Canada Revenue Agency’s main focus for filing your tax return is through its online tax filing system, Netfile. Netfile is free, and most of the CRA-approved tax preparation software have free options available. You can opt to use the CRA-approved software on the CRA website or use the free income tax software of your choice. However, the easiest way to receive your tax refund using free online software is to have your tax return filed through Netfile.
The Right Software
Know your computer’s requirements when choosing free online tax preparation software. Know what operating system the software works with and if it’s configured for PC, Mac or mobile devices. You also want to ensure that the software is up to date and is certified by CRA. The program should be compatible with your needs. For example, if you have an unincorporated farming business that does some research and development, you may need to use a program that supports Form T1273 -AgriStability / AgriInvest Programs. Some programs are only free up to a certain income level. For faster refunds, make sure the software program uploads directly to the Netfile system.
Before you begin filling in your tax return to claim a refund, go to CRA’s “My Account.” Registering with “My Account” allows you to keep all your personal information pertinent and up to date. It is secure and can be used for many functions, such as accessing data to do your tax returns and setting up direct deposit information to ensure a quick receipt of your refund, usually within eight days. You can access your T slips, such as T4 and T4A. You can make address and telephone changes and check on the status of your refund. You can also submit documents through this account.
Have Your Paperwork Ready
Before you get started, look over your tax preparation program to familiarize yourself with it. Then gather all the personal information, income slips and supporting documents that you need to fill out your free tax return and calculate your refund. You’ll need documents such as your Social Insurance Number, all T4s and related T slips. “If you’re filing for a refund, make sure you keep any medical, vision or dental bills you deduct. If you use business-related receipts, keep them in a separate file,” suggests Caroline Thompson, president of Thompson Accounting and Tax in Fort Erie, Ontario. “You don’t have to send them in with your return; however, the government may ask you to support your claim for a refund and then you’ll need these documents.” It’s the same if you’re a student, Thompson advises. Save all your rental receipts, loan and bursary information — even your meal tickets may be needed. Locate any investment slips, RRSP information and bank account interest information.
How to File
Most free CRA-approved online software allows you to file one of two ways. After you have finished entering your tax data and have established you are entitled to a refund, you can print out the tax forms and mail them. Postage is required and not covered by the software. Your refund may take up to six weeks using mail. The second, and usually the fastest method, is to Netfile your completed return. Most CRA-certified software directly uploads you tax information through Netfile for free. Remember, you don’t have to send any documents with your mailed or Netfile returns.
References & Resources
- Canada Revenue Agency: About Netfile
- Canada Revenue Agency: Certified Software for the 2014 NETFILE Program (2013 tax return)
- Canada Revenue Agency: Help with My Account
- Canada Revenue Agency: How to Start Direct Deposit or Change Your Information
- Canada Revenue Agency: Information Slips – T4 and Other Slips
- Caroline Thompson; accountant and president; Thompson Accounting and Tax Inc.; Fort Erie, Ontario