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CRA claims service improvements as tax season begins Monday

Vast majority of Canadians now filing online as CRA improves online service. Check with provincial associations for opportunities to volunteer in preparing tax returns for low income, senior Canadians

Author: Colin Ellis

OTTAWA, February 23, 2018 – The 2018 tax filing season officiallys open on Monday, February 26, 2018. On Monday, the Canada Revenue Agency will begin processing income tax and benefit returns, many prepared by Chartered Professional Accountants across Canada.

According to the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, "Doing your taxes is now easier, faster and more secure than ever before," and the CRA is processing returns faster. The CRA says it is making improvements for those who file online with programs such as Auto-fill My Return and NETFILE. For those who want to file themselves, the CRA has a list of certified tax software, some of which is free, that could make tax filing simpler.

An enhanced service, Express Notice of Assessment (NOA), is available in certified tax software and allows Canadians registered for My Account and online mail to receive and print their NOA right after filing.

While 90 per cent of the 25 million returns Canadians file are completed online, the CRA has improved services for paper filers. Approximately two million paper filers have already received their Income Tax and Benefit Guide and forms directly by mail rather than picking them up at Canada Post, Caisse populaire Desjardins, or Service Canada locations. 

The CRA is also launching the File My Return (FMR) service. Over 950,000 eligible individuals with low income or a fixed income that is unchanged year-to-year have been invited to file their income tax and benefit returns by answering a series of short questions on a dedicated phone line, beginning February 26. This service will allow all the deductions, benefits and credits to which an individual is entitled, without the need for any calculations or paper forms to fill out.

March 1, 2018, is the deadline for contributing to a Registered Retired Savings Plan. Most Canadians' income tax and benefit returns are due on April 30, 2018. Self-employed individuals have until June 15, 2018 to file their return.

Many provincial CPA associations across Canada run free tax preparation services for low income and senior Canadians at this critical time of the year. CPAs who are interested in volunteering for tax preparation services should contact their provincial association. More information can be found through CPA association websites.

The CRA reminds Canadians to be cautious of fraudulent communications. The CRA warns all taxpayers to beware of phone calls or emails that claim to be from the CRA but are not. They may be phishing scams, or other fraudulent scams that could result in identity and financial theft.

"With the opening of this year’s tax-filing season," says Lebouthillier, "I want to remind Canadians that filing an income tax and benefit return is the key to accessing benefits and credits like the Canada child benefit that I know can be an important source of support for many families. Doing your taxes is now easier, faster and more secure than ever before." 

From February 26 to April 30, 2018, the CRA will be offering extended evening and weekend hours for Individual Tax Enquiries. Over 3,000 telephone agents will be available Monday to Friday (except holidays) from 9 am to 9 pm (local time) weekdays, and from 9 am to 5 pm (local time) on Saturdays (except Easter weekend) to serve as many people as possible. Its automated service will remain available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

New this year, individuals can obtain both their account balance and the amount of the last payment made to the CRA through the use of an automated, self-serve Interactive Voice Response system without needing to speak to an agent.

Colin Ellis is managing editor of Canadian Accountant.

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