How to File Your Taxes in Canada for the First Time in 4 Steps

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Is this your first time filing taxes in Canada? Paying your taxes is an annual occasion that happens in April of each year, when you have to file your taxes by the end of that month or pay penalties for filing late.

Is this your first time filing taxes in Canada? Paying your taxes is an annual occasion that happens in April of each year, when you have to file your taxes by the end of that month or pay penalties for filing late. But while some people will try to get their taxes done in a mad rush in the last week or two before April 30, it is a far, far better thing to get organized well before what we call tax season is upon us and thus avoid the guillotine of sanctions falling upon your worried head.


What was that Canadian tax-filing deadline again?

It’s April 30 although dates were extended in 2020 due to COVID-19 (to June and September in certain cases).


So, how do you start to get organized as far as paying taxes goes?

Here’s the general rule of thumb for getting organized: don’t throw anything that could possibly have to do with your taxes away for 6 years. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) might want them someday if they decide to audit your tax returns. This includes:

  • Slips (official receipts from CRA that show what you’ve earned and owe in taxes as well as many other areas like tuition receipts or child benefits):
    • T4: Employment Income
    • T4E: Employment Insurance Benefits
    • T2202A: Tuition/Education Receipts
    • RC66: Canada Child Benefit
    • T5007: Social Assistance Payments
    • T5: Interest Payments Received or Dividends Received
    • T3 or T5: Mutual funds
    • T5008: Mutual funds that have been sold
    • T5007: Workers’ Compensation Benefits
    • T4A-OAS: Old-Age Security
    • T4AP: CPP (Canada Pension Plan) Benefits
    • T4A: Other pensions and annuities
    • Any other slips you may need given your financial situation.
  • Receipts (anything spending that might impact your taxes and for which you often can claim a deduction):
    • Medical expenses
    • Child Care expenses
    • Adoption expenses
    • Moving expenses
    • Interest paid on student loans
    • Political contributions
    • RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) Receipts
    • Charitable Donations
    • Professional/Union Dues
    • Employment Expenses (for example the cost of tools for a mechanic)
    • Support Payments – Child, Spouse, Common-law partner
    • Home Office Expenses (also called Office-in-Home expenses).


So, what are the basic steps for filing taxes in Canada?

We’ve broken it down into 4 steps:


Step 1: Gather your tax information

The above lists of slips and receipts are what most Canadians generally need when filing taxes, although there may be other documents involved if you are a business owner, for example. This is a year-long process that is much easier if you gather your receipts over the tax year (which is the same for individuals as the calendar year) and ensure you have all your slips as well.


Step 2: Get your T1 personal income tax return

This is your tax form and as a new Canadian who is filing taxes for the first time, you must do so on paper rather than online. Go here and select the province or territory which you were a resident of as of December 31. Remember your tax year is previous to the year you actually file. For example, you filed your 2019 taxes in 2020.

Next click on the following links and download them:

  • Federal Income and Benefit Guide
  • Income Tax and Benefit Return (this is your T1 form)
  • Worksheet for the return
  • Print the PDF forms seeing you will have to mail your first tax return to CRA in paper format
  • You may have to download and print some of the Schedules listed next depending on your financial and personal situation.

You can also just click the button Order the 2019 Income Tax package when you first open the above link, before you click on a specific province or territory.

You can also order a copy of your tax package from the CRA by calling the following number:

1 – 855 – 330–3305.


Step 3: Complete your tax return

This involves doing 3 basic things:

  • Providing (and updating if necessary) your personal information and making sure it is accurate.
  • Reporting income from all sources – both inside and outside of Canada.
  • Claiming all deductions, tax credits, and/or expenses that you qualify for. This is why you keep all those receipts and slips.

Your tax guide you downloaded will help guide you line by line and the following year you’ll be eligible for NETFILE the online filing service run by CRA. Go here for the link but remember you can’t use NETFILE your first year filing taxes.


Step 4: Mail your return

There are several tax centres depending on where you live in Canada:

If you live in the following provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, or Yukon OR

If you live in the following areas of Ontario: Hamilton, Kitchener, Waterloo, London, Thunder Bay, or Windsor

Send your tax return to:

Winnipeg Tax Centre
Post Office Box 14001
Station Main
Winnipeg, MB R3C 3M3


If you live in the following provinces: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, or Prince Edward Island OR

If you live in the following areas of Ontario: Barrie, Bellville, Kingston, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, or Toronto OR

If you live in the following areas of Quebec: Montreal, Outaouais, or Sherbrooke

Send your tax return to:

Sudbury Tax Centre
1050 Notre Dame Avenue
Sudbury ON P3A 5C2


If you live anywhere else in Quebec

Mail your tax return to:

Jonquiere Tax Centre
2251 Rene Levesque Boulevard

Jonquiere, QC G7S 5J2


What happens after I file my taxes?

Because your first filing will be on paper you will have to wait about 8 weeks (2 months) before you receive what is called a Notice of Assessment (NOA). Remember when you fill out your form and file your taxes you will calculate an amount that is either a refund or what you owe the CRA and if you owe the CRA you should include a payment in that amount when you file your taxes in order to avoid late penalties.


How about my second year of filing taxes?

Now you’ll be eligible to file online and in preparation you should go here and open an account with the CRA. You should also use this NETFILE link to see how to file taxes online. It’s simpler and you get any refund you may be owing in a matter of days rather than weeks.

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