Your taxes are done…now how do you file them?

Colourful image of 3 accountants

You’ve done it. The hardest part is over—you’ve finished your taxes. Now the only thing left to do is file them with the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA). So what’s the best way to do this? Don’t worry, we’ve got all your options laid out below to help you make an informed decision.

(Not quite ready to file yet? We’ve outlined what you need to start your tax preparation and get your books in order. Once you’re done, come back here when you’re ready.)

1. By Mail:

We know it’s 2018, but sending your tax return by mail is still a valid option. Some people prefer the familiarity of doing it the old-fashioned way, even though the CRA is actively recommending that people file online. Mailing in your return is now the only non-online option since the CRA discontinued filing by phone in 2013 (although certain people with low or fixed income are eligible for the new File My Return service this year). Note that processing by mail usually takes about 4-6 weeks, so be prepared for the longer wait time.

2. Online:

NETFILE

According to the CRA, more than 80% of Canadians filed their tax returns online last year. Using the NETFILE service, you’re able to securely submit your return online by using one of their certified programs. There’s the option to choose between several different free and paid tax programs, as well as options for using an iPad or smartphone.

There are some instances where you’re not able to file online. For example, you’re ineligible if it’s your first time filing with CRA and they don’t have your complete date of birth on record. You also won’t be able to file online if you went bankrupt in 2016 or 2017. Make sure you’re familiar with the full restrictions that apply, so you don’t get stuck halfway through and have to start over again.

After choosing one of the approved tax programs and submitting your return through NETFILE, you’ll receive a confirmation number from the CRA. Keep this on hand if they need to contact you to for any clarifications. You don’t typically need to provide any receipts or other supporting documents unless the CRA asks to see them. Processing usually takes about 2-3 weeks if everything runs smoothly.

EFILE

Despite their similar names, EFILE is a different online system used by professional tax preparers who file to the CRA on your behalf. You can’t file your own taxes like this online, however your accountant can—read more on this below.

Auto-fill your return

The Auto-fill feature can be used with NETFILE to automatically fill in certain fields of your tax return and save you some time. To take advantage of this you’ll need to be fully registered with My Account on the CRA website. Auto-fill is optional and only supported by certain programs, so be sure to check before you get started. As always, make sure you double check that all the information is correct to avoid further problems down the road.

3. Talk to an accountant

Every small business owner has a different relationship with their accountant. Some prefer to consult them on a regular and ongoing basis, while others seek them out only for the tougher tasks like filing taxes and/or getting audited. And some business owners prefer to just do their own research and find out what works for them.

Here at Wave, our goal is to make sure you have the best tools at your disposal to run your business better. And having an accountant weigh in on your books is definitely a valuable tool! But we’ll leave that decision up to you since you’re the one who knows your business best.

One thing to keep in mind is the difference between a normal accountant and a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).  A CPA has to pass a licensing exam and is required to keep up with current tax laws and regulations. Accountants are expected to follow specific guidelines as well, known as the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, however, they are not licensed.

Whether you go with an accountant or CPA, remember that you should already have your bookkeeping records in order before paying them a visit. It will make their job a lot easier, and since most of them charge by the hour, you’ll also save yourself a decent amount of money.

Lastly, remember what we said above about EFILE? Decide if you just want to consult an accountant, and then file for yourself, or if you want them to file on your behalf through EFILE on the CRA website. Your accountant will need to pass the suitability screening which can take up to 30 days, so don’t leave this to the last minute if you want them to file for you.


We hope you’re now feeling a bit more confident about how to file your taxes. It’s true that tax season can be stressful if you’re unprepared. But as you gain more knowledge and understanding about your finances, you’ll also benefit from better insights into running your business for the year ahead.

You’ve done it. The hardest part is over—you’ve finished your taxes. Now the only thing left to do is file them with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). So what’s the best way to do this? Don’t worry, we’ve got all your options laid out below to help you make an informed decision.

(Not quite ready to file yet? We’ve outlined what you need to start your tax preparation and get your books in order. Once you’re done, come back here when you’re ready.)

1. By Mail:

We know it’s 2018, but sending your tax return by mail is still a valid option. Some people prefer the familiarity of doing it the old-fashioned way, even though the IRS is actively recommending that people file online. And mailing in your return is now the only non-online option since the IRS discontinued filing by phone in 2005. Note that processing by mail usually takes about 4-6 weeks, so be prepared for the longer wait time.

2. Online:

e-File

According to the IRS, more than 85% of Americans filed their tax returns online last year. Using the e-File service, you’re able to securely submit your return online by using one of their certified programs. There’s the option to choose between several different free and paid tax programs, as well as options for using an iPad or smartphone.

After choosing one of the approved tax programs and submitting your return through e-File, the IRS needs to take time to validate if your information is accurate. You’ll be able to check on the status of your return by visiting the Where’s My Refund page on the IRS website.

There’s one more thing you’ll need to file online besides your actual tax return. If your business has employees or contract workers, you’ll need to file their W-2s and 1099 forms by January 31, 2018. Note that this deadline is a month earlier than it was last year. If you haven’t already done this, go online now and file the proper forms with the Social Security Administration.

Authorized IRS e-File Providers

It’s possible for an authorized tax preparer to file on your behalf using the online e-File system. Like everything else that the IRS oversees, there’s quite a lot of rules and regulations when someone else files for you—read more on this below.

3. Talk to an accountant

Every small business owner has a different relationship with their accountant. Some prefer to consult them on a regular and ongoing basis, while others seek them out only for the tougher tasks like filing taxes and/or getting audited. And some business owners prefer to just do their own research and find out what works for them.

Here at Wave, our goal is to make sure you have the best tools at your disposal to run your business better. And having an accountant weigh in on your books is definitely a valuable tool! But we’ll leave that decision up to you since you’re the one who knows your business best.

One thing to keep in mind is the difference between a normal accountant and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). A CPA has to pass a licensing exam and is required to keep up with current tax laws and regulations. Accountants are expected to follow specific guidelines as well, known as the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, however they are not licensed.

Whether you go with an accountant or CPA, remember that you should already have your bookkeeping records in order before paying them a visit. It will make their job a lot easier, and since most of them charge by the hour, you’ll also save yourself a decent amount of money.

Lastly, remember what we said above about authorized e-File providers? Decide if you just want to consult an accountant, and then file for yourself, or if you want them to file your taxes through e-File on the IRS website. Your accountant will need to pass a suitability check which can take up to 45 days, so don’t leave this to the last minute if you want them to file for you.

Both accountants and CPAs can file on your behalf in the US, however accountants are considered “unenrolled preparers” to the IRS. This means that if you get audited or need representation to the IRS, only a CPA would be able to act on your behalf. It may not be something that everyone needs to consider, but it’s worth mentioning in case you want to cover your bases.


We hope you’re now feeling a bit more secure about the decision on how to file your taxes. It’s true that tax season can be stressful if you’re unprepared. But as you gain more knowledge and understanding about your finances, you’ll also benefit from better insight into running your business for the year ahead.

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Max Schreiter
By Max Schreiter
Disclaimer

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.