Doing Taxes – It’s a Dirty Job

homer

There are few things on this planet more confusing and divisive than taxes. In Canada alone, there are federal, provincial, and municipal taxes (municipality taxes are mainly limited to property taxes). Depending on the province you live in, your tax rate will vary. In fact, there are so many factors that ultimately influence what you pay in taxes that there are probably as many variations in tax returns as there are people; everyone’s different.

Taxes have been around for thousands of years and come in many colors and flavors. Tax laws and tax deductions (aka. tax breaks) change all the time. Every year governments across Canada adjust how different things are taxed. Tax deductions are generally meant to reward people doing what the sitting government thinks is good for the nation, things like taking transit, saving for retirement, renovating your home, giving to charity or a political party, living in the far north, paying for tuition or text books, putting your child in little league soccer, doing artistic activities, etc. All these are current federal tax deductions everyone is eligible for, in fact there are hundreds of tax deductions that offer something for everyone.

The onus to do taxes is completely on you. If you do not file your taxes and owe the government money, they will hunt you down. You will also be subject for any interest fees due for any delays in payment, or a fine, or jail time. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) takes this stuff very seriously and expects you to also take it seriously.

There are generally 2 ways to do taxes in Canada: get an accountant / tax adviser to do them for you, or do them yourself with software like ufile.ca or turbotax.ca. There are pros and cons to both, but no matter what you chose, make sure you have all your tax documents together. All your receipts you want to claim tax deductions for, all documents the CRA has sent you. For me, my taxes aren’t that complicated, I don’t claim that many things. But I can see things getting out of hand quickly if you are an average family of 4, run your own business, own your house and spend lots of money improving it.

If you don’t really have it in you to go through the complete list of federal tax deductions, I don’t blame you. If you think your taxes might be complicated, get an accountant to do your taxes for you.

Tax adviser pros:

  • The biggest advantage to a human tax adviser is that they are better at tying your personal situation to any tax deductions you are eligible for, but not aware of.
  • They are usually accessible. If you have any questions, you can call them up.
  • If there are any complications, they can help take care of them.

Tax adviser cons:

  • The only real drawback is that they are going to be more expensive than DIY tax software.

I used to think tax software was gangling and cumbersome. But I used turbotax.ca to file my taxes for the 2014 tax year, and was impressed with how intuitive it was, and how everything was broken down into small steps. The website was also good at suggesting tax deductions I may be eligible for. It reminded me of my TTC transit passes that I forgot to claim.

Tax software adviser pros:

  • Inexpensive. It cost me $35 to do taxes for both my wife and I (H&R Block has a website that will do it for free)
  • Easy and instant. See how each change affects your tax return amount.
  • Getting better at advising on potential tax deductions.

Tax software adviser cons:

  • Though they’ve come a long way in a short amount of time, the software isn’t yet smart enough to cater to everyone’s squeaky wheel, though they do have a 1-800 number for anyone looking for a helping hand.

Having a human tax adviser is great, they can take a lot of the stress out of doing taxes. But with the tax deadline only days away, if you haven’t found someone to do your taxes, try out turbotax.ca.

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