Doing Your Taxes Doesn’t have to be Taxing

Tax word on wooden cubes, business and financial concept
 By Plan Institute and Disability Alliance BC

The process of filing taxes each year can seem confusing, time-consuming, and overly technical. However, the reality is that filing income taxes does not have to be a difficult or frustrating process.

Why should I submit a tax return?

A simple income tax return can be prepared and filed in 30-40 minutes. Even if your income is low or you don’t expect to qualify for any credits, it is worth submitting a tax return. Income taxes are used to determine eligibility for a range of government and non-government supports for people living with low or modest incomes including the GST credit, BC Sales Tax Credit, Child Tax Benefits, Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) Grants and Bonds, subsidized housing, Medical Services Plan Premium Assistance coverage, and more. 

The Canadian income tax deadline for the 2020 income year is set for April 30, 2021. However, your life will be much easier and less stressful if you beat the rush and file your taxes in February or March. If you are going to do it anyway why not get it out of the way sooner rather than later?

We’ve compiled some tips and resources to help you file your income taxes this year and hopefully make the process a little less taxing (pun intended). 

TIPS FOR AN EASIER TAX RETURN

Keep Receipts
Make sure to keep track of any income tax slips that are provided to you from employers, the government, or other places you got money from throughout the year. These slips contain the information you will need to prepare an accurate income tax return. If you received income that was not reported on an income tax slip you should keep track of it and find out whether it will need to be reported before you file. 

Make sure your address is up to date
If your address has changed, make sure you contact the Canada Revenue Agency to let them know so they can update your address. This will ensure that they send information to the right place. 

Sign up for direct deposit
Direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to receive money from the CRA. In order to limit potential exposure to COVID-19, the CRA recommends that taxpayers sign up for direct deposit. If you have a Canadian bank account you can sign up for direct deposit, and any funds owed to you will be directly deposited into your bank account without having to leave home. If you would like help setting this up you can contact your financial institution and they can walk you through it, or call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281. 

Check what you’re owed!

There are a number of financial benefits available, and taking the time to research all the benefits can be a worthwhile investment. You can also use the Government of Canada’s Benefits Finder tool to see what you may be eligible for: https://srv138.services.gc.ca/daf/s/b3194d6d-d687-481c-b356-dbe7f3a062a4?GoCTemplateCulture=en-CA

For example, for British Columbians who file their taxes, the money you receive from benefits will not usually affect your Persons With Disability (PWD) or Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers (PPMB) assistance cheque. While many people receiving PWD and PPMB will be eligible for these benefits, whether you receive them and the amount you receive will depend on your specific circumstances.

These benefits are listed below but can be viewed in more detail here.

  • GST/HST Credit
  • BC Low Income Climate Action Tax Credit (up to $115. 50 for families living on a low income)
  • PST Credit
  • Working Income Tax Benefit
  • Canada Child Tax Benefit
  • Registered Disability Savings Plan Grants and Bonds

Check what you owe!

Not all money you receive is taxable and similarly, the money you receive from tax credits is not always as simple as it seems. There may be impacts on your other payments for certain tax credits you receive, for example. It is always worth double-checking what you need to pay and how various tax benefits interact with one another. 

TAX SUPPORT

Free income tax clinics
The Canada Revenue Agency posts information about free income tax clinics offered by community organizations on their website. These clinics are for people with low-income and are often in high demand.  

CRA Persons with Disabilities Webinars
The Canada Revenue Agency hosts ongoing live and interactive webinars on the credits and benefits available to persons with disabilities. Click this link to view upcoming dates.

Online Programs
You can also try filing your income taxes yourself. There are a variety of free and paid computer programs that make preparing and filing your income taxes much simpler. We recommend trying SimpleTax, a by-donation tool that you can access over the internet. Or there’s TurboTax which is free for simple tax returns and is easy to use.

Helpsheets
Disability Alliance BC has a Help Sheet: Guide to Filing Income Taxes for People Receiving PWD/PPMB. If you are interested in filing an income tax return yourself but are not sure whether you will be comfortable we encourage you to give it a try. You can always decide mid-way through to get help from a community tax preparer or a professional tax preparer if it seems too complicated.

DABC Tax AID Program
The Tax Assistance and Information for People with Disabilities (Tax AID) program at Disability Alliance BC provides free help to people on provincial disability benefits (“PWD” and “PPMB”) to file their back taxes and access tax benefits. Most people receiving disability benefits get at least $400-$600 back when they file their taxes and some qualify for much more. To learn more about Tax AID DABC call us at 604-872-1278 or toll-free 1-800-663-1278.

Tax Support for Indigenous Persons
BC Aboriginal on Disability Society (BCANDS) has partnered with the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program in order to provide tax filing support for their clients through the Indigenous Registered Disability Savings Plan Navigation, and Disability Case Management programs. They can help you to complete your taxes going back to up to 10 years. Their services can be done virtually so there is no need to attend in person.

BCANDS also can act as legal representatives with CRA. This allows them to support clients in the following way:

  • Access benefits that can be backdated (CDB, CCB and GST).
  • Help with T1 adjustments in order to claim the DTC, CWB (WITB) and CCC.
  • Apply for interest relief on amounts owed to CRA
  • Support for clients who have been audited/reviewed for their benefits, such asCCB and CERB.

In order to access these services, complete a request for service by going to the following link: http://www.bcands.bc.ca/client-forms/bcands-client-service-request-form/

There are many benefits to income tax filing so we hope that these resources will assist you in the process and make it seem less daunting. If you have any questions or need support, Plan institute has a toll-free disability planning helpline that you can call anytime from anywhere in Canada: 1-844-311-7526 or email info@rdsp.com.

More Resources

Canada Revenue Agency