February 22 marked the official launch of the 2021 tax season, and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) introduced several welcome measures aimed at ensuring an efficient and fair experience for taxpayers in light of an unprecedented 2020.
These measures include:
- Adding additional call centre agents and extending call hours at various locations across the country to increase call centre capacity and alleviate the significant wait times many Canadians are facing when calling the CRA;
- Providing targeted interest relief and more time and flexibility for Canadians to pay tax debts where they (i) received COVID-19 related income support benefits and (ii) earned taxable income of $75,000 or less in 2020;
- Making the deduction for home office expenses more accessible and easier to claim for employees that worked from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Offering small business owners and self-employed individuals the opportunity for virtual visits by phone or videoconference with a CRA Liaison Officer to help them understand their tax obligations;
- Providing additional support to community organizations that offer free virtual tax help for individuals with modest income through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP); and
- Starting a new pilot program that offers grants to CVITP and Income Tax Assistance Volunteer Program clinics to assist with the costs of running these community tax clinics.
The CRA continues to encourage online filing of tax returns, as it is the most efficient and secure way to file taxes. While support will continue to be provided for those who choose to paper file their returns, the CRA may take 10 to 12 weeks to process paper returns this year due to COVID-19.
With last year’s security breaches in mind, the CRA is urging Canadians to call the CRA if they suspect that they have been the victim of identity theft or fraud so that they can validate their account and discuss additional security measures.
These measures suggest that the CRA is attempting to enhance their service offerings rather than extending deadlines for filing tax returns. Currently, the CRA has not announced extensions to tax filing deadlines, so the T1 filing deadlines remain unchanged. Each individual should plan to file his or her T1 return by April 30, 2021 unless the individual or the individual’s spouse is self-employed, in which case the T1 return is due by June 15, 2021, although any tax owing must be paid by April 30, 2021.