Family matters when it comes to taxes!

If you have a family, finding the time to file your income tax and benefit return can be a scheduling nightmare. Save yourself the headache (and possibly some money) this filing season by taking advantage of the electronic services the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) offers to easily claim the many credits and benefits available to families.

Start this tax-filing season off right by registering for the CRA’s secure My Account service—a one-stop shop for managing your tax and benefit information. Using My Account, you can track your return status, change your address, check your RRSP and TFSA limits, register for online mail, print proof of income, and so much more, all with a few clicks of a mouse. When you register for online mail we will no longer print and mail eligible correspondence. Instead, we will send you an email when there is mail to view in My Account.

Don’t let filing your taxes interrupt family game night. Beginning this year, if you file your return online, you can save time by using the CRA’s Auto-fill my return service, available through some certified tax preparation software. This secure service will automatically fill in certain parts of your income tax and benefit return. To use Auto-fill my return, you must complete your registration in full for My Account. For more information, go to www.cra.gc.ca/auto-fill. For a list of certified software packages, including some that are free, go to www.cra.gc.ca/netfilesoftware.

Familiesandtaxes

You can file your return online starting February 15, 2016—and if you’re getting a refund and are using direct deposit, you could see your money in your bank account in as little as eight business days! Direct deposit is a fast, convenient, reliable, and secure way to get your income tax refund and your credit and benefit payments directly paid into your account at a financial institution in Canada. Why wait? Sign up for direct deposit today.

Make sure your family has also applied to receive benefits which help with the cost of raising children under the age of 18. For more information on child and family benefits and credits, go to www.cra.gc.ca/benefits. If you’re not currently receiving Canada child and family benefits, you can apply online by using the “Apply for child benefits” service through My Account.

For the 2015 tax year, your family may also benefit from the family tax cut—a non-refundable tax credit of up to $2,000 available to eligible couples with a child under the age of 18.

Whether your child dreams of playing professional hockey, racing down the slopes on a snowboard, or performing for a famous ballet company, paying for lessons can be costly. Save your receipts to claim the children’s fitness tax credit. You can claim up to $1,000 of the fees you paid per child. Starting this year, the credit is refundable, meaning savings of up to $150 per child.

Is your child a budding artist or musician? If your child attends programs that contribute to his or her development, you may be eligible for a break at tax time. Tutoring also qualifies for this credit. The children’s arts tax credit is a non-refundable tax credit of up to $75 per child. Non‑refundable tax credits reduce your federal tax. If the total of your non‑refundable tax credits is more than your federal tax, you will not get a refund for the difference.

Don’t let the tax savings end here! Your family may also be able to claim the working income tax benefit, child care expenses, the family caregiver amount, and the child disability benefit. And, if you’re a first-time home buyer, you may be eligible to claim the first-time home buyers’ amount—a non-refundable tax credit of up to $750 for the purchase of a qualifying home.

The deadline to file most Canadian income tax and benefit returns for 2015 is April 30, 2016. However, since this date is a Saturday, the CRA will consider your return as filed on time and your payment to be made on time if it receives your submission or it is postmarked by midnight on May 2, 2016. Self-employed individuals and their spouses or common-law partners have until June 15, 2016, to file their income tax and benefit returns, but any balance owing is still due no later than May 2, 2016.

Using helpful online tools like videos and webinars, the CRA will walk you through the basics of completing your income tax and benefit return, making it easier than ever to file your taxes. If you need help filing your return and you have a modest income and a simple tax situation, contact the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, where community organizations host free volunteer tax clinics across the country. To find a clinic near you, go to www.cra.gc.ca/volunteer.

As tax season approaches, be cautious of phishing or other fraudulent scams that could lead to identity or financial theft. The CRA will not send an email with a link, ask for personal or financial information of any kind by email or text message, or ask for payments by prepaid credit card. Go to www.cra.gc.ca/fraudprevention for examples of current scams and for  information on how to detect and avoid them.  If you receive a call saying you owe money to the CRA you can check My Account to be sure.

With so many options available to guide you during this tax season, there’s no excuse to delay. To get started on your taxes, go to www.cra.gc.ca/getready.