Kudos to CRA's clarity

CRA is getting clearer!

April 8, 2016

Before I get into a few vital tax tips for you, I have to single out CRA – yes, the Canada Revenue Agency – for some serious kudos.

The good folks at CRA have just launched publicly the results of a years-long project to communicate with us more clearly. And it works!

Expect your next correspondence from CRA to be distinguished by two things. One will be an insert called “Everything Just Got Clearer”.

The other distinguishing characteristic will be that the accompanying communique on your tax situation will, indeed, be much clearer:

- Cleaner font and layout;

- More white space;

- Easier to read;

- A clear statement of what you have to do

– pay, provide more info or look for a cheque in the mail.

I saw one of the first of these new mailings this week while helping some elderly clients organize their tax information. A new CRA Notice of Reassessment arrived in their mail box while I was there. The Notice was shockingly easy to understand.

My excitement took me to the CRA website, under “noticesandletters”, to confirm my hope that this year’s regular Notices of Assessment will share this new format.

YES, they will!!

This new clarity should make our tax lives much easier going forward. Let’s give full credit to the people behind this, and the hundreds of CRA workers who must have been involved and truly worked together to succeed with such a huge initiative.

It is now April 8, and in the past week you should have finally received the last of your recalcitrant T3s, T5013s and a few other items that are issued by investment vehicles that are trusts or limited partnerships. These entities are allowed 90 days after year end to send out their slips, which is why they arrive long after your T4s and T5s.

In our last column, we suggested that you compare your slips to your 2014 tax mailings to see if you have everything. We also suggested that you register at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/esrvc-srvce/tx/psssrvcs/rgstrtn-eng.html so that you can get all of your CRA info online.

It is a bit of a process to register, as CRA is naturally very careful about security. After you provide your identification info, including the amount on line 120 of your 2014 return, you will have to wait a week until they mail you a security code.

This access is valuable, though, as it includes a listing of all of the tax slips that have been sent to CRA by your issuers, so you can truly see if anything is missing, and actually get the information you need for completion of your return.

However, last weekend I discovered that the T5013 info I needed was NOT there. At deadline time yesterday, I was not able to confirm if this was just a delay, or if these slips are not part of the program. That would be a serious oversight.

Another trick is that some issuers group their T5 or T3 information, while CRA may expect this to be reported separately.

For example, if you have three mutual funds with one fund company, you might receive a T5 or T3 with the boxes filled in showing the totals for the three funds. The amounts attributable to each individual fund will be shown separately in another space.

From my reassessment last year, it appears CRA tries to match up the individual amounts, and the amalgamated totals do not correspond with their information. Hopefully, they will be clearer this year on their matching program, as well.

Now, please don’t leave that return till the last minute, which this year is actually May 2. I vow to have mine filed this weekend!

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Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.

Please consult legal, tax, insurance and investment experts for advice on your unique situation.

David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIM is a financial planner and advisor with Christianson Wealth Advisors, a Vice President with National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.