Posted on: 22 March 2016
Auto-fill Your Taxes [Review]
After having a miserable go at taxes last year, I vowed to make this the best year yet. I had heard about a new feature called “auto-fill my taxes”.
So I signed up for an online account with the CRA.
The most difficult part of this whole process is the setup. There is a clear security/convenience trade-off going on in these steps.
In order to auto-fill your taxes, you first need an account with the CRA. So you need to navigate over to the “My Account for Individuals” page on the CRA’s website.
Now, there’s been an improvement from two years ago. You no longer are forced to create a CRA user ID and password. You can now sign in with your online banking information. This was great for me because I hate having to remember new account information.
You’ll also notice that the sign in partners are all in the same realm of security as the CRA. If the options on this page were sign in with Facebook or create an account, you can bet I’d be creating an account.
Once you select one of these options, you are asked four personal questions to determine your identity and you will probably need to dig up last year’s tax forms. Unfortunately, it doesn’t let you know this before you begin the process. After you supply all of your information, it’s time to wait.
You didn’t think you’d be able to create an account in one day, did you?
Again, the CRA does not make it clear that this process is unusually lengthy. When I tried to sign up for an account, I assumed that I would get one immediately. After all, every other account creation I’d ever done had been instantaneous. If you planned to auto-fill your taxes a few days before the tax deadline, you might end up with a nasty surprise instead.
After you submit all of your information, the CRA sends out a secret code to the address that they have on file as your address. Five to ten days later, you can complete your account creation.
Two years ago, I attempted to create an account but never finished the process. This was where I got stuck. I got the code, put it on my desk and never managed to put it in before the code expired.
The only thing motivating me at the time was the ability to change my address online. The effort required to create an account was not worth the benefit I was going to receive.
This lesson doesn’t just apply to the CRA. It applies anytime a service wants me to sign up. If you are forcing people to create an account, then you better have a lot to offer them. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be surprised if sign-ups aren’t high.
This year the CRA had a lot to offer me. They were offering to fill out some of my taxes so I didn’t let this letter didn’t sit on my desk for three months.
Once I put in my secret code, my account was officially created and I could just log in with my banking information anytime I wanted to access it.
Setup Score: 9/10
While there wasn’t a lot of work involved, the process felt long because of the wait time to get the letter in the mail.
- Ability to login with banking credentials
- Doesn’t take too long to fill out forms
- More secure
- You need to create this account several days before you want to use it
- You need to return to the setup page to complete the setup
- You aren’t informed of what is involved before you begin the process
Next I had to use a “NETFILE-certified software” that offers to auto-fill my return. Fortunately, my favourite tax program, Simple Tax, offers it. The CRA made it pretty clear on their website which NETFILE-certified software has this feature by offering a chart. They also nicely break it down into free products and ones you have to pay for. This chart is a substantial improvement from past years when no information was provided about each product and only the name was listed.
As I had previously filed with Simple Tax, I logged into my account. It didn’t take me long to notice the auto-fill option. There isn’t that much colour on the page so the the blue button stands out. The button also clearly labels what it does in case I don’t read the paragraph above it.
From here, all I did was login using my banking information again. Simple Tax was now ready to automatically fill out the tax information the CRA had on me.
My carry forward amounts from last year, such as tuition amounts, were populated, and my payment slips were added as well. So far, so good.
However, as I was looking through, I noticed that my T3 slips were not included in the form. The CRA warned me that some things might not be included, but T3 slips were supposed to be part of auto-fill. Something seemed to be amiss.
After some digging I found out that my T3 slips weren’t due to the CRA yet, so they simply might not have had them on file.
Checking back every now and then seemed like more of a hassle then simply typing the two forms in. So, I completed those myself.
The whole interaction would have been much better if I knew from the beginning when everything would be available. Then I would only go in once, click autofill, and be almost done.
Auto-Filling Score: 9/10
It worked well and all my information was correct, but the system wasn’t very clear about when information would be available to me.
- Saves you tedious work
- Fills in a large portion of your return
- Some of your information may be missing from the system
- You still have to fill in some information yourself (i.e. Rent)
To be perfectly honest, the first time you go through this process it doesn’t feel like you are saving any time. The time you save typing information is spent when you are setting up your CRA account. However, I went into the process with that in mind. My goal was to save time in future years, so that made me feel better.
Overall, I’d use it again. It saves me from making data entry errors and I’m able to spend less time checking the form.
Furthermore, I can finally change my address online.