Managing Your Tax Affairs Online

Managing tax affairs online

The majority of all financial or investment transaction can now be carried out online.  The shift to managing one’s financial matters online has extended to dealing with income tax matters, and that’s a trend which has been both aided and encouraged by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The CRA’s most notable success in encouraging Canadians into the online tax world has been in relation to the filing of the annual tax return. Motivated, perhaps, by the prospect of quicker processing turnaround and faster receipt of tax refunds, Canadians have taken to online filing of returns in droves. For the latest filing year, 2016, over 24 million individual income tax returns (or 86% of total returns filed) were filed using electronic methods.

Clearly most Canadians have embraced the fact that filing the annual return now requires a keyboard and mouse and not paper and pencil. The ability to file the annual return online is, however, only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to online services, as there is an enormously wide range of CRA services and personal tax information which can be accessed online.

The starting point for all such information and services is the CRA’s website. That website was for many years found at www.cra.gc.ca, but federal government websites were reorganized this year, and the CRA website is now subsumed with the general Government of Canada website, and found at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/taxes.html.

General (i.e., non-taxpayer specific) information is organized on that site within a number of subject categories, including income tax, goods and service tax and harmonized sales tax, savings and pension plans, payroll issues, and child and family benefits. A drop-down menu under each heading provides a listing of topics within each category and each of those in turn addresses specific questions related to that topic.

While a broad range of general tax information is available through the CRA site, dealing with one’s personal tax matters requires that a taxpayer register for the CRA’s My Account service. Using that service, it’s possible to carry just about any tax-related transaction and to obtain personal (i.e., taxpayer specific) information about one’s tax history and current tax status. As might be expected with a tool which provides such broad access to confidential tax information, there are extensive security measures which must be fulfilled in order to obtain such access.

The good news is that taxpayers who are already registered (i.e., have a user ID and password) for online banking services at a number of Canadian financial institutions can use that same ID and password for purposes of the CRA’s My Account. The current list of such Canadian financial institutions (known as “Sign-In Partners”) is as follows:

  • Affinity Credit Union
  • BMO Financial Group
  • CHOICE REWARDS MasterCard
  • CIBC Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
  • Desjardins Group
  • National Bank of Canada
  • RBC Royal Bank
  • Scotiabank
  • Tangerine
  • TD Bank Group

The process is a relatively straightforward one, although a bit time-consuming. Users log-in using the “Sign-in Partner” feature on the My Account website to start the registration process. They will then receive a CRA security code, usually by mail. The next time the individual signs into My Account, he or she will use that security code to complete registration for My Account and will then have full access to the My Account range of services. On subsequent log-ins, only the Sign-in Partner user ID and password will be required.

For those who don’t use online banking, or who bank with an institution that is not one of the Sign-In Partners, the process is much the same, except that it will be necessary to create a user ID and password, and to provide security questions and answers. That process starts on the My Account home page at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/cra-login-services/cra-user-password-help-faqs/registration-process-access-cra-login-services.html#hlp1.

Once on that page, registration is a two-step process, as follows:

Step 1 – Provide personal information

  • Enter your social insurance number.
  • Enter your date of birth.
  • Enter your current postal code.
  • Enter an amount you entered on one of your income tax and benefit returns. Have a copy of your returns handy. (The line amount requested will vary. It could be from the current tax year or the previous one.) To register, a return for one of these two years must have been filed and assessed.
  • Create a CRA user ID and password.
  • Create your security questions and answers. You can also decide if you want a persistent cookie added to your computer, so you can access CRA Login Services using that same computer later without being asked for more identification.

After step one of the registration process is completed, the taxpayer will have access to a limited amount of personal tax information on My Account. That information includes viewing the status (received/in process/assessed) of an already filed tax return, viewing Notices of Assessment or Reassessment, and finding out one’s registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or tax-free savings account (TFSA) contribution limits.

Once step one of the registration process is done, the CRA will send a security code to the taxpayer. Since the security code is sent by regular mail, a wait time of a few weeks is likely.

Step 2 – Enter the CRA security code

Once the security code is received, the taxpayer can access his or her account by returning to My Account for Individuals, selecting "CRA login," and entering his or her CRA user ID and password. The user will be prompted to enter the CRA security code, after which he or she will have full access to all My Account services. On the next and subsequent log-ins, only the CRA ID and password will be required.

The number and variety of tax services which are available through My Account number in the dozens: a full listing of the available services can be found at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-individuals/account-individuals/about-account.html. General information about My Account, including hours of service, is available at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-individuals/account-individuals.html.

The information presented is only of a general nature, may omit many details and special rules, is current only as of its published date, and accordingly cannot be regarded as legal or tax advice. Please contact our office for more information on this subject and how it pertains to your specific tax or financial situation.

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