Nine things you need to know about this year’s weird tax season

It's not the most wonderful time of the year, but tax season is unavoidable and, this year, it's a little different than in the past. Here are key tips to keep in mind


Deadlines

When the world was “normal,” we’d now officially be late for filing our taxes. With COVID-19 turning things upside down, the deadline for individuals to file has been extended to June 1.

If you’re self-employed or have a spouse or a common-law partner who is, the deadline for filing is the same as usual: June 15. All taxes owed must be paid by September 1, 2020.

The deadline to pay any amounts owed has been extended to September 1. If you pay on time, there will be no penalties or interest. Pay after September 1, and you’ll get hit with those extra charges.

How much are the penalties again? 

If you’re late filing and you owe money, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) applies an immediate penalty of five per cent on your tax balance owing plus one per cent of your balance owing per month for up to 12 months is levied by the CRA.

Mix-up

Some taxpayers may have received a Notice of Assessment saying the deadline for payment is April 30. Wrong. It’s June 1. See above.

Be prepared to wait

If you’re filing a T1 paper return, know that CRA is experiencing “significant delays” in processing them.

If you already filed a 2019 paper return that hasn’t been processed yet, you can file it again online using NETFILE certified tax software. Exception: returns that the software says must be paper-filed or returns that are excluded from electronic filing.

Just how long will you have to wait? To find out approximately how long CRA will take to handle your return or tax-related request? The CRA Processing Times tool on Canada.ca provides a targeted completion date. 

Speed things up

You get a refund faster if you register for direct deposit.

Be prepared to wait some more

If you need help from CRA by phone, heads up: it’s experiencing technical difficulties with phone services, and wait times aren’t available. Some call centres may have reduced hours, longer wait times or suspended services.

You might be eligible for help at a free tax clinic run by volunteers

Unfortunately, due COVID-19, many have had to close. Check CRA’s directory to see if any community organizations re-establish their services in the coming weeks.

Meet Charlie

Charlie the Chatbot is a new feature and pilot project on CRA’s website. He may or may not be able to help with general questions: “Since Charlie is still learning about the CRA, the questions you ask will help it become more knowledgeable and interactive,” the site states.

Beware of scams

If you’ve applied for Canada Emergency Response Benefit and you get a text message saying you received a deposit, don’t reply or click on the link: it’s a scam. The CRA never uses text messages or instant messaging such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to communicate with taxpayers.

It will also never ask for personal or financial information by email and ask you to click on a link or send you an email with a link to your refund.

This story originally appeared in the Georgia Straight.

@GailJohnsonVan

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