A procrastinator’s guide to filing your taxes by the looming April 30th deadline: 1 in 5 still scrambling

H&RBlockOne in five Canadians are scrambling to make this year’s tax-filing deadline, which is now just four days away.

You probably don’t need this site to remind you that the deadline is midnight this Thursday: April 30, 2015 is the last day for most Canadians to file their 2014 tax returns. (The American tax-filing deadline of April 15th has already come and gone).

According to an H&R Block survey, Canadians are master procrastinators when it comes to taxes. And the tax preparation firm is offering a free online solution to those same procrastinating filers.

3% won’t make the deadline

The survey revealed that one in five Canadians say they file just in time, with 3% saying they miss the deadline altogether. Who are the worst offenders?

·         Canadians aged 35-54 procrastinate the most on taxes, with 29% saying they file just before or past the deadline.

·         Men put off their taxes slightly more than women (26% vs. 22%)

·         Only 18% overall say they file well in advance of the deadline.

Tax phobia is so acute that almost one in five would rather get a flu shot than file their own taxes, while almost 10% would rather sing karaoke in front of their boss. The survey suggests tax-filing-aversion may be hereditary, given that 72%  learn how to do their taxes from their parents. 

Sadly, many are unaware that if you owe the Canada Revenue Agency, you’ll be dinged penalties and interest for unpaid balances once May arrives. And the longer you wait, the more this liability will compound.

Even if you don’t think you owe money, it’s still a good idea to file this week. Those with very low incomes may even find that Ottawa will send you money after various tax credits and convoluted federal and provincial programs are factored in.

Good luck finding an accountant at this moment, which leaves local tax prep outlets or DIY online filing

why-tt-selection-ol6At this late date, I doubt many accountants will welcome another latecomer to their doors, though you never know. No doubt you can find willing local tax preparers at your local mall, or you could google them.

If you’re like the vast majority of citizens — salaried employees — meeting the tax deadline even now shouldn’t be too tough. If your main inputs are a few T-4 slips from an employer, RRSP receipts, charitable and political donation receipts, T-3 and T-5 slips from brokerage houses showing investment income and various tax-credit programs like transit receipts, most of the last-minute tax-filing operations should be able to handle it, at minimal cost.

But if your tax situation is this straightforward, you can just as easily do it yourself with the help of tax software.  Just about any online tax package should be able to do the job. Generally these can be “NetFiled” over the Internet. Better to file something and avoid the late-filing charge than to file late. If you’re going down to the wire, I would suggest, however, that you book most of Thursday off. Even the supposedly simple scenario described above seems to take hours to input, so complex has our tax-filing environment become.

Plenty of low-cost or free NetFile-compliant packages too

The CRA  lists Certified Software for the 2015 NetFile Program. You can also choose from a variety of NetFile certified software packages from the industry leader, Intuit Canada’s TurboTax. The cost for most of these programs tends to be between $20 and $40, depending on the complexity you’ll require, but they are usually free for students and those with low incomes. You can find “shrink-wrapped” software packages like UFile and TurboTax at most office-supply stores like Staples or Office Depot or places like Costco but you can find online “cloud-based” packages on the Internet. I find them more convenient, since you can access them on a variety of computers or often other devices like SmartPhones.

H&R Block’s suggestion for last-minute filers is its own H&R Block Online Tax Software created by tax professionals. It describes DIY filing as being “easy, convenient, and free.” Those three words should allay the anxiety of the most hardened tax-filing procrastinator. The software works online on any device (Mac or Windows, tablets, even Smartphones). Because it’s cloud-based you can start on one device, save your work and hours later access it again from another device in another location. 

H&R Block also says this will allay the fear factor since the software catches errors automatically and in any case is backed by a 100% Accuracy guarantee. The company’s Refund-O-Meter lets filers see their refund being calculated in real time. H&R Block offers a Maximum Refund Guarantee, and since there is no cost to use the software, filers keep their entire return.

The company also offers free  24/7 customer support and tax advice. You can find out more at www.hrblock.ca.

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