It's that time of year again! TAX TIME! Here are some tax tips on how to get more money back from your tax return using free and paid programs. See how to max out your Canadian tax return in 2019!
It’s that time of year again! TAX TIME!  If you didn’t get a chance to implement any of my 16 Tax Tips for Year End, don’t fret, my friend, there’s still time to get more money back from your tax return!  Check out our Wealthsimple Review for the quickest and easiest way to setup an RRSP and supercharge your tax refund.

I started filing my own taxes last year. Before that, I hired an accountant to do my taxes (my taxes were really simple) and paid about $125 for his services. He gave me a few good tips which I carried on to use for the next year, when I learned to do it myself.  I decided to do my own taxes because:

1) I didn’t want to pay someone else $125 when I could do it myself

2) I didn’t have my own business so I couldn’t deduct my accountant expenses

3) No one cares about your money more than you do.

4) I wanted the challenge and to actually understand the system.

5) Start using TurboTax for free!

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You can start the return for free but you may need to pay a bit to actually file it (depending on your specific situation).  One of the most popular tax preparation software options available in Canada and USA. Young and Thrifty recommended product that we have been using ourselves for years and never faltered. Turbo Tax is owned by Intuit, the biggest supplier of accounting tools and platforms, which has a market cap of more than $30bn (USD).

Save 20% of any paid TurboTax package

 

NEVER walk into a chain tax preparation place such as H&R Block.

They can charge exorbitant fees if your tax return is complicated and often the people doing your tax returns are not accountants.  I’m sure there are good and decent people that work at H&R Block, but my guess is that they work primarily with high net worth clients.  The folks that deal with the average walk in customer likely took a basic course and simply ask the questions that get shown to them on their screen (much the same method that tax preparation programs use to allow you to simply do your own taxes).

I still harbor a special place of disgust in my heart for H&R Block due to a post-secondary student promotion they ran with great success back when I was attending school.  They would advertise something like “FREE Piazza” and “Walk in and get your cheque TODAY for $0”.  What the price really was however was 10% of your tax return.  Since students often have relatively low incomes and lots of tax credits, they tend to generate fairly large tax returns.  I know several of my friends and I walked in, answered basic questions for 20 minutes (as read to us by someone who clearly had just started in the tax world and wasn’t really proficient in the English language), and were charged $200-$300 (10% of our return, which we didn’t really understand at all).  We did get our tax return money a few weeks early though – and for a bunch of broke students who really wanted to celebrate the end of classes and exams – that was the main consideration.  The more perspective I gain on life and the financial world, the more distasteful and unethical this experience becomes in hindsight.

Doing Your Own Canadian Tax Return

Doing taxes by yourself is actually kind of fun (yes, I know I sound lame… but maybe I was an accountant in my past life) but I would only say it is “fun” if you use a tax preparation software program and you have a fairly mainstream return to prepare (i.e. you work for one or two places that provide you with a basic T4 every year).  Calculating everything by hand with a calculator and a pencil and eraser would likely drive anyone batty.

If you have your own business, do a lot of freelance work, have a lot of investments outside of an RRSP and TFSA (you’re way ahead of the game if this is the case) or have rental property, it can be helpful to hire an accountant because there is simply a lot more to take into consideration.  That’s a challenge I’m just not ready for you yet – but if you are, then all the power to you!

Alright my friends, so here are some ways on How to Get More Money Back from Your Tax Return:

  • The first thing that you might want to consider to get more money back from your tax return, is to try and give LESS of it away to the government. And one way to ensure that happens is to make sure you don’t (needlessly!) pay interest on outstanding amounts owed to CRA from last year. Those fees could vary from 1% to 5%, depending on what it is that you owe the government (CPP, GST, etc.).
  • One key thing to remember is that you really need to KNOW what you can deduct IN ADVANCE, or else you won’t be aware to collect them for your deduction!! (i.e. receipts, transit passes, etc.)  So you kind of have to embody the accountant mindset throughout the year in order to reap the full rewards.
  • Claim applicable Canada child benefit (CCB) payments: If you have children under 18 years of age, to ensure you receive this benefit, you must file a tax return every year – even if you have NO INCOME during the year. Introduced in 2016, the non-taxable, income-tested CCB is an amalgam of three previous child-care benefit programs, including Universal Child Care Benefit, Canada Child Tax Benefit, and the National Child Benefit Supplement, that promise to enhance the level of tax-relief offered to lower-income families with eligible-aged children.
  • For the current (2017) tax year, the un-indexed maximum benefit for each child under the age of 6 is capped at $6,400. However, it is widely expected that the Fall Economic Update (due February 27th, 2018) is expected to add indexing to the CCB. This could raise the  CCB benefit for children under 6 years of age to $6,496 in 2018-19, and to $6,626 for the 2019-20 tax year. Learn more about this powerful benefit here
  • Claim your GST/HST Credit: If, for some reason, you have not filed your tax returns for the past several years, you may be missing out on the opportunity to collect the GST/HST Credit owed to you. By filing a tax return this year, your eligibility for this credit will automatically be determined.
  • Claim your eligible provincial benefits: While many of us focus on federally provided benefits (like the CCB discussed earlier), make sure you look for other applicable provincial benefits that you are entitled to. For instance depending on where you reside, in addition to CCB, you may be eligible to claim Alberta Family Employment Credit (AFETC), Ontario Child Benefit (OCB), Nova Scotia child benefit (NSCB). In most of these cases, you MUST file a tax return (even with zero income) to claim these benefits
  • Contribute to your RRSP before March 1: The RRSP deadline is  March 1, 2018.  You can find how much you’re allowed to contribute on your Notice of Assessment (you know, that form the government sent with your tax refund cheque last year?) When you contribute to your RRSP, you’ll be able to receive a tax refund, that you can later then contribute to your TFSA or to pay down your mortgage! (Hey, two birds with one stone– not bad, I say!)  If you’re looking to set up an RRSP in a hurry to take advantage of this tax break, we recommend a robo advisor account – see our Ultimate Guide to Canada’s Robo Advisors of and special promo offer codes here.
  • It is important to remember though that sometimes a TFSA is a better place for you be saving than your RRSP.  Check out our comparison here for more information.  Having said that, if you have enough dough to contribute to both a TFSA and your RRSP, you can contribute to your RRSP BUT hold off on using it as a tax deduction until future, more income-generating years (use Schedule 7 for this).
  • Keep your Transit Passes: You can get a tax credit of 15%.  If you’re a student, keep your monthly pass because you can deduct the cost you pay for it on your taxes.  If you have a monthly transit pass you can claim those as well. (Don’t lose them or throw them away! They’re worth something even after the transit pass expires).  The transit passes have to provide detailed information (e.g duration of use, transit authority, amount paid) and are good for a Federal Tax Credit.
  • Tuition Credit: If you’re a student or recent grad (congratulations!) you can claim your tuition credits.  Several provinces also have tuition-related tax benefits.

Note: If you’re one of the few that need to file an American tax return, check out this article that compares the most popular tax software in the U.S.

How To Get More Money From Your Tax Return checklist

  • Claim your Student Loan Interest: Yes, having student loans looming does have a minor silver lining- that is, you can claim the interest that you are charged on your student loan. Check out this link for more details.
  • Claim Educator School Supply Tax Credit: If you just started your career as a teaching professional in 2017, there may be an opportunity to claim up to 15% of your school supplies expense as a tax credit. This rule was introduced back in 2016, but it could apply to you if you qualify for it. As a refundable credit, you could actually get money back (if you have zero taxes owed to CRA) if you are eligible to claim this credit.
  • Claim Moving Expenses: If you have relocated (or moved on account of your pursuit of education), you are entitled to claim certain portion of your moving expenses. Learn more here.
  • Claim Medical Expenses: Keep your receipts for any prescriptions and medical or dental expenses that weren’t covered by your Health Benefits Plan.  If you plan to get laser eye surgery (which can be upwards of $3,000) for example, you should make sure you keep other expenses you incurred within any 12-month period (it doesn’t have to match the tax year– e.g. it can be from April 2017 to March 2018 instead of January 2017 to December 2017) as long as you hit the magic number: 3% of your net income OR about $2,268 for tax year 2017 (whichever is less).
  • If you live common law or are married, you can add up your expenses for both of you and claim it against the person with the smaller income (3% of a lower number is easier to become eligible for).  Your pharmacist can usually give you a statement of all your prescription drug costs if you contact them.
  • A note about medical expenses: While the actual expenditure must have been incurred by Dec 31, 2017, the service/goods do not always need to have been delivered by then. This enables you to prepay some medical expenses, and claim them when filing your taxes subsequently.
  • Claim Home Accessibility Tax Credit (HATC): If you or a family member has a disability that required making some accessibility modifications to your home or workspace in 2017, you may be entitled to claim HATC.
  • Utilize Dividend Tax Credits: THIS is why Canadian corporations that pay dividends are best kept in a non-registered account.  The taxes on dividends are much lower and almost favourable if you are in the lower income tax bracket.
  • Claim your cell phone and internet bills: The tip my accountant gave me was that you can deduct a reasonable amount of your phone bill (e.g. 50)% if your employer regularly uses it to call you to obtain work (this works for example, if you are a ‘casual’ employee and they usually call you to see if you can come in to work).  The percentage used should be traced back to your airtime.  A similar rule of thumb exists for your internet use.
  • Donate to charity: Charitable donations are tax deductible (as long as the charities are registered), and when both Federal and Provincial donation tax credits are combined, you could receive a tax saving of up to half (50%) of the value of your donation.  This is why it makes sense to donate your old broken down car.  You easily get rid of a trash heap that you’d have a difficult time selling, the charity gets something they can sell for parts/scrap, and then you also get money back on your tax return because you “donated” the equivalent value of the car.
  • A note about Charitable Donations: If you want to super-charge your refund and get even money back from your tax returns, then consider using charitable donations to do that. 2017 is the last year for you to use the First-Time Donor’s Super Credit (FDSC). If you/your spouse/partner haven’t claimed a donation tax credit since 2008, then you should definitely consider doing so in your 2017 tax returns.
  • Support your preferred politician: Governments love giving tax breaks to people who give their party money.  Who would have thought?  There is a bevy of tax credits available for folks that donate to political parties.  If you have any questions on the matter just call your preferred party, I guarantee they’ll have someone available to discuss the details!
  • Don’t give an interest-free loan to the government: Yeah, you heard me… that lovely tax refund you get in the summer? It’s basically YOUR money that the government was keeping warm for you.  If you fill out a T1213 form and hand it over to your employer, they can deduct less of your income on your paycheque.  This allows you to keep your money in your hands from day one instead of waiting on a big tax refund.
  • Working from Home: If you work from home more than 50% of the time, there are a large number of deductions that you can account for.  You can deduct your internet expenses and stationary bought provided that you use these to obtain income.  If you rent, you can deduct the portion of rent and any other maintenance costs you would pay for your office space.  Per the CRA’s workspace in the home expenses site:

You can deduct the part of your costs that relates to your work space, such as the cost of electricity, heating, maintenance, property taxes, and home insurance. However, you cannot deduct mortgage interest or capital cost allowance.

Final Logistical Tips for Getting Your Biggest Tax Refund in 2019

Don’t give an interest-free loan to the government: Yeah, you heard me… that lovely tax refund you get in the summer? It’s basically YOUR money that the government was keeping warm for you.  If you fill out a T1213 form and hand it over to your employer, they can deduct less of your income on your paycheque.  This allows you to keep your money in your hands form day one instead of waiting on a big tax refund.

There’s a variety of tax return software available.  Some are free.  You could even use the tax return software to do all your calculations, and then input the numbers into your paper tax return (the tax return booklet).

Here are a few that are popular, FREE, and NETFILE-certified if you want to send it through NETFILE:

Turbo Tax: You can start the return for free but you may need to pay a bit to actually file it (depending on your specific situation).  One of the most popular tax preparation software options available in Canada and USA. Young and Thrifty recommended product that we have been using ourselves for years and never faltered. Turbo Tax is highly recommended.

Studio Tax: Not the fanciest of websites, but it’s great for basic tax returns.  It’s completely free (if you file less than 20 tax returns)! Free download of tax software and you don’t need a license key or registration key to get it.  They even have student versions.  You don’t have to pay $40 for Ufile or Quicktax.

CANTAX: It’s super comprehensive and it’s designed for tax professionals.  It’s NOT free, but it’s good.

UFile: You can file for free with UFile if you earn less than $20,000 per year OR if you are a student (Oooh the perks of being a student).  If you do not fall into that category, you can try it for free and only pay when you have to print or submit it online through NETFILE.  It’s $15.95 for this.

Have you ever filed your taxes by yourself? What do you think of it? Any suggestions or tips with any of the free tax preparation software mentioned above?

Article comments

98 comments
The Rat says:

This is a great thread and you can tell that a solid effort went into getting some crucial details out there for the readers.

I totally agree with you in that H&R block is not up my alley in this stage of the game. When I was a student, it was probably the most practical decision to make in retrospect, but as time goes by it becomes increasingly obvious that serious tax planning is a very important part of our lives as it can save us thousands of dollars.

I took advantage of the renovation tax credit and completed all bathroom renovations (and expenses incurred) by January 31, 2010. This means that I will qualify for the credit. [And from what I can gather, it doesn’t seem like the Cdn Gov’t will be reinstating the credit for the 2010 tax year.]

Personally, I use a professional accountant for my taxes and have done so over the past years. My reason for this is not to just simply hand over a pile of paperwork and say, “here you go, deal with it”. It’s because I have gotten some very good advice from my accountant over the past years for tax planning and business purposes. A good accountant knows tax law very well, and depending on the extent to which a particular individual is involved in personal investing, business in general, etc., it may become increasingly important to have one over time.

I keep all of my T5s, T4, travel receipts, medical expenses, business expenses, etc. all separate and each ‘component’ (for lack of a better word) has its own folder.

Aside from my non-registered investments, TFSAs and RRSPs are important for consideration for taxes and deserve attention. The great thing with RRSPs is that you can contribute more than 18% of your prior year’s gross income if you have contribution room built up. As you mention, if you are able to contribute enough, you can pump the return you get into a TFSA! That’s provided you don’t owe too much due to salary, non-registered investment income, or other avenues, etc.
Nice post.

Cheers,
The Rat
.-= The Rat

young says:

@The Rat, LOL thanks for acknowledging the blood-sweat I poured into that post. It’s over 1500 characters for goodness sakes! =P
How much did you pay for H&R Block when you were a student? You probably had very simple returns then.
Good for you for taking advantage of the renovation tax credit! It’s a great idea. I don’t have a home to get a credit from! lol! =) (but hopefully soon, hopefully soon).
Yes, some accountants are very good and they know the tax laws like the back of their hand, some aren’t as hot (I guess it’s all in their experience, right?)
Thanks again for stopping by!

The Rat says:

Hmmm..that H&R block fee when I was a student is hard to remember. It was such a basic tax filing (maybe some RRSP purchases and tuition considerations, and a summer job) but I know it didn’t come to anything like 300 dollars.

I totally agree with the accountant comment you made. Just like any professional, you will meet some that just don’t meet your standards while there are others that you just know are great to work with. If you ever decide to deal with one and are able to find one you like working with – stay with that person.
.-= The Rat

MayJay says:

Just wanted to put in a correction for you, you can’t carry your tuition credits forward if you have taxable income. If you file without using them the return will automatically be corrected to utilize the credits. As long as you have taxes payable though, the amount you will get back is the same regardless of how much money you make as it is a non-refundable tax credit which currently is a 15% credit for your return. The only way the amount would change would be if the tax rates are changed again (2008 we went from 15.5% to 15% for non-refundable tax credits for instance)

young says:

Hi MayJay,
Thanks for the clarification and spotting the error! I always tend to get my tax credit and deductions mixed up— (dangerous I know). Yes, the tuition tax credit is a straight amount and isn’t affected by your income.

lulu says:

maybe you should go in and correct that – i almost made this mistake before i read the comments section!

young says:

@Lulu= Thanks! Done!

Joabs State says:

I totally agree with you in that H&R block is not up my alley in this stage of the game. When I was a student, it was probably the most practical decision to make in retrospect, but as time goes by it becomes increasingly obvious that serious tax planning is a very important part of our lives as it can save us thousands of dollars.

I took advantage of the renovation tax credit and completed all bathroom renovations (and expenses incurred) by January 31, 2010. This means that I will qualify for the credit. [And from what I can gather, it doesn’t seem like the Cdn Gov’t will be reinstating the credit for the 2010 tax year.]

young says:

@Joabs State- No, that tax credit was a Godsend! Except that I didn’t take advantage of it 🙁 I’m excited for you and your hefty tax return!

Mary says:

thanks for this. i am a new resident of quebec and find the taxes quite complicated. with daycare deductions, rental income, and property claims, i really needed to go to an account for both myself and my husband. we didn’t go to an account and now are being reassessed for a previous return. the quebec government wants $3500 back! so, we are desperate and willing to pay $700 for the assistance.

young says:

@Mary- Thanks for reading Mary. Oh dear, sounds like you’ve got a handful with the Canadian revenue agency! That’s my worse fear, reassessment and audits. Good luck, I hope you are able to keep your $3500.

taylor international says:

hey there Mary seen your post and wanted to know if you got your tax fixed if not email me and we will see what we can do for you. cheers 😉

Secondary sales tracking says:

I work from home and want to file tax returns. I had read some where else that i can have deductions for the my phone bills because i am using phone for my work purpose.
– Samantha Greg

young says:

@Samantha- Yes, that is true. You can usually deduct the cost of the % of your cell phone bill you use for business.

Nichole says:

Hi Samantha,

ask your employer for a T2200 form so you have official backing on working from home. They should supply it to you by the end of February, so if you haven’t received it yet you need to get in contact with them.

Kyle says:

Thanks Nichole!

Celen says:

This would be a great article and basically important to us. I really appreciate this. Its one of a kind and informative article. More power to your site! nice job! 🙂

young says:

@Celen- Thank you!

Anie says:

I’m wanting to file my own taxes this year.
My husband and I both make around 37000$ each and we are contributing to both RRSP’s and TFSA. I also have some dental bills (can I claim those? They are around 450$)

I would like to file my taxes on my own and send them by Canada Post. Is there a link you can provide me to print and fill in all the appropriate forms I may need?

Last year I filed with H&R block and he said I owe 80.00$ to the government..and on top of that I had to pay the rep 80.00$!!!

Are there any tips you can provide me with so I could possibly get a refund this year???

Thanks in advance!

young says:

@Anie- I will be posting a Tax filing software giveaway very soon! So stay tuned! If I’m not mistaken, the medical bills have to be a certain amount, and I think $450 is too low. Have a look at the CRA website, it’s a great resource for what you can and cannot claim. The forms can be picked up at the tax centre (or the libraries have them too). You can file it by hand and mail it in. Or you can do it online.

Michael says:

Question is about cell phone deducting.

I am a tour bus driver. Spend most of time away from home and the other veteran drivers claim all their cell phone expenses on their taxes. How is this done? I am doing my taxes and am at the employment expenses form and under the ‘other’ category and it has three spaces to enter digits in:
1. Gst taxable
2. HST Taxable
3. Zero Rated and Exempt

What the heck am I supposed to write in those boxes if I am trying to claim the 1416.00 from January – December 2011? It was only used for work and the old retired drivers say they can claim it all.

young says:

@Michael- I just took out your email address in your comment, I don’t think you’d want to be showing everyone your email address 🙂

Well, Michael it depends on whether HST was charged on your cell phone bills. If you were charged HST from Jan to Dec then you put it in the HST taxable category. Do you use your cell phone for work 100% of the time? If you don’t, I would caution against putting the full $1416.

Rahim says:

Hey Young!

Great post, I share your same concerns with H&R block in that every year I go to them it seems the reps experience level is different. Although I still plan on going to them for my taxes sometime this week. Do you advise it? Seeing I’m a full-time university student, I worked part time made a little less then $20,000 in 2011. I have all my transit cards and my tax receipts for all my donations and my slips for my investments.

How important is this tuition credit? Can i use it right now if I wish? And what are some questions I should ask the rep and things I should look out for when doing my taxes at h&r block. If I feel like their quote isn’t good enough can i walk out and say I’ll do my taxes else where?

Feel free to email me!

young says:

@Rahim- Thanks for the great question. PERSONALLLLY if I were a full time student and had simple taxes, I would probably DIY. Have you tried the H&R block or the Turbo tax programs?
You can use the tuition credit right now if you wish, but if I were you, I would save it up until you make big money to deduct your taxes with. Right now, you’re probably not paying much in taxes, so there’s not much point to use up your precious tuition credit. I believe you can carry it forward for up to 5 years.
I don’t think there’s probably any room for negotiation with H&R Block in person taxes…you could try finding a “mom and pop” type of accountant who will probably be cheaper.

Jason says:

Hey Young,

Thanks for the tips! Great article. I’m doing my tax report myself with a software and i’m trying to find the form where I can deduct cell phone bills. My wife and I work for airlines and are on the road all the time. I was wondering if you know which form page it is. Would you only deduct air time fees? And what percentage? When you say 50%, is it a general rule of thumb?

Thanks

Jason

young says:

@Jason- Do the airlines call you and are you on call? You have to use your cell phone for work related purposes. I believe that it is form T777 http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pbg/tf/t777/

JDP says:

I am a causal (on-call) employee at a hospital. Does my employer need to fill out the T777 in order for me to claim my cell phone bill?

Young says:

@JDP- No, you shouldn’t have to. As long as you include the proportion of minutes used (that they call you) to your total minutes used and claim only that amount it should be fine.

JDP says:

So, what section do I claim this? Sorry, I’m new at this!! Thank you for your help, by the way!

Young says:

@JDP- Now don’t quote me! but I think it’s the T2202? I haven’t started my taxes yet so can’t remember off the top of my head.

Kelly says:

Hi! I loved reading your article but you made it sound sooo easy!

My parents always did them for me but I want to take it on my own this year and

get the maximum amount, which I deserve 🙁 ( Everytime I get my paycheque, I notice a $50 minus for tax! Its ridiculous!)

help!? -kelly

Teacher Man says:

Sure Kelly, if you don’t mind, you can keep yourself anonymous and tell us what your situation is, and maybe we can help you out a little bit.

Sarah says:

Great article! Thank you! In response to an earlier comment: Being reassessed isn’t that bad, they went back through all my taxes from 2o09 forward and credited me 400 dollars. Scary thought, I hired a professional accountant to do all my taxes, he miss calculated half my rent away.

on-call says:

Hi,

I work on-call as a substitute teacher and I would like to try claiming cell expenses. The school districts call me in for work on my cell phone as I don’t have a land line. Can you please provide a more detailed explanation of how to claim your cell phone expenses and what evidence you need to include i.e phone bills, monthly plans??? It would be very helpful!

Thanks!

Teacher Man says:

This is a fairly detailed question on-call. I’d say you should probably contact an actual accountant about this. I’ve been a sub before actually and I’ve never heard of deducting your cell plan, but I can see how there is an argument for it. The paper trail you’d want is the actual phone bill, but again, I’d recommend a professional opinion on that one.

Danielle says:

Re: Cell Phone deduction.

You actually cannot deduct any employment expenses without having your employer fill out the T2200 (Declaration of Conditions of Employment).

Here is a link to the form, which specifically states this in the first line: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pbg/tf/t2200/t2200-12e.pdf

If your return was ever reviewed or audited and you don’t have the form from your employer they will throw out all of your “employment” expenses.

More info regarding employment expenses can be found here: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pub/tg/t4044/t4044-e.html

Very few employees are able to deduct expenses – very common misconception.

DLync says:

Hey there,

i have learned A LOT so far in the 30min i have been on this site. I was discussing the benefits of RRSP’s with a good friend of mine today and peaked my interest. I need to claim taxes for my personal business. The first couple years were pretty low income, however this year I’m up over 75k. I will be investing into an rrsp and tfsa, but still need to deal with the rest of what I owe. As a sole proprietor, do I need a t2200? Do I NEED a t5018 form if I subcontract? If so do I need anything special for my regular customers or just the receipt of payments… If I was paid cash that basically doesn’t exist? And for precious years with little record keeping is it ok to mentally calculate my numbers if my overall income, non-cash work, will be less than 20k? I know I have lots to learn before I file for 4 yrs worth this spring but I’m on the learning train and saved up a solid chunk of money this year for it. I look forward to any comments and will be browsing this website quite frequently.

Regards

Dave

Kyle says:

Hey Dave,

Glad you’ve found some good stuff here. Make sure and check out our free ebook before you investing within your RRSP.

As far as the specific tax questions I feel that I’m a little out of my depth and even though I could make an educated guess or point you towards some relevant stuff on the CRA site, I think you’d be better off getting a quote from a reasonable accountant on this matter.

Thanks for dropping by and hope to see you again!

Young says:

@Dlync- You had me at the first sentence. Love it!!!! As for the T5018 and you being a sole proprietor, I think that consulting an accountant would be the best bet.

Josephine says:

I am taking care of my mom who has alzheimers and due to this I’m not able to work. She receives old age security and canada pension and thats what we live on. I cannot claim her as a dependant as technically I am dependant on her income for us to survive…nor can I claim head of household, correct? Are there any refundable tax credits I can use.

Kyle says:

Likely not Josephine. You’re probably not paying any taxes if you’re not working right? So no tax deductions and no refundable tax credits that I know of. There might some medical-related stuff your mom can claim if she pays any tax.

Josephine says:

Doesn’t seem fair..Quebec has refundable tax credits for caretakers who keep their family “out of the system” and nursing homes…I’m saving the Province money (as she couldn’t afford private care she needs at a nursing home).

Kyle says:

Your logic seems to make sense Josephine. It may well be worth checking with a tax specialist in this case.

chris says:

Hello everyone this is very interesting stuff! I had my wisdom teeth taken out and it cost me $1500 and I have prescription meds aswell I get every month. I’m 24 and I think I made around 11,000 last year can I claim all my dental and prescription? Where would be the best place to do my taxes?

Kyle says:

Hi Chris. I believe you would be able to claim that yes. In addition you should be able to claim travel and several other things. Check out the CRA website for more information. Why not do your taxes yourself? There’s plenty of info here on the site to aid you. If you don’t have a small business I bet it will be a lot easier than you think with a program like Turbo Tax.

Tyler says:

I completed 3 degrees in school and filed with H&R block several years as a student because it was $20.00 AND I got a cupon for a free pizza! The last year that I did it, however, they screwed them up pretty bad and in the middle of the summer I got a letter saying that I owed $1000. This was money that, as a student, I certainly didn’t have!

After that incident, I started using Turbotax and doing it myself so that I would understand what was going on. As a student turbotax was free, and for the last two years since I have been working it has been $15.00 or so. The best feature is that it keeps all your information from the previous year and fills it in automatically. As a student this was really helpful once I needed the tax credits this year, and it was all automatically carried forward. I have fairly simple taxes (one T4 and a couple RRSP and student loans forms), and it took me 30 minutes to complete both the federal and proincial (quebec) submissions – and I was watching TV while I did it! There was a promotion through my bank, so the $20.00 typical fee was reduced to $15.00 for me this year. The best part is that Turbotax asked if I wanted to ‘fastrack’ my return – and it literally took 2 days for my provincial, I filed it last Thursday and got it this Tuesday in my account, and the federal took 5 business days. I’m really happy with this program.

I would, however, do some research to understand what benefits you for your particular tax situation. The tip to benefit from RRSPs will be key for me next year now that I don’t have tuition credits anymore, it was helpful to know the cuttoff amount for that – I may be just below $36 000, so I will pay attention. Thank you!

Mr. says:

There are numerous ambiguous statements, and half truths in this article. Do not use it to file your return. Taxes are an exact science, one that this article covers “approximately.” For example You cannot write off your cell phone bill unless it is a condition of your employment conditions, and you have a specific form filled out, and signed by your employer. It’s not as cut and paste as this article would have you believe.

This is a great list… The transit pass credit is great, but people should do the math between buying tokens in bulk and buying a monthly pass. Even after the tax credit, buying tokens may be cheaper if you do not take transit twice per day, 5+ days per week.

paul says:

Can you claim cpr/first aid courses on your income tax return… The cost of the course as an expense?? Technically its educational… I need it for work and I need it for my chosen career path I’m pursuing. And also can u write off fire/police testing cost on taxes in order to secure employment?

Kyle says:

Now that is a good question Paul… This is the most relevant passage I could find on the topic, “In order to deduct the cost of courses, they must be eligible for post-secondary credit towards a diploma or degree, or they must improve occupational skills and be offered by an institution approved by the department of Human Resources and Skills Development (HRSDC). You must have paid at least $100 for the course, and you cannot claim anything for which you were reimbursed, unless the reimbursement is included in your taxable income.” Depending on who offered the course I would say there is a good chance, but I’m certainly no tax professional.

Mari says:

I am able to claim my CPR and recertifications as it was a nursing school (degree program) requirement and also an ongoing requirement of my professional designation for employment as an RN.

Conversely, I found out that I was not able to claim the same CPR courses for my teen son as part of his lifeguard training because it does not lead to a post secondary level degree or diploma.

Anonymous Accountant says:

I encourage people with straightforward matters to prepare their own returns..that is someone who has a T4 and maybe a T5 for interest. As soon as you go beyond this, you may be missing out on some planning opportunities and this is why you need to seek out professional advice or do a lot of research on your own. For example, if you have tuition you might be inclined to report it on your tax return even if you have no taxes payable. However, if you have a parent who is paying taxes then you’ve just missed an opportunity to transfer your tuition to the parent who could have used the tuition to reduce his or her tax bill. Each situation is unique. In some cases it’s good to do the transfer in some cases you might just want to claim it on the students return and have it carry forward to a year where it can be used, the key being it must be claimed in the year incurred, and there must be a tuition receipt. I could write a whole essay on the in’s and out’s of claiming tuition…..but it’s all on CRA’s website, so I encourage people to check out the website and if you’re confused afterwards then seek out professional advice.

Anne says:

I just did my taxes at H&R block with only 2 T4 forms and nothing else what so ever cost me 122 dollars and I only get 135 dollars back I was so shocked when she told me this. Also I see that u can claim your student loan interest?? How does that work?? my taxes hasn’t been filed yet told them I’ll pay them when I get payed.

Rhona says:

Can I claim safety boots i had to buy with my own money as an employee expense on line 229? My employer isn’t going to reimburse me. Do they have to fill out a T2200 form for me to claim the safety boots or can I just fill out a T777?

Kyle says:

I’m pretty certain you can claim the safety boots Rhona, but I’d call the CRA just to be sure.

Henry H says:

Thanks for the great post as always. I actually compared my returns by using different softwares in the last scruple of years. With a wife and a kid, I found turbotax got the most return for me by using its optimizer and questionnaire to make sure I don’t miss any tax saving opportunities.

Kyle says:

It’s really pretty user-friendly right Henry? With a family to support keeping as much of your cash from the tax man as possible becomes even more important!

Els says:

I feel like I could do my own taxes now!!

2 questions before that though..
– I travel (flight, gas, hotel) every 2 weeks for my job – how do I claim this?
– I recently called my payroll provider to have them mail me all of my pay stubs but they sent me a general summary instead which is similar to the pay stubs. On my stubs, it shows my deductions (EI & CPP as employee deductions) but then on the general summary my payroll sent me, it shows the EI & CPP being taken off twice, as an employee deduction AND employer deduction. Is this correct? The company I work for has been known to be a bit sleezy. It was around $2600 taken off within 10 months, on top of regular deductions. Does that make sense? Is this a normal thing?
I just don’t understand why I am paying CPP & EI twice, especially since that shouldn’t be going to my employer.

Thank you!!!

Kyle says:

Hello Els. Glad to hear that you feel like you’re on the right track. Does your employer play or reimburse you at all for your flight, gas and hotel? Because if they do then you can’t claim it.

Without seeing your tax information I can’t be certain, but I would guess your company is on the up and up. Employers do have to contribute to CPP and EI, and it is usually shown on a general summary. For example, it is shown on my pay stub as a teacher.

Rach says:

Hi Young
I realized that in order to claim for Arts credit for the child, the child should be not older than 16. In 2015, my child was 17 and I have incurred expenses on her music lesson. How can I claim this expense in my tax return for year 2015. Thanks

Kyle says:

If your using a tax prep program (it makes it so easy – you really should) it should prompt you Rach.

Ana says:

Hello
I have a question, I did everything you listed to save receipt and etc for 2015 but I can’t claim anything because my income is under 11’000…
Im at H&R block and I feel like I’m being ripped off. I have so many things I’ve purchased such as cars and items for school, metro passes and all thinking I could get a higher tax return but instead imma get about $200 because that’s the only job that shows taxes. …. I don’t get it. Please help me and let me know that limit/amount required to be able to claim everything. I also had few independent contractor jobs and wanted to claim gas etc but can’t. ..
Help thank you so much.

Kyle says:

Hi Ana,

The reason you won’t be getting a large tax return is simply because you didn’t pay much taxes this year. The refund is the difference between the taxes you had taken off of your cheque and what the government says that you owe. Consequently, if your income had been over 11K you would have paid more taxes. The upside is that you be able to bank some of those tax credits going forward if you earn more next year.

cj says:

Hello,

I travel every 2 weeks via air canada for my job, my company does not reimburse my flights, meals or accomodations or taxi costs. How and where do I claim this?

thanks!

Kyle says:

You should definitely be able to claim this CJ. Are you a private contractor or employee?

Sherill Deon says:

My friend has already filed his taxes thru H&R Block but they missed his office space at home , can he do something to correct this .When I went thru his returns over the last couple of yrs. and they missed it in previous yrs. as well …Help !!! He is good at his job but not so good with his paper work .

Kyle says:

Yes, you can file an adjustment Sherill. Here’s a good place to start: http://blog.turbotax.ca/change-filed-tax-return/

SK says:

For the tuition credit you mention that it is for recent grads but you should mention that it is for both students and recent grads. You could also mention that if their educational institution doesn’t mail out T2202As they should look in their online account.

Kyle says:

All good points SK – I’ll leave this here for folks to take note of!

Corrine says:

Hi there! I did a total of $1200.00 in Alberta oil patch tickets (first aid H2S Alive, Ground disturbance etc etc….). I need these tickets not just to do the job but, to apply for the jobs you need to have them as well. Is there any way I can use them on my 2016 Tax Return? Any help would be great!!

Kyle says:

Were those courses essential to your job Corrine?

Steven says:

You indicated that you can ask the charity to change the date on a tax receipt to allow you to file favourably, but that is actually illegal for the charity. Receipts must be issued for the year in which the donation was received, however you, the donor, can choose to carry it forward into another tax year where it may be more advantageous.

Charities are regularly audited by the CRA and are expected to be able to prove when the donations were received. It is fairly common for the CRA to select a few random receipts and ask the charity to prove source and date, right down to the bank deposit. As someone who has worked for charities and non-profits for nearly 20 years, I have experienced a few audits and assembled the requisite paperwork.

A charity may be fined if found negligent, and if the act is deliberate may have their registration revoked (in extreme cases).

Otherwise, thank you for sharing your experience with the rest of us.

Adam says:

You should add Simple Tax at the top of the software list.

Pay-what-you-want model. Fully cra approved, etc. Hard to beat it for ease of use too.

Jamie says:

Great Post! I’m happy to report I use almost all the tax credits you mention and file by myself. I even convinced my BF to do his own last year and he was amazed he was forking over $250 to H&R Block for something so easy. I use Genutax for my taxes and find it’s super easy. It’s fee is by donation (so could be free) and it’s CRA-approved and linked to Netfile.

Sam says:

Hi!
My husband works with a carpenter as a carpenters assistant and gets paid in cash. Does he just self report these amounts himself?
and also his boss calls him every morning to confirm work or to pick him up so does that count as using cellphone for work?

Kyle says:

He is supposed to report this income by law Sam. Now if you ask me what the average tradesperson does on the other hand… lets just say if his boss is paying cash and isn’t filing his wage as part of his business returns, then it’s between you and your god how much you want to report.

APF Blogger says:

I have come around full circle. I started out having my taxes done by an accountant along with my parents. Eventually I decided to take a stab at doing them myself as a learning experience (once I got cut off from the freebie). This year, for the first year in about a decade, I got an accountant to do our taxes. Our situation is getting complex enough that I was starting to worry I was missing thing. It is a trial, to see if the investment in the accountant will uncover some refunds that I would miss otherwise. We shall see. If not, I can always go back to doing our taxes ourselves, and we won’t be that much poorer for it. And if the accountant does rustle up some more money, than I can always take that learning and apply myself going forward either way.

shawn says:

I used intuit.ca this year. Its free!!! I guess they get a kickback from govt for each return filed this way. I did my taxes, printed out a copy for my own records then net filed, all free. Quick and easy, very intuitive software. I even did a couple family members taxes for free too.

Kyle says:

Good for you Shawn!

Zozo_Manioc says:

Great tips, but I am pretty sure the public transit tax credit was scrapped in the Federal Budget this year, was it not?

Kyle says:

Correct ZoZo – have to update.

Kobe Agyei says:

Hey,

you guys should check out simple tax. It’s free and really simple to use!

Maria says:

Hello,
I do my own taxes with U-File. This is the first year that am using my RRSP contributions as a deduction. I noticed that my Provincial refund ($400+) is a LOT more than the Federal ($11). For those who have used RRSPs as a deduction before, is this normal? Last year I got $49 back from Provincial and $36 from Federal. I am used to the amount beings relatively close. I am trying to figure out why RRSP deductions make a much bigger provincial difference than Federal. I googled info, but haven’t found anything. Thank you.

Kyle says:

Depends on so many other variables Maria. What tax brackets are you in, deductions, credits, etc.

Judy says:

Hello,

I recently got married and am wondering if its better my husband and I do taxes jointly or separately? He makes almost 60 grand a year and I am almost at 40. We have no kids, no investments other than tfsa’s. No pensions through work or anything. Very basic tax returns. We dont have many medical bills at all to make any difference on the tax return. I have heard its better to do taxes together but dont understand why. If we do them separate we still have to write down what the other makes so how is it better- if it is even better. I have also heard do it together because then you are only paying the one fee… i know nothing about taxes however. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks so much in advance.

Kyle says:

Doesn’t really matter at all Judy. I’d just use Turbo Tax (see our recent article on it) and let them tell you which is best once you enter in all of your info.

Myra says:

Hello,

I submitted our tax return for 2017; however, I only got $48 tax refund, I earn about $46,000 annually and put $25 every paycheque for my federal witholding tax, I am a bit confused if I did the right thing of putting $25 every paycheque for the hopes of getting a big refund. Please enlighten me.

Thanks

V-2-tha-ZeeZee says:

I’ll throw my hat in for simpletax[dot]ca. They’re run out of Vancouver and have a pay-as-much-as-you-want feature. The interface is clean, they ask relevant questions to identify which forms you need to fill, they allow you to netfile directly with CRA and they have an optimization feature so that you get the maximum refund. I’ve used them for 3 years and have managed to a few of my co-workers and friends to switch over to them. Since I have a direct deposit set up with CRA, I usually get the refund a week after I have filed it.

Alex says:

I have 3 jobs and received a huge tax bill for 2017. Does it make sense to fill out a T1213 form anyway?- my employers are obviously not taking enough taxes. What strategies should I use moving forward? Thanks for your help!

Kyle says:

No, in that situation it won’t help Alex. My guess is that you have to re-enter in your tax information with each company so that they reflect the total income that you’re making at all your jobs – as opposed to just at their job. The problem is that they currently aren’t charging you at your top marginal tax rate. This should correct that.

Rob Smyth says:

In error, I did a pre-payment for my 2018 taxes. Do you know how I can get CRA to return these funds

Elise says:

Please consider removing studio tax from your list. The software failed to send a portion of my return with the Netfile (it showed when printed but the CRA did not receive it) and resulted in a significant tax debt not discovered for some months.

vicky minich says:

I use taxtron for Macs. Wish there were more options for Macs that don’t cost an arm or a leg. I usually wait 5 years to claim all my charitable donations but you need to be super organized and have all your receipts. I was asked to produce them one year and my only disappointment was that I couldn’t claim my USA donations to various animal sanctuaries and such because I didn’t have USA income. Really stupid if you ask me considering I used my hard earned dollars to donate. I have used Ufile in the past and had real difficulties with Quebec returns for my family. I live in Alberta. My Ufile return and the Quebec government never agreed. So I stopped using Ufile and switched to Turbo Tax. I am still waiting on the Quebec government’s version of the return for my family member. Federally we were fine but there is always a discrepancy at the provincial level. They are looking to marry the 2 systems in Quebec so everyone just files one return like the rest of Canada but that will be debated at the government level for a very long time. If they change ever comes it won’t be for at least another few more years.

Mary Pead says:

Can I claim for unfinished laundry room work. Laundry room was very cold because it is next to the cold room and doing laundry was awful for my arthritis and other problems.

Melanie says:

I found this so helpful!

I have a question about the cell phone claim. I am a supply teacher, so I rely on my cellphone in order to receive calls for jobs the following day or day of. How can I claim my bills? Is there a form I need to fill out prior to doing my taxes? Or do I collect my cellphone bills during the months of the school year?

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