Using the Internet for Tax Help

With the beauty of spring comes the beast of tax filing.  This is the time when everyone is forced to remember last year’s details, acknowledge how much or how little they made, and for an unfortunate few – receive a tax bill.

For those who use accountants and tax lawyers to decipher the Income Tax Act for them, the process of doing their tax return can be relatively painless.  However, for those who cannot afford such experts or whose problems are not worth spending the money on such experts, the task of making sense of the Income Tax Act can be quite daunting.

One of the best sources for tax information these days is the Internet.  With the availability of search engines like Google and Yahoo and the large amount of web content out in cyberspace, sometimes just typing your question into these sites can produce good sources to find answers to your questions.  If you find that you are getting too many ‘hits’, i.e. too many webpage choices, try using the ‘pages from Canada’ option to limit the responses you get.

If you find that the website search engines are not working for you, my next suggestion is to try specific websites of formal organizations (i.e. Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario - or websites for law firms and accounting firms in Ontario.  Often law firms and accounting firms, if they have a web presence, will provide tax tips or advice, and sometimes commentary on important tax cases that may answer your questions.

Last, but definitely not the least in helpfulness or content, is the Canada Revenue Agency’s (“CRA”) website -  The website not only provides administrative information that may prove useful to answering your questions, but it also contains technical interpretations on various sections of the Income Tax Act that might give you insight into how the Income Tax Act applies to your situation.  What makes this CRA website highly useful is that you can use it in conjunction with the CRA’s anonymous helpline (1-800-959-8281 for personal questions and 1-800-959-5525 for business questions) to quickly narrow down your online search as to what will assist you.

One thing to be aware of in all your research is that by law you are the one ultimately responsible for correctly calculating the amount of tax you should be paying.  Wrong information or bad advice from law firms, accounting firms, etc. does not change that responsibility – even if it comes from the CRA’s own website or helpline!  Right then, back to the beauty of spring.