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T4 Slips and Tax Tips: Taking the Stress Out of Filing

By Sandra Sperounes

One of the first signs of spring? T4 slips.

Yes, it’s tax time again. Can’t you feel the impending stress and procrastination in the air?

Whether you file online, by snail mail or use a tax professional, we want to make the experience as painless as possible. (Twelve percent of Canadians still file paper returns, according to the latest statistics from the Canada Revenue Agency.)

Remember: June 1, 2020 is this year’s filing deadline.

Here are some tips to ensure your tax season is less, well, taxing.

WHAT TO KNOW
Some changes for the 2019 tax year:

• If you are filing a paper return, it will look different this year. The federal tax calculation has been moved from a separate schedule into the main body of the return, increasing the number of pages from four to eight. The line numbers also now have five digits instead of three. These changes, however, are purely cosmetic; they won’t impact the amount of tax you pay.

• Alberta residents can claim the Climate Action Incentive on their 2019 tax return. This is a federal credit designed to refund the carbon tax that’s been in place since January 2020. For a single adult, it is $444 added to your refund. For a family of four it’s worth $888. Albertans living outside of Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge get an additional 10% supplement.

• If you are an Alberta student, this is the last year you’ll be able to claim the provincial tuition and education tax credits. They’ve been eliminated as of the 2020 tax year (i.e. the taxes you’ll pay in 2021), although you’ll still be able to carry forward unused amounts from prior years.

• If you bought a zero-emission vehicle after March 19, 2019 for use in your job or business, it may be eligible for an accelerated capital cost allowance claim (so long as you did not already receive the federal purchase incentive at the point of sale). Zero-emission vehicles include plug-in hybrids as well as electric-battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

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• The amount you can withdraw from your RRSP under the Home Buyers’ Plan has increased from $25,000 to $35,000 for withdrawals made after March 19, 2019. Beginning in 2020, you will also be able to access the Home Buyers’ Plan should you separate from your spouse or common-law partner—even if you have owned a home with your ex-spouse in the previous five years.

• The Working Income Tax Benefit has been renamed the Canada Workers Benefit. This is a refundable tax credit designed to compensate lower-income taxpayers for the loss of benefits when they reenter the workforce. More people will now qualify for this credit and the amount they receive has increased.

ONLINE OPTIONS
• If you’re filing online, make sure the program is NETFILE-certified with the Canada Revenue Agency.

• A complete list of NETFILE-certified tax software is available via the CRA’s website: including free and paid programs from different companies.

• Compare programs before you start to prepare your taxes. Paid software features more options such as transferring last year’s tax data, unlimited tech support, access to tax experts, and adjusting previously filed returns.

SNAIL-MAIL SUGGESTIONS
• Mail your taxes with a tracking option to make sure the date and delivery are recorded.

• Send your return by June 1, 2020 to avoid late-filing penalties.

• Processing times for paper returns can take up to eight weeks—or four times longer than digital returns.

NEED HELP?
H&R Block offers basic tax prep starting at $49.99 (plus GST) until March 31, 2020. “Whether you file in one of our offices or online using our do-it-yourself software, we’re so confident that we’ll get it right, we offer a 100% Accuracy Guarantee and a Maximum Refund Guarantee, so you get back everything you’re owed,” says Kristi Gartner, manager of business development for H&R Block.

HOW TO SAVE
AMA members save 20% on H&R Block’s NETFILE-certified do-it-yourself digital tax software. Or visit one of H&R Block’s 1,200 offices across Canada and save up to 20% on in-store tax filing.