I Filed My Own Taxes In Ontario Last Year & Here's Why I Deeply Regretted It
Spoiler alert: I got audited...
This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
Tax season is here, which means it's time to sort out your finances because the government deadline is slowly approaching.
This is one of the moments in life where being an adult low-key sucks, especially as a twenty-something-year-old who doesn't want to spend money making someone else do a job that sounds like it should be quite straightforward.
As a Canadian who grew up in the Middle East, I didn't even know about tax season till I was in my early twenties. And back then, I never learned how to file my taxes either. All I did was visit an H&R Block and spend $50 per tax season.
One year, I realized that one of my friends filed her own taxes, so I gave her my documents while I ate a bag of chips and let her file them for me. It was a great deal, I bought dinner, and she did my taxes. Win-win.
However, adulting sucked the most when she decided to move away and I had to file my own taxes.
I thought I had everything figured out, but then I got audited by the government, which is when sh*t hit the fan.
Here are some things I wish I had done before filing my taxes.
After years of going to H&R Block and sitting with my supportive tax friend, I never bothered to pay attention.
I always told myself, "Mira, this is something you're going to have to learn one day," and followed that thought up with, "next year will be the day I pay attention." But, sooner than I knew it, it was too late.
Suddenly, paying $50 seemed expensive, thanks to inflation, and I had no other friends who did their own taxes nor wanted to do mine. So I thought, "Hey! Why don't I use UFile and hope for the best? After all, they do make it seem like it's an easy process."
It certainly was not, and I should've asked for help. Trying to understand what these words meant was quite overwhelming.
Even though the software had a great user experience, it means nothing when you don't know what you're doing.
Learn the math
Letter from Canada Revenue Agency.
Even though I loved math in high school, this kind of math requires a lot of preliminary knowledge and understanding in order to file your taxes correctly.
Not much changed between 2020 and 2021 for me, so instead of going through the hassle of actually doing the math, I just used my older tax forms and copied the same idea and numbers.
Yeah, don't do that.
I'm pretty sure that got me audited because things just didn't add up, I guess. Sorry?
Understand what an audit means
Mira messaging her tax friend on Whatsapp.
When I got an email from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) saying to check my account, I just thought the government was giving me money. So I ignored the email.
For days, I checked my bank account and found nothing. I also got more emails and thought it was a scam, so I ignored them.
But one day, I thought it might be best to check out my CRA account, and I found an urgent letter saying that I'd been audited and had to submit documents by the deadline.
Let's just say I called everyone I knew and freaked the heck out.
In the end, I just needed to prove a couple of things. So I contacted my landlord for pay slips and explained myself. But, initially, I straight-up thought I was going to jail.
The government website defines audit as "the CRA closely examines the books and records of a taxpayer to confirm whether they are fulfilling their tax obligations, following tax laws correctly, and receiving the benefits and refunds to which they are entitled."
In other words, "Audits are an important part of the CRA's range of activities aimed at making sure the tax system is fair for everyone."
Is it hard to do your own taxes in Canada?
I do think that filing your taxes is difficult, but it's not impossible.
I'll probably give it another try this tax season, but I'll make sure to read up on some definitions beforehand and actually ask for help when I need it this time.
Maybe paying an accountant to do the hard work is worth it after all, and filing taxes isn't for everyone — no judgment here.
But I recommend you ensure you have all your documents in line, read them through, and double-check your work before clicking submit.
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