Taxman’s electronic service is a useful resource

Anyone who has tried calling the Canada Revenue Agency at tax time has likely found it can be an exercise in futility.

So you will appreciate a new CRA electronic service which allows taxpayers to take care of some of their business on their own and without frustrating delays.

The CRA’s E-Services is similar to an automatic teller machine – the idea being why wait in line to speak to someone when you can do most transactions so much quicker yourself?

E-Services allows you to check the status of your tax refund and RRSP limit, track some of the tax benefits you may be receiving, look at GST payments, make changes to your tax return and update your mailing address.

In order for you to take advantage of the various E-Services you will first have to obtain an e-Pass through the Canada Revenue Agency website (www.cra-arc.gc.ca).  By clicking on epass services you will be directed to further screens that are easy to navigate.

For My Account for individuals or My Business Account you will need to complete three steps to register for a Government of Canada epass to authenticate yourself with the CRA.  There are three steps:

■Authenticate with the CRA:  You will need to provide the following personal information to authenticate yourself with the CRA – social insurance number; date of birth; the amount calculated and reported at line 150 (Total Income) of your 2005 or 2006 filed and assessed income tax return; and your current postal code

■ Register for an epass:  Once you have entered your personal authentication information with the CRA, you will need to create an epass User ID and Password, and select and answer three questions.

■ Receive and enter the CRA Security Code:  The CRA will mail you a CRA Security Code within approximately five business days.

Once you have an epass you will also have the ability to check your list of authorized representatives on-line.  These are individuals that you wish to have some form of access to your tax information.  You may find over the years that you have representatives, such as a professional accountant, that you no longer use.  This may have occurred as a result of you signing CRA form T1013 “Authorizing or Cancelling a Representative.”  We recommend that you cancel anyone you no longer wish to have access.

Epass also allows you to appoint one or more authorized representatives, provided they have a representative code.  Prior to appointing a representative you should obtain an understanding of Level 1 or Level 2 authorization.

Level 1 authorization allows CRA to disclose the following to your representative:

  • Iinformation given on your tax return;
  • Adjustments to your tax return
  • Information about your registered retirement savings plan
  • Home Buyers Plan and Lifelong Learning Plan
  • Accounting information, including balances, payment on filing, and installments or transfers
  • Information about your benefits and credits (Canada Child Tax Benefit, Universal Child Care Benefits, goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax credit); and
  • Your marital status (but not information related to your spouse or common-law partner).

Level 2 provides your representative the ability to obtain all of the information listed in Level 1.  In addition, a Level 2 authorized representative may ask for changes to your account. Such changes include:

  • Adjustments to income, deductions, and non-refundable tax credits; and
  • Accounting transfers.

Chances are your accountant is the only person you should appoint under Level 2 authorization.  Level 1 should be sufficient to keep your investment advisor informed.   An investment advisor that has Level 1 access should no longer need to ask you to bring in your annual tax returns and applicable notices of assessments.

An investment advisor should be in a better position to provide investment and tax minimization strategies knowing your complete picture.  Income splitting opportunities for couples may be easier to analyze.  Electronic access to carry forward information and RRSP contribution room will enable your advisor to work for you regardless of how busy you may be.  Electronic access should reduce errors and any confusion that verbal communication may create.

You will find several personal benefits for going through the above steps.  You will be able to access all of your historical tax information without digging through boxes.  Possibly you will feel better about getting rid of some of those really old files.  You will also be able to access current information likely before you would have received it by regular mail.  Most importantly, your advisor should be in a better position to provide you with some proactive ideas.