Paying the taxman – when and how (April 2021)
Our tax system is, for the most part, a mystery to individual Canadians. The rules surrounding income tax are complicated and it can seem that for every rule there is an equal number of exceptions or qualifications. There is, however, one rule which applies to every individual taxpayer in Canada, regardless of location, income, or circumstances, and of which most Canadians are aware. That rule is that income tax owed for a year must be paid, in full, on or before April 30 of the following year. This year, that means that individual income taxes owed for 2020 must be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on or before Friday, April 30, 2021. No exceptions and, absent extraordinary circumstances, no extensions.
It is very much in the CRA’s interest to make paying taxes as simple and as straightforward as it can be and so the Agency offers individual taxpayers a wide range of choices when it comes making that payment. There are, in fact, no fewer than eight separate options available to individual residents of Canada in paying their taxes for the 2020 tax year. The first five options outlined below involve payment by electronic means, while the last three describe those available to taxpayers who would prefer to make their payments in person, or by sending a cheque to the CRA.
Pay Using Online Banking
Millions of Canadians transact most or all of their banking using the online services of their particular financial institution. The list of financial institutions through which a payment can be made to the CRA is a lengthy one (available at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/about-canada-revenue-agency-cra/pay-online-banking.html), and includes all of Canada’s major banks and credit unions.
The specific steps involved in making that payment will differ slightly for each financial institution, depending on how their online payment systems are configured. What’s important to remember is that the nature of the payment (i.e. current year tax return, as distinct from current year tax instalment payments) must be specified, and the taxpayer’s social insurance number must be provided, in order to ensure that the payment is credited to the correct account, for the correct taxation year.
It is not necessary to access any particular CRA form in order to make an online payment of taxes through one’s financial institution.
Using the CRA’s My Payment
The CRA also provides an online payment service called My Payment. There is no fee charged for the service, and it’s not necessary to be registered for any of the CRA’s other online services in order to use My Payment.
What is necessary is that the taxpayer have a debit card with a VISA Debit, Debit MasterCard, or Interac logo from a participating Canadian financial institution, as My Payment is set up to accept payment using only those cards. Anyone intending to use My Payment should also confirm that the amount of any payment to be made is within the daily or weekly transaction limits imposed by the particular financial institution.
A list of participating financial institutions for each type of card, and more details on this payment method can be found at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/payment-save-time-pay-online.html.
Payment by credit card, PayPal, or Interac e-transfer
While it’s possible to pay one’s taxes using a credit card, PayPal, or Interac e-transfer, such payments can only be made through third-party service providers (that is, payments by those methods cannot be made directly to the CRA), and such third party service providers will impose a fee for the service.
There are only two such service providers — Pay Simply and Plastique — listed on the CRA website, and links to each such service are available at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/about-canada-revenue-agency-cra/pay-credit-card.html.
Payment through a service provider
There are a number of third-party service providers which will accept payments and remit them on the taxpayer’s behalf to the CRA. However, the majority of such services are more oriented toward providing services to businesses, and most of those listed on the CRA website do not handle payments of individual income tax amounts owed.
The full listing of third-party service providers, and the types of payments they handle, can be found on the CRA website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/about-canada-revenue-agency-cra/pay-a-service-provider.html.
Payment by pre-authorized debit
It’s possible to set up a pre-authorized debit (PAD) arrangement with the CRA, authorizing them to debit the account for an amount of taxes owed, on dates specified by the taxpayer. Individuals who make instalment payments of tax throughout the year may already have such an arrangement in place and can certainly use that existing arrangement to arrange a PAD of any balance of taxes owed for the 2020 tax year. However, any such arrangement must be made at least five business days before the payment due date of April 30. A taxpayer who makes a payment of taxes only once a year is likely better off using another of the available payment methods.
There is also another option for taxpayers who have their return prepared and E-FILED by an authorized electronic filer. Such taxpayers can have that E-FILER set up a PAD agreement on their behalf in order to make a “one-time” payment for a current year tax amount owed. Such an arrangement is only for the payment of a current-year tax balance, and can’t be used for other payments like instalment payments of tax. Details on how to set up a pre-authorized debit arrangement, whether for a single payment or for recurring payments, are outlined on the CRA website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/about-canada-revenue-agency-cra/pay-authorized-debit.html.
Paying in person at your financial institution
For those who don’t use online banking, or simply prefer to make a payment in person, it’s possible to pay a tax amount owed at the bank. Doing so, however, requires that the taxpayer have a specific remittance form.
If the taxpayer has not received the required remittance from the CRA, it is possible to download and print that form from the CRA website. Instructions on how to do so can be found on that website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/request-payment-forms-remittance-vouchers.html.
Paying at a Canada Post outlet
All Canada Post outlets can receive payments of individual income tax balances owed, in cash or by debit card. Once again, however, it is necessary to have a specific form to do so. In this case, the taxpayer must have a QR code which contains the information needed for the CRA to credit the amount paid to the taxpayer’s account.
While a QR code is sometimes included on remittance forms sent to the taxpayer by the CRA, it’s also possible to generate a QR code online, through the CRA website. The link to do so can be found on that website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/corporate/about-canada-revenue-agency-cra/pay-canada-post.html.
Paying by Cheque
While it’s not common anymore, it’s still possible to pay any tax balance owed on filing by cheque, as outlined on the CRA website at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/about-canada-revenue-agency-cra/pay-cheque.html.
Such cheques are made payable to the Receiver-General of Canada, and are mailed, together with the required remittance form, to the CRA, using the address found on the back of the payment remittance form. As is the case with payments made at a financial institution, the taxpayer can print such a remittance form from the CRA’s website. Instructions on how to do so can be found at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/request-payment-forms-remittance-vouchers.html.
The CRA also suggests that, where payment of taxes owing is made by cheque, the taxpayer should include his or her social insurance number on the memo line found on the front of the cheque. Doing so will help ensure that the payment is credited to the correct account. It’s important for all taxpayers to realize that, whatever form of payment is used, the payment deadline of April 30 requires that the CRA receive payment by that date. The CRA considers that a payment has been made only when it actually receives that payment, or the payment is received by a member of the Canadian Payments Association (which would include most Canadian financial institutions).
The majority of payment options now available to Canadians involve online transactions or the use of third party service providers. Both such methods can mean some delay in receipt of the payment by the CRA, as a result of the time required for processing of the payment by the financial institution or third party. Consequently, taxpayers who make their tax payments online or using a third party service provider are well advised to consider that time lag in deciding when to make their payment – waiting until April 30, especially late in the day, to do so isn’t a good idea.
Those who make their payment in person at a financial institution (using a remittance form, as outlined above) can make their payment on April 30, as the date stamped on the remittance form is considered to be the date on which such payment is received by the CRA.