Thursday, February 22, 2001
Income tax over the Internet
By Andrew Flynn --
The Canadian Press
TORONTO -The taxman cometh.|
Tax returns for 2000 are due April 30. For many, it is a time to sharpen the No. 2 pencils and get anxious. Others get on the Internet and take advantage of the speed and convenience of electronic tax filing.
Official government Web sites, accounting firms, the makers of do-it-yourself tax software and professional tax preparers can help smooth the process of getting the most out of your tax return. Once you're done, you can file your taxes online and get a return (if you have one coming) within about two weeks.
Last year - the first year the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency ( www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca) opened its NetFile system to the public - it got 443,000 submissions online.
About 16 million Canadians completed their annual income tax on the traditional paper forms last year and sent them in through the mail. But that is beginning to change, says agency spokeswoman Colette Gentes-Hawn. Along with those who used NetFile, 689,000 used the telephone-based TeleFile service (for information call 1-800-959-1114), which also promises to get a return processed in about two weeks.
"People who used it were very happy with the (online) service - it's a great way to get your refund in less than two weeks," she says. "Because it was the first year, we sort of held our breath a little bit through the whole season. But our NetFile stuff worked tops."
Filing over the Internet requires a software package, which can cost between $30 and $60. There are three available for use in Canada: Dr. Tax (www.ufile.ca), QuickTax (www.quicktax.ca) and Taxwiz (www.taxwiz.ca).
That might seem expensive, considering those who do their taxes on paper only have to pay for postage. But Gentes-Hawn says preparing taxes and filing them over the Internet can save time and generally produces a more accurate return - there is no need for a Revenue employee to manually input the figures from paper to the department's computers, reducing the chances of human error.
"There are huge benefits for everybody. For us to get a return electronically saves $2 - which doesn't sound like a lot," says Gentes-Hawn. "But when you consider that there are 22 million taxpayers out there, for every million returns we get electronically, we save $2 million."
Professional tax preparers have wholeheartedly gravitated to electronic filing, and at 5.8 million returns prepared, were the biggest group of electronic filers in the country.
Getting answers to many tax-related questions - and personal information about certain deductions and benefits - is also possible through Revenue Canada's site, by accessing the T.I.P.S. Online service (www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca/eservices/tipsonline).
Revenue Canada offers tax help via telephone, but does not operate an e-mail help service because specific tax advice tends to be too complicated, says Gentes-Hawn.
Commercial accounting firms such as Deloitte and Touche (www.deloitte.ca) often archive publicly available tax tips and guides like their TaxBreaks newsletter.
Accounting firm Ernst and Young (www.eycan.com) also offers tax tips in a biweekly feature. H&R Block, a commercial tax-preparing service, has some tax advice available on its site (www.hrblock.ca) and will answer specific tax questions for a fee.
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