Doing Your Canadian
Federal and Quebec Income Tax

Updated for 2023 Tax Returns

Last modified 2024-01-18

Filing date clarified, tax due date information added.

This document discusses the various ways of doing your Canadian Income Tax. There are over a dozen CRA certified tax software providers. Quebec Income Taxes can be handled in a similar fashion. Pricing examples refer to the popular TurboTax products in effect January 2024. Consult their web site for current prices. (Note TurboTax was called QuickTax prior to 2011.)

COVID-19 Considerations

If you received compensation from the various COVID-19 programs then there may be tax implications.

Some Keywords to Know

CRA Canadian Revenue Agency. These are the people who collect and process your Federal tax return. Their web site is
Revenu Québec Revenu Québec. These are the people who collect and process Québec tax returns. Their English web site is
Multi-Factor Authentication CRA online services uses your telephone number (landline or cell) to deliver a one-time passcode for authentication purposes. In doing so it validates that you can access messages sent to your telephone.
Auto-Fill CRA service that allows individuals and authorized representatives to automatically fill in parts of an income tax and benefit return with information that the CRA has available. Using this feature greatly speeds up the completion of your tax return by extracting the key fields from the tax slips and placing them into the appropriate places on your return.
NETFILE CRA electronic tax filing service that allows you to file your personal income tax return directly to CRA using the Internet. (There is a NetFile Quebec site that is similar in function to the CRA's version. Quebec online filers will need to use both sites as directed by the software packages.)
Download What is downloading? Think of the Internet as located in the sky or clouds and therefore downloading means copying information down from the sky. Uploading is when you send information to the Internet.) Downloading software from the Internet means that your computer is fetching the software from the Internet and copying it to your computer. This allows you to subsequently run the software on your computer without being connected to the Internet. Compare with the term "Online" described below.
Online A computer is considered Online when it has an active connection to the Internet. This online connection allows the computer that you are using to exchange information with one running at a remote site such as For example, an online connection to the TurboTax site allows you to enter and process your tax information without having to install any software or make any changes to the computer you are using. You can even stop the online connection and reconnect online to TurboTax at a later time from another computer to continue your tax returns.
Web Browser Just about every computer and cell phone comes with a Web Browser. It is the application you use to connect online with Google, TurboTax, etc. The application may be called Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Chrome, etc. The web browser's main job is to format text, pictures, and links to remote sites so that they display nicely on your display screen.

Your Basic Choices

  • Use the paper forms
    • Not a good option. Actually getting the forms on paper is complicated these days. Using them is tedious and allows many possibility of errors. You will also need to send all your receipts with your paper return via mail or hand it in at a government tax centre. Even the government prefers you do not use this technique. (It increases their workload, their warehouse storage requirements as well as the need to correct arithmetic errors and clerical errors you and they may make entering your information.)
    • Quebec tax filers will need to complete a Quebec return in addition to the Federal one. The two returns are different enough to cause even more errors in completing them.
  • Use a tax service to do your return
    • May be useful for complex returns of self-employed people but usually an unnecessary expense for salaried employees. Harder to find someone to do it as tax deadlines approach.
  • Use a tax program on your computer to enter, verify, and help you every step of the way
    • The most versatile choice. It allows you to do a few returns at a low cost per return with fast consistent response times. Allows immediate submission of return for faster refunds. Sample price is $19.99 (basic} for 4 returns, $37.99 (standard) up to 8 tax returns. (Husband and wife returns counts as 2.)
  • Use a web-based tax program to enter, verify, and help you every step of the way
    • The cheapest way to do a single tax return. Don't have easy access to an Internet connected computer at home? Then use a web browser at a library or Internet cafe. Sample price is $14.99 per completed tax return and free to try.

Why Using a Computer is Better

  • The computer will help you enter your information, check it, and do all the math.
  • If you need to also file a Quebec tax return, the tax programs will handle this with ease.
  • The Auto-Fill feature greatly simplifies the completion of the tax return by handling the tax return slips for you. Salaried employees will then just have to complete the medical and donation information sections. If you have business income then that will have to be entered separately as the tax computer software will guide you.
  • You can submit the tax return directly from your computer to the government's one. This process takes only seconds. No need to print anything, or send in any slips of paper. (The CRA calls this submission process "NETFILE". Quebec tax filers can also directly submit their Quebec tax return to "NetFile Quebec".)
  • Any tax refund processing will be processed sooner since the government gets all the information they need in their format and they know it has been checked over by a tax program they have certified.
  • If you owe taxes, you can pay them at any bank or by using online banking using the same way you pay your utility bills. The payer name is "CRA Payment on Filing". (The other name called "CRA Instalments" is for people who pay taxes in instalments throughout the year as directed by the government -- not the same thing.)
  • Do you think an audit of your computer submitted return is more likely since you have not sent in any slips, etc? Not true! The same criteria for reviewing income tax returns are used for both paper and electronic versions.
  • If you want to redo your tax calculations because you forgot a slip, then this is trivial to do since the tax program has all your information. This is also useful to see what would happen to your taxes if your salary were to go up or you made bigger donations, etc.
  • CRA allows you to resubmit your tax information at a later time. This easy to do from the tax programs. Don't resubmit until you receive your Notice of Assesment from the CRA.
  • Just remember:
    • If you miss the deadline, you can still use NETFILE until the end of September. After that date you can still use the computer programs and may have to print out your completed forms and submit the paper forms plus all the tax slips and receipts with it.
    • CRA will not allow you to submit more than 20 computerized tax returns using any program. This is meant to avoid people using these programs commercially. Most tax programs require that you pay slightly more if you do more than 8 returns.

Store-Bought Tax Programs

Many people buy their tax software from a store for about $38. The software comes in a box that contains a CD-ROM disk and not much else. When you install the tax program it will ask for an Internet connection to get the latest version of the software from the Internet. This is because the CD was created before government (CRA) has certified the program. (The certification usually takes place by the end of January.) Note many modern laptops do not come with CD-ROM drives built-in. So getting the CD-ROM version would require you to buy an external CD/DVD drive that attaches to the computer's USB port for about $50 from Best Buy, Staples, Amazon, etc. [As aside, your new external CD/DVD drive with its included software can play prerecorded videos and allow you to record your own CD/DVD disks for backup, etc.]

Directly Downloaded Tax Programs

It is usually faster and more convenient to download the tax software from the web than buying the software from a store. This may not sound logical but it is true. The boxed version you buy at the store is not the latest version of the software and probably will not even let you file a tax return. You will need to install the software from the CD in the box and then connect to the Internet to get the latest version. So why not bypass that step and get the latest version directly from the Internet and avoid the intermediate steps of working with a CD. Information on popular downloadable and Online tax programs from TurboTax. Oddly enough the downloadable TurboTax costs the same as the store-bought version. The major difference is the online version will try to upsell you -- that is try to convince you that you need to get a more expensive version. Plus it will try to convince you to to buy expert help for the do-it-yourself versions that include extensive online help.

Running Online using the Web

It is possible to prepare and submit you taxes online using only a Web browser. No software to install on the computer and will work on public computers available at a library or even at the office. If you have only one or two tax returns to do this may be the least expensive method. You do not have to complete your taxes during one online web session. Online Tax TurboTax does not charge for doing simple tax returns online. Check this link for details.

Tax Notes

  • Best to submit your tax return form on or before the deadline of April 30. (If April 30 is on a weekend then the deadline is the next weekday. So for 2024 the deadline to file your 2023 taxes is April 30.) Early submission will allow you to get back any refunds earlier.
  • It is important to submit your tax form by the deadline to take advantage of some tax benefits.
  • Taxes are typically paid via banks. Best to pay your taxes online the same way you pay your hydro, rent, etc. bills. You can pay in person at a bank but they may add a service charge. You may be offered an option to pay by credit card but this will typically add a daily surcharge until repaid. The credit card surcharge may be based the high rates of charged for cash advances.
  • You should pay your taxes by the tax deadline. Paying online through a bank may result in a delay of a few busines days as it is with payment to your utility bills. Even though you payment is made in time, the CRA accounting system may not actually apply it to your account for several weeks. When they do apply it to your count it they will account for the date that the payment was actually received.
  • A Notice of Assesment will show you if you need to pay additional amounts. Observe the date they are calculating interest from. For example, thay may show that you need to pay some interest even if you paid on time because CRA has not processed your return yet. Using the TurboTax option of showing a preliminary assesment will probably show you need to pay interest when you don't actually
  • Most people have taxes taken off their paychecks. This is called being "Taxed at Source" . Your employer estimates the taxes that need to be deducted from your pay to approximate the amount that you will owe. In almost all cases, the employer will take off too much. This will result in a tax refund when you file your tax form. If you are due a large refund – let’s say $500 or more -- you should get your employer to update your Federal TD1 and its equivalent Quebec form if it applies. This should be possible to do without much fuss.
  • Apparently about 1/2 of all Canadians will get a tax refund. Refunds are typically issued after May 1.
  • If you cannot afford to pay all the tax due, then pay what you can reasonably pay. The CRA will charge you interest, currently 10%, but that will probably be at a lower rate than you can get elsewhere. Under unusual conditions the CRA might charge you at a lower rate but the taxes owed will still have to be paid.
  • Medical claims are for a consecutive 12 months period ending in the tax year of your return. Keeping track of the slips you get with your pills can be a hassle and you might misplace some. The pharmacist can easily print out a list of the amounts you paid for them over a calendar year. This makes claiming your medical expenses on a calendar year easy. Note that you will need the physical slips issued by the pharmacy if you get audited or file your return on paper rather than electronically. Best to not claim amounts when you have no slips. You can always use them in later years if you find them.
  • If you have to pay more than $3,000, CRA will say you should pay your current year taxes in quarterly installments. -- that is up to 4 times a year. Details will be sent to you with your Notice of Assessment. You might not have to pay these amounts depending on your actual income for the current year. For example, if you have $4,000 due for your 2023 taxes and you pay that on time, the CRA will probably, send you a notice that you should pay taxes quarterly for the year 2024 on the assumption that your income will be about the same for 2023. This may or may not be the case. Confused? Just read the information they will send you to understand what your choices are.
  • If your income varies greatly year to year you should consult a tax specialist or at least consult online documents.

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