5 things to consider after your personal tax return is filed

April 04, 2019


After your personal income tax return for 2018 is filed, you may think that you’re done with your taxes for another year. This, however, may not be the case. You may need to make an adjustment to your personal tax return, or you may be receiving a refund. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may contact you or make changes to your tax return. There are a number of scenarios that may arise after you file your tax return. We’ve summarized some of the key things you should keep top of mind after your personal income tax return is filed.

Check the status of your refund

The CRA indicates that their goal is to issue a Notice of Assessment (NOA), along with a refund where applicable, within two weeks if your return is filed online and on time. If your return is paper-filed, the period extends to within eight weeks. Keeping this time frame in mind, you can check the status of your refund if you are expecting one from the CRA. There are several ways to check your refund status:

Make an adjustment to your personal income tax return

After filing your return, you may realize that you’ve missed a tax deduction or credit. Or you may have missed including an amount in your taxable income. In these situations, you may want to make an adjustment to your tax return to take advantage of the additional deduction or credit, or avoid incurring interest and penalties associated with unreported income. You can request a T1 adjustment online or by mail—you don’t need to re-file your entire tax return. However, you should wait for your 2018 NOA before making an adjustment.

Watch for CRA communications

The CRA will issue an NOA after processing your tax return. This is an important notice that you should watch for and review each year because it details the amount of taxes you owe (or the refund you are entitled to), along with other important details about your tax return, including whether the CRA has made any adjustments. Where adjustments are made by the CRA, it will provide an explanation―review your NOA to make sure you agree with the changes and to decide if further action is required (more on this later).

If you are registered to receive online mail, the CRA will send you an email to notify you important letters, including your NOA, are available for viewing in My Account―a secure portal. You should note that the online mail and account-alert services at the CRA were recently merged. If you were registered for online mail or account alerts before the merge, you are automatically registered for the new email notifications. Mail that is eligible for electronic delivery will no longer be printed and mailed to you. It is important to keep in mind that the CRA does not disclose any confidential tax information through email: letters or notices are only made available to registered users in My Account—not in email notifications.

If you are not registered to receive online mail, the CRA will send your letters or notices by regular mail.

In addition, a CRA representative may also contact you by phone.

Watch out for communications that are not from CRA

You’ve likely heard of the numerous and often creative ways fraudsters pretend to be with the CRA in an attempt to access your personal information and money. Many of these schemes use aggressive methods to pressure individuals to pay a tax balance that doesn’t actually exist. Fraudsters may request cash, wire transfers, pre-paid credit cards, and/or payment by gift cards and other methods that are not easily traced. There are also scams that attempt to lure would-be victims into giving away personal and financial information by falsely claiming that the information is needed in order for a tax refund to be paid to the individual.

You should be aware that the CRA does not request payment or personal information from you in this manner. The CRA does not use threatening language. The CRA does provide guidelines to help you identify legitimate phone calls, email and mail from the CRA.

As a result of the heightened awareness of this type of fraud, many taxpayers may be ignoring all communications—including legitimate ones from the CRA. It is very important not to ignore valid requests from the CRA as doing so may result in your tax return being assessed or reassessed inappropriately, and could result in additional taxes, interest, and penalties. In addition, failing to comply with a legitimate CRA request and any resulting adjustment to your return could be a factor considered by the CRA when selecting a tax return for audit.

It is very important when you receive communication from the CRA to not only watch for the warning signs of potential fraud and to protect yourself, but to also take the extra step to verify your tax status through secure portals such as My Account or by calling the CRA at 1-800-959-8281. These are effective ways to quickly verify authenticity of a call claiming to be from the CRA.

Respond to your NOA and other letters from the CRA

We’ve mentioned the importance of reviewing your NOA each year. If you disagree with your assessment, your first step should be to call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281 to try to resolve the issue quickly. If you are not able to resolve the issue with a phone call to a CRA representative, contact a trusted BDO tax advisor. We can help you communicate with the CRA before the Notice of Objection period expires. The deadline for filing a Notice of Objection for an individual (other than a trust) is the later of one year after the tax return due date and 90 days after the date of the NOA. If this attempt to resolve the issue with the CRA is not successful, we can then assist by initiating a formal process for dispute resolution by filing a Notice of Objection to protect your rights and keep the taxation year open.

If you receive a letter indicating that your tax return is being reviewed and additional information is being requested, there’s no need to be alarmed. The CRA conducts many types of review programs that can occur at any time during the year. For example, under the Matching Program, the CRA may compare your return with information received from third parties, such as your employer and financial institutions. If there is a discrepancy between the information provided and what was reported on your tax return, the CRA may contact you to work out the difference.

You may be wondering how tax returns are selected for review. The CRA may consider a number of factors, including your compliance history, the types of deductions or credits you claimed, any differences in reported amounts from third parties, and random selection.

Regardless of the reason that your tax return was selected for review, you should always respond promptly to legitimate CRA requests by providing them with the necessary information before the deadline, which is usually 30 days from the date of the letter. You should always quote the reference number from the original letter as well. If you are unsure of what the CRA needs to resolve the matter, your BDO advisor can assist in responding to the CRA and can help close your case more quickly and more easily.

The information in this publication is current as of March 6, 2019.

This publication has been carefully prepared, but it has been written in general terms and should be seen as broad guidance only. The publication cannot be relied upon to cover specific situations and you should not act, or refrain from acting, upon the information contained therein without obtaining specific professional advice. Please contact BDO Canada LLP to discuss these matters in the context of your particular circumstances. BDO Canada LLP, its partners, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability or duty of care for any loss arising from any action taken or not taken by anyone in reliance on the information in this publication or for any decision based on it.

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