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Abandon taxing paper route for this year's income tax net filing

By:     Kristin Goff
From: Vancouver Province, Business Section

Date: Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Processing tax return and refund cheque faster through NetFile

OTTAWA: The nine million Canadians who file their tax returns electronically last year represent only a modest step towards Canada Customs and Revenue Agency's ultimate goal.

CCRA hopes the proportion of us who use so-called "paperless" tax filing will grow from 40 per cent last year to 75 per cent I the not-too-distant future.

It's quickly ramping up its online offerings to encourage taxpayers to turn to the CCRA website to get information on taxes, to print out forms, send in changes of addresses and even track the progress of their tax return, and expected arrival of any tax refund.

There are also online calculators to help determine what, if any, GST tax credits or child tax benefits you may be eligible to get, and an "interactive information" service where certain personalized information can be found. The home page address is www.ccra.gc.ca.

It is not that CCRA intends to do away with the option of paper filing for those who want it, says spokesman Colette Gentes-Hawn. But electronic filing saves money – about $2 per return – because the information can be transferred directly in CCRA's system without have to re-key in any of the data.

Aside from that, it offers quicker assessments, faster processing of refunds, and convenience many people want, she says.

For all those reasons, CCRA is involved in a concerted effort to get more people to file by Internet or telephone and abandon the paper route.

One key component of online campaign won't arrive until after this year's April 30 tax filing deadline. By June (2003), CCRA intends to set up individual on-line account pages, call "My Account" for each of Canada's nearly 24 million tax-filers.

The password-protected accounts will show six year's worth of income-tax assessments, current RRSP contribution room and individual calculators for child tax, GST rebate and other benefits.

My Account will also let people submit changes to previous tax filings, something that can only be done now by paper filing.

There will also be more capabilities in the new individualized service, which will be announced later, Gentes-Hawn says.
Making more information accessible through the Internet is part of the federal government's broad on line initiative, which touches virtually every department.

But it also nearly dovetails with CCRA's hopes of convincing more Canadians to file online, since the more they see information on line, the more likely they are to ultimately use the system to file electronically.

What's stopping more Canadians from tax filing on-line? Software costs may be one issue. Although the government doesn't charge to submit your tax forms electronically, it does require that you use only CCRA-certified software to NetFile. That means, for most Canadians, there's a cost to purchase software.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Or the Canadian Credit Center offers an inexpensive Internet solution. For only $12.95 to efile the first tax return (and $7.95 for each family member's tax return thereafter), you can prepare and e-file directly to CCRA (formerly Revenue Canada). This saves you time (installing) and money (less expensive than software). Check it out for free now. You don't pay until you e-file.)

In Canada, CCRA certifies software (and on-line services such as Ufile) to ensure that it can provide secure transmission of data and meet its other requirements. But it doesn't dictate prices.

The five companies certified by the agency certified by the former RevCan agency all offer free software to certain groups – generally low income individuals, or those with simple returns, as long as they meet certain conditions.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Low-income taxpayers also qualify for free income tax preparation service. Canadians with taxable incomes of $20,000 or less do not pay to prepare or net-file their income tax returns through Canadian Credit Center.)

More information can be found at www.netfile.gc.ca.

Netfiling is NOT possible if …

• You are filing an amended tax return or a return for any year but 2002.

• You are in bankruptcy.

• You are filing a tax return for a deceased person.

• You are claiming a disability credit for the first time for yourself or a dependent, or claiming a transfer from your spouse.

• You are changing personal information such as your name, your address or requesting direct deposit of refunds.

• The browser on the computer sending the tax return lacks the required security capability. CCRA's test to allow people to test their browsers requires a mimnim 128-bit secure socket layer (SSL) encryption capability.


© Copyright 2003 Vancouver Province
Copyright © 2003 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest Global Communications Corp. All rights reserved.

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