For most people, doing taxes is like ripping off a Band-Aid. The sooner you’re done with it, the better.
Mistakes on your tax return, on the other hand, prolong the pain. In most cases, you won’t get audited because you checked the wrong box. But you might end up having to pay more tax than you expected or having to provide the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with more information, paperwork or receipts. And you could be denied tax credits and deductions you’re actually eligible for if you don’t claim them correctly.
So, with the filing deadline of April 30 fast approaching, here are some things to avoid, based on a list of common slip-ups provided by the CRA:
Getting creative with the ‘other deductions’ line of your tax return
After asking you about your income, your tax return will quiz you about a number of tax deductions you might be eligible for that will reduce your tax burn. Then there’s Line 232, called “other deductions.” The name is admittedly tantalizing, but this isn’t the CRA’s invitation to list whatever big expense you’ve incurred during the tax year.
“Various non-deductible items such as funeral expenses, wedding expenses, loans to family members, a loss on the sale of a home, and other similar amounts are sometimes claimed in error at this line and then disallowed,” according to the CRA.
Line 232 is a bit of a grab bag, but there’s a specific list of items Canadians are allowed to claim on it, said TurboTax expert Tatsiana Cherviakova.
WATCH: What you need to know for the 2018 tax season
Messing up education-related tax breaks
Education-related tax breaks are a minefield for the DIY tax filer.
There are three main types of tax credits students and their families can claim, each with their own intricate rules: the tuition tax credit and the so-called education and textbook amounts.
Let’s start with the tuition tax credit. Students over the age of 16 who are enrolled in post-secondary level courses can usually claim their tuition costs to help offset their tax bill. If they don’t have a lot of taxes to offset – which is often the case for students – they can pass on the credit to an eligible relative, which includes parents and grandparents. What trips up many people is that it’s the student who needs to claim the tax credit on her or his return, regardless of who will ultimately benefit from the tax break.
The same rule usually applies for the education and textbook amounts, but things are even more complicated for these two tax breaks. These allow students to lower their tax bill by set amounts to account for the cost of textbooks and other education expenses. Things, though, are extra tricky this year because the education and textbook amounts were discontinued at the federal level effective Jan. 1, 2017, but continue to exist at the provincial and territorial level in many cases, said Cherviakova.
But wait, it gets even worse. Some provinces – namely Saskatchewan and Ontario – got rid of their own education-related tax credits in the middle of the year, meaning students will only be able to claim those tax breaks for part of 2017, said Cherviakova.
WATCH: Here are eight things you need to know to get through tax season pain-free.
Playing hide-and-seek with the CRA
Make sure the CRA knows where to find you. If the agency asks you for more information after you’ve submitted your return and gets the silent treatment, it will deny or modify claims based on the information it has, which could result in a bigger tax bill.
It’s your job to let the CRA know when your address changes, so your mail isn’t misdirected.