How to File Your Tax Return in Canada

File your tax return in Canada

There are different ways to file your individual income tax and benefits return in Canada. If you have a basic income tax situation, then you may be able to file your taxes yourself. Otherwise, you can use an agent or a representative to file your taxes. There are six ways you can file your tax return in Canada, they include filing through:

  • a certified tax software,
  • an authorized representative,
  • a community volunteer tax clinic,
  • a discounter (tax preparer)
  • a paper tax return,
  • an automated phone line, or
  • a tax filing assistance from a CRA agent.

Certified Tax Software

You can file your tax return in Canada through an electronic filing method called the NETFILE. The NETFILE is an electronic tax-filing platform through which you can file your tax online. When you file your tax return in Canada through the NETFILE service, your tax information is sent directly to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Filing your individual tax and benefit return online is a faster and easier way to get your tax assessment and refund. Usually, you will not be required to submit tax documents and receipts when you file your tax online through NETFILE. However, it is recommended to keep your tax documents for up to six years in case the CRA requests them later.

When you file your tax with the NETFILE service, you will get notified immediately that the CRA has received your tax return. Additionally, online tax filing allows the CRA to process your tax return faster, you may get your assessment notice and tax refund as early as two weeks.

You can file your tax return in Canada using free or paid tax filing service providers on the NETFILE platform. Because these tax software organizations are third parties, you need to ensure that you are security conscious. Do not send sensitive and personal information directly to these organizations or via chats and emails.

Some restrictions apply in using NETFILE for filing personal taxes. For example, you may not be able to file your tax return in Canada if you are a non-resident or if you are filing a return for a year that is earlier than 2017. Also, exceptions may apply for Quebec residents, please visit Revenu Québec for more information on filing your taxes.

If you are restricted from filing your tax return in Canada through the NETFILE service, you will need to submit a paper form tax return.

Paper Tax Return

You can also file your tax return in Canada by filling out the tax paper forms and sending the complete tax package to the Canada Revenue Agency. The complete tax return package can be downloaded online or you can request to receive this by mail from the CRA. The tax package can be gotten from the CRA website and you will need to select the specific tax return package for the province where you reside.

Depending on where you live, the address to send your tax return will vary. The processing time for a tax return submitted by paper form may take longer than a tax return submitted inline through the NETFILE service.

An Authorized Representative

If you need help to file your tax return in Canada, you can use the services of a representative. Your representative can be a professional who works in the capacity of either a lawyer, an accountant, a bookkeeper, or an attorney. A friend, family member, or even your spouse can act as your representative and help you file your tax return in Canada.

Anyone you authorize to act as your representative will have access to your personal and tax information, they will be able to prepare and submit your tax return on your behalf to the Canadian government.

You can manage your tax representatives from your CRA My Account profile. Through your account, you can assign a representative, approve the request from a representative, monitor the activities of a representative, or cancel the services of a representative.

Your tax representative can not change your address in your account, and you can assign them two types of access:

Level 1: Access to get information only
Level 2: Access to request limited changes and get information

To give a representative authority to assess your tax information online, you can do this through your CRA My Account, or your representative can send a request via EFILE or Represent a Client.

The EFILE is similar to the NETFILE, however, it is used by certified tax preparation service providers to file tax returns in Canada. Through the EFILE service, your tax representative can file your current tax return, as well as your first three prior years’ income tax and benefit return.

You can also authorize a representative by mailing a form to the CRA, however, this only gives your representative access to your tax information through the phone, fax, by mail, or in person. They do not get online access to your tax information through this method.

A Discounter Tax Preparer

If you need to receive your tax refund money immediately, you can use the services of a discounter for a fee. A discounter is a tax preparer that helps you file your tax return and gives you part of your refund instantly. The part-refund that the discounter pays you is known as a discounted tax refund.

When the discounter files your income tax and benefit return with the Canada Revenue Agency, they will receive your assessment and refund (if any) from the CRA and withhold their fee.

Other Methods to File your Tax Return in Canada

If you have a simple tax situation, or you need free tax filing services, you can explore the community volunteer free clinics. These are generally organizations that provide tax filing services for free to individuals with low income or people who are newcomers, youths, refugees, indigenous people, seniors, persons with disabilities, etc.

You may be eligible to receive an invitation from the Canada Revenue Agency to get tax filing assistance through the phone. Generally, your eligibility depends on your income and if you have a simple tax situation. You will receive an invitation via your mail and your My Account profile. It is important to verify that you are speaking with a CRA agent to avoid being defrauded or scammed.

What Next After Filing Your Tax Return?

After the CRA has received your tax return, they will send a notification to your email contact address and to your CRA My Account profile. Depending on the method you used to file your tax return, the processing time can range from 2 weeks to 8 weeks. When your tax return has been assessed, the CRA will send you a notification with your tax refund or information about an amount owing where applicable.


To file your tax in Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency has provided various methods. Usually, the online method using NETFILE is easy and also the fastest means to get your tax refund. If you need assistance filing your tax return in Canada, you can get free services from volunteer tax clinics. You may also use the services of a tax preparer if you need a tax representative to help file your taxes.

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