized scoring systems the game flourished as new bowlers were introduced that otherwise would not participate.

Tax preparation has undergone a similar transformation over the decades as manual tax forms have been replaced with sophisticated tax software that, when paired with CRA’s auto-fill my return, just gets easier and more accurate every year.

According to the TurboTax survey over half (54 percent) of Canadians plan to do their own taxes this year. The other 46 percent will hire a professional.

For me, starting an online business and incorporating it has complicated my finances enough that I now work with an accountant, but for many years before that I used basic tax preparation software to file my taxes.

The great news for basic tax filers is that they can file taxes for free using an option such as TurboTax Free – a simple solution that covers most tax situations and can be used anywhere.

TurboTax Free Highlights:

  • No income caps, covers most tax situations and can instantly import tax information from the Canada Revenue Agency with Auto-Fill My Return.
  • Find all the slips you need quickly and easily with Suggested Slips. Tell TurboTax Free a bit about you and they’ll suggest the slips to match.
  • Prepare your return on a computer, smartphone or tablet and have the ability to seamlessly start, stop and continue your taxes across devices.
  • With Auto-Fill My Return, instantly transfer your tax information such as your T4 and RRSP investment receipts from your CRA My Account directly into your tax return. TurboTax then automatically transfers your data to the proper spots within your return. With just a few clicks, your tax return is filled with the most accurate and up-to-date information available, right from CRA.
  • Find the answers you need right in TurboTax Free, or from our community of users and expert-created FAQs on AnswerXChange.

What more do you need?

Final thoughts

Many Canadians like to file their taxes early because they’re expecting a refund. The personal finance nerd in me would rather not get a refund (or owe) at tax time.

I file, or at least prepare my tax return early to give me an opportunity to put some strategies in place before the RRSP contribution deadline and avoid any shocks when it comes to filing my taxes.

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  1. Cool Koshur on February 16, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    It is a known issue with employers not mailing T4s early enough so that people can make RRSP contribution. To overcome this issue, I pick last pay stub of the year (Dec 31) and plug the numbers into Turbotax. I keep previous years T4 handy to fill other details. This gives me a ball park figure of my tax refund on Turbo Tax as well as RRSP contribution room.

    • Tracey H on February 17, 2017 at 7:38 am

      Why would you need your T4 to make an RRSP contribution? Your notice of assessment tells you what your RRSP contribution room is for the tax year and it’s based on the previous year’s earnings, not the current tax year’s earnings.

      • Ben on February 17, 2017 at 7:58 am

        Having your T4 and other information helps you calculate the optimal amount to contribute to your RRSP before the deadline (for example to achieve $0 tax payable, or maximize your refund)

        • Cool Koshur on February 17, 2017 at 7:40 pm

          Thank you @Ben

          @Tracey H
          Notice of Assessment gives the contribution room available for RRSP. Lot of people make RRSP contribution from their pay check at work which their employers match. So you will have a pretty close number for RRSP around December. You subtract this from total contribution room and you have $ figure available.

          Personally I try to make this calculation sometime in early Dec. so that I can make spousal RRSP contribution before the calendar year (Dec 31st, 2016).Logic is that I can withdraw the spousal RRSP after two calendar years (Jan 1, 2019)at my spouse’s tax rate (she is in lower tax bracket). If I had to contribute to spousal RRSP in say Jan 2017, then I could withdraw it only after in Jan 1, 2020).

          • Tracey H on February 17, 2017 at 8:33 pm

            @Cool Koshur, I hadn’t thought about workplaces matching contributions (wouldn’t that be wonderful!). Your second point about spousal contributions and wanting to get them in by Dec. 31 makes a lot of sense, too. I hadn’t thought of that situation (though that point is coming up soon for us). I was thinking you needed the T4 to figure out the year’s contribution limit, but I see it’s because you want to see the total of what you contributed. Having never contributed through work to an RRSP, that hadn’t occurred to me either.

  2. Nicole on February 17, 2017 at 6:06 am

    I find the banks never issue my darn RRSP papers on time. My employer has a RRSP match and I’m still waiting for any paper from both of the banks 🙁

    • Cool Koshur on February 17, 2017 at 7:49 pm


      You dont have to wait. Your pay check has your contributions pay per check (e.g $200) and there is column next to it for year to date contributions ($5200 = 26 x $200 presuming you are paid bi-weekly. So u have 26 pay stubs per year)) . Now for the matching part. If you employer makes a matching contribution say 50% upto 5% of your gross salary. You can calculate right there how much. ($2600). So your total RRSP contribution is 5200 + 2600 = $7,800

  3. Ben on February 17, 2017 at 7:14 am is another free option and works great. I’ve used them since 2013 to file my whole family’s returns. The December paystub trick noted above is a smart idea too!

  4. Cool Koshur on February 18, 2017 at 11:59 am

    @Tracey H

    If your employer provide matching to RRSP contributions and you not availing it is like leaving free money on table. Checkwith your employer whether they match RRSP contribution and how much they match. e.g for every dollar you contribute your employer provides 50% matching upto 6% of your salary. I have even seen some employers even match 100%.

    • Tracey H on February 18, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      @Cool Koshur, they definitely don’t. It’s a very small business and there’s no pension or RRSP matching. My daughter once worked for a company that matched but her current company has no benefits at all. So many people don’t have these perks that bigger companies offer.

  5. Bryan on February 18, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    I’m with Ben above, is fantastic! It is very user-friendly, and completely free (though you can make a donation if you desire). Speaking of donations, I want to maximize the first-time donor’s super credit. I donated my car in 2016 and received $415. Does anyone know if I am able to carry this over, make $585 worth of donations in 2017, and then claim $1000 in the 2017 tax year to completely max out the donation credits? Thanks!

    • Tracey H on February 19, 2017 at 6:31 am

      @Bryan, yes. I believe you actually record your current year’s charitable donations but don’t claim them this year. They’ll carry forward. I know they used to carry forward for up to 5 years, but I don’t know if that number is still the same. I generally claim mine every 2 years.

  6. Susan on February 19, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Just a couple of comments. First EVERYONE should st least have a basic understanding of what a tax return is (a reconciliation of tax payable to tax paid) and how it works. I’m disappointed that schools don’t teach this as this will be knowledge for the rest of your life. Second employers have until the end of February to issue T4s. It’s not a conspiracy to prevent people from contributing to RRSP. Third it is a smart idea to keep track of your own numbers during the year. Fourth your T4 may be available online at CRA My Account before you receive your official copy. Finally the T4 is useful if you have taxable benefits that are only calculated at year end. These calculations can also delay issuing the T4 since they are usually manually calculated.

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