Is There a Penalty for Filing Taxes Late if You Owe Nothing?

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In Canada, there are no fees or penalties if you file your taxes late – as long as you don’t owe anything.

The main consequence of filing late when you owe nothing is a delay in receiving any returns you are owed. The CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) simply holds your refund until you do file. Filing late may also cause delays with spouses and common-law partners in which the calculation of a tax refund depends on information from your return.

Also, if you receive benefit payments, such as the Canada Child Tax Benefit or the Working Income Tax Benefit, your payments may be interrupted since your eligibility is determined by your reported income.

Alternatively, there are serious financial consequences to filing late, or not filing at all, if you owe money on your taxes.

Tax Filing Deadline

Canadian tax returns for any specific year must be filed by April 30th of the next year. The only exception are returns for self-employed individuals, who have until June 15th of the following year.

Late Filing Penalties

If you owe money on your tax return, and file late or not at all, the CRA will charge compound daily interest starting on May 1st on any unpaid amounts. This includes any unpaid amounts from previous years.

The penalty for late filing is 5% on the total amount owing plus 1% for each month the return is late up to 12 months.

For example, if you owe $10 000 and file your taxes 5 months late, the CRA will charge 5% interest on the owing amount plus an additional 5% (1% for each month late). This means you will ultimately owe $11 000 on your taxes.

Tax Payers Relief Provision

Life happens and filing previous tax returns, or paying any taxes owed, may be hindered by unfortunate life situations. The CRA administers legislation called the “Tax Payers Relief Provision” that gives the CRA discretion to:

  • cancel or waive penalties or interest,
  • accept late tax filing,
  • reduce the amount owed.

This provision can apply to taxpayers who have filed late due to extreme circumstances, the inability to pay or financial hardship. These exceptions are granted based on review of individual cases by a CRA agent.

This means that just because you are having a hard time filing or paying your taxes doesn’t mean you will automatically be granted this provision. You must prove your situation to the CRA.

What to do if Your Taxes are Late

Even if you’ve missed the filing deadlines, it is extremely important that you file your taxes anyway! Ignoring the problem does not make it go away and the sooner you file, the less you have to pay in interest penalties.

If you owe on your taxes but cannot pay by the due date, you can work out a payment arrangement with the CRA so that you can make smaller payments over time until your debt and interests are paid.

The CRA will grant a payment arrangement if you can show that you have tried to pay the debt by borrowing money or reducing your expenses. They may require proof of your income, expenses, assets and liabilities.

Should you miss a payment during the payment arrangement, the CRA may revoke the arrangement.

Have questions about filing your taxes late or on time? Contact us for more information!