Now that you’ve read the tax articles or possibly attended one of the tax clinics, you’re probably asking us – very enthusiastically, “How can I start doing my own taxes?” Fortunately, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s likely that you’ll spend more time gathering your tax forms and scouring the house for that one missing receipt than actually filing your return.

Here’s a step-by-step process to filling your taxes:

Now is the time to get online with CRA. By creating an online account, you’ll be able to monitor the status of your return, view your notice of assessment, gain access to various tax slips and much more. CRA also has a mobile version so your tax information can be accessed from anywhere. This process of registering and receiving a password takes a few weeks so don’t delay. In order to access the services of “My Account” you will need your:

  • Social Insurance Number
  • date of birth
  • current postal code
  • previous or current tax return that has been filed and assessed

Get started!

If you haven’t placed all your documents in a little handy dandy notebook, then it’s time to start looking. Here’s a checklist of documents that may be applicable to you. Your tax slips should be available in Mosaic under Student Centre under Finances and will appear in the drop down menu. You can access previous years slips in case you haven’t filed.

Tax Slips:

  • T4 (employment income and payroll deductions)
  • T4A (scholarships, bursaries or payments from a RESP)
  • T5 (investment income such as interest from bank accounts)
  • T2202A (tuition, education and textbook amounts)

Receipts:

  • RRSP contribution slips
  • Medical expenses
  • Transit pass (yes, your McMaster bus pass counts)
  • Charitable donations
  • Interest paid on your student loans
  • Child care expenses
  • Moving expenses
  • Rent or property taxes
  • Attendant expenses for persons with disabilities
  • Educational Assistance Payments (EAP portion of RESP withdrawals)

Other Documentation:

  • Last year’s notice of assessment or reassessment
  • Other CRA correspondence
  • Disability tax credit certificate

The tax slips and other important documentation will be mailed to you or you can access it on CRA’s My Account while the T2202A can be accessed on Mosaic. You’ll have to keep track of your own receipts however.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s make sure you’re eligible to file online. To start, the CRA simply needs a record of your date of birth. If you have a SIN and have worked in the past, generally that will be enough. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to call the CRA and confirm. You’ll have to submit a paper version for this tax year if you are not eligible for NETFILE. Access a complete list of eligibility requirements. Netfiling is now open for the 2016 Taxation Year.

Once you submit your first tax return, you’ll be eligible for NETFILE for the coming tax years. In addition, if you need to file taxes for any year prior to the 2013 tax year, you’ll need to submit a paper version. A few of the programs listed below have older versions that will allow you to enter your information electronically and then print it out for you to mail to the CRA.

There’s really no reason you shouldn’t file online. The entire process is quick, painless and secured. Not to mention you’ll be able to enjoy your tax refund in as little as eight business days. That’s much better than having to wait for 4-6 weeks if you decide to go the paper route.

When you decide to file your taxes online, there are dozens of programs out there that will do the job but it comes with a price tag. As a student, that’s just unacceptable. Luckily, there are several free programs that are certified by the CRA. Some have restrictions while some don’t. So, what’s the right program?

For the 2016 Tax Year:

Product name

Certified 2016 tax year Category Certified prior years Services
Available
H&R Block Online Tax Software (MR) Yes Online 2015 T1135 & Auto-fill
WebTax4U.ca Yes Online 2015, 2014, 2013 no dataT1135, Auto-fill & Express NOA
TurboTax Online (MR) Yes Online 2015, 2014, 2013 no dataT1135 & Auto-fill
Tax Chopper Online Yes Online 2015, 2014, 2013 no dataT1135 & Auto-fill
UFile ONLINE (MR) Yes Online 2015, 2014, 2013 no dataT1135 & Auto-fill
fastneasytax.com (MR) Online 2015, 2014, 2013 no data
TaxTron – Windows Yes

Desktop

2015, 2014, 2013 T1135 & Auto-fill
TurboTax – Windows (AT) Yes Desktop 2015, 2014, 2013 T1135 & Auto-fill
myTaxExpress – Windows Yes Desktop 2015, 2014, 2013 T1135 & Auto-fill
myTaxExpress – MAC Yes Desktop 2015, 2014 T1135 & Auto-fill
UFile for Windows Yes Desktop 2015, 2014, 2013 T1135 & Auto-fill
FutureTax – Windows Yes Desktop 2015, 2014, 2013 T1135
TaxFreeway for Windows Yes Desktop 2015, 2014, 2013 T1135 & Auto-fill
TaxFreeway for Mac Yes Desktop 2015, 2014, 2013 T1135 & Auto-fill
TaxFreeway for iPad Yes Mobile 2015, 2014, 2013 T1135 & Auto-fill
fastneasytax.com – iPad/iPhone Mobile 2015, 2014, 2013
fastneasytax.com – Android Mobile 2015, 2014
fastneasytax.com – Windows Mobile
Impôt Professionnel – Windows (FR) Desktop 2015, 2014, 2013
VirtualTax Desktop 2015, 2014 Auto-fill
TaxTron – Mac Yes Desktop 2015, 2014, 2013 T1135 & Auto-fill
EachTax.com Yes Online 2015, 2014, 2013 no dataT1135 & Auto-fill

These programs will do the job for zero cost. SimpleTax has the slight advantage compared to the other 4 since it’s more user-friendly and supports numerous devices. Regardless, all five of these programs are suitable for everyone, not just students. There are several drawbacks for the other “free” programs listed on the CRA website. For example, some programs are free to download but will ask for payment once you’re about to submit. Other programs may limit you to one return only or require you to have made a certain income. Once you access one of these programs, you’ll be asked which forms you have or what deductions you’re claiming. Just follow the on-screen instructions and input the right information and values.

Check accessiblity options for the software listed.

That’s it! If you’re filing a paper return, just print it out and attach any important documents or receipts. Here’s where you’ll need to send the return depending on where you currently live. If you used NETFILE, the program will submit your return to the CRA. Keep your important documents on hand just in case the CRA calls to confirm any information. Now just kick back and relax!

Tip:
Will you be getting a tax credit? Use this calculator to see what you could be getting back.