Getting Organized, Tips & Advice

Tax Time: The Essential Checklist

By Sean Cooper

If you’re looking for a way to make your life easier come tax time, consider using a checklist. Although some people have more tax slips than others, there’s some basic information that everyone must include on a tax return.

Cover the Basics

Before you complete any tax paperwork, have some basic information handy, like your name, address and social insurance number, which should be carried forward if you used TurboTax last year. You’ll only need to re-enter this information if it has changed. You’ll also need copies of your Notice of Assessment and prior years’ tax returns. Prior to 2013, you needed a four-digit personal NETFILE access code to file your tax return online. The CRA did away with the NETFILE access code; all you’ll need is your birth date and SIN, unless you are filing a Quebec return. Revenu Quebec still requires a 4 digit access code for the provincial portion of your return.

Gather Your Paperwork

Gathering your income tax slips is where the real work begins. Before you can file your tax return, make sure you have copies of all your tax slips. Although most tax slips must be mailed by the last day of February, they often arrive at different times. In fact, there’s nothing stopping an employer from mailing out a copy of your T4 slip early. Not all tax slips arrive in the mail; some are sent by email and others are available online. The most common tax slips are T4 (employment income), T5 (investment income), T4A (pension income) and T2202A (tuition, education and textbook amounts).

12 Common Deductions:

1. RRSP contributions:

Did you save towards retirement this year? If you contributed to your registered retirement savings plan, you should receive a tax slip from your financial institution. Be sure to claim your RRSP contributions on your tax return.

2. Medical expenses:

These are often forgotten. You’re allowed to claim medical expenses for any 12-month period ending in the current tax year. You should keep all of your medical receipts even after filing as CRA may request a copy of these. The amount of medical expenses over the CRA threshold of $2,171 (or 3% of your income, whichever is less) result in a credit on your return.

3. Business expenses:

If you’re self-employed, you can deduct a number of business expenses. The amount you can deduct in a given year depends on whether it’s a current-year expense or a capital expense. Consult the CRA website for a list of allowable expenses. (Note: since you can’t deduct personal expenses, you must deduct only the business part of expenses from business income.)

4. Other employment-related expenses:

A number of expenses including parking, meals, lodging and advertising, may be deductible as well. Check full list.

5. Public transit:

You can deduct the cost of monthly public transit passes, as well as passes of longer duration (such as an annual pass for transit within Canada) for 2014. Make this deduction on Line 364 (Public Transit Amount).

6. Childcare:

You may deduct child care expenses (Line 214). If you’re the only person supporting the child, you can claim these expenses for the time the child was living with you. If the eligible child’s parent, your spouse or common-law partner, or another person claiming the amount for the eligible child is living with you, the person with the lower net income must generally claim the exemptions.

7. Children’s fitness amount:

You can claim fees (up to $1,000 maximum per child for 2014) related to the cost of registration or membership for your or your spouse’s or common-law partner’s child in a prescribed program of physical activity. Make this deduction on Line 365.

8. Children’s arts amount:

On Line 370, you can claim (to a maximum of $500 per child) the fees paid in 2014 relating to the cost of registration or membership for your or your spouse’s or common-law partner’s child in a prescribed program of artistic, cultural, recreational, or developmental activity.

9. Rental income/rental property expenses:

Rental income, as well as qualifying expenses due to upkeep of rental property, are deductible. In addition, Capital Cost Allowance (CCA), based on depreciation of rental property, is another deduction you may be able to take advantage of. See Turbo Tax’s “Rental Income & Expenses” checklist.

10. Charitable tax credits:

Doing good can pay off big at tax time. Donations to qualifying charitable organizations are deductible. The CRA has information on how much can be deducted and how to claim and calculate these deductions.

11. Union/professional dues:

You can deduct annual dues for membership in a trade union or association of public servants, as well as professional board dues, professional or malpractice liability insurance premiums, or party or advisory committee dues. These are reported on Line 212 (Annual union, professional or like dues).

12. Moving expenses:

You can claim eligible moving expenses (on Line 219) if you move and establish a new home to work or run a business at a new location, or if you move to take courses as a student in full-time attendance enrolled in a post-secondary program at a university, college or other educational institution. To qualify, your new home must be at least 40 kilometres closer to the new place of work or school.

About the Author

Sean Cooper is a financial journalist and personal finance expert. His areas of expertise include real estate, mortgages, pensions and retirement. His articles have been featured in major publications, including the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, MoneySense and RateSupermarket.ca.