Q: I always dread filing my taxes. I usually owe a few hundred dollars and struggle to find the money to pay the bill. What can you suggest?
A: Tempting as it may be, procrastinating will only make it worse. Filing late might mean that with interest and penalties, your balance owing is only that much more painful. While you are legally required to file an income-tax return, it's not illegal to owe the Canada Revenue Agency money. So let's deal with first things first.
Get your paperwork in order, research recent tax changes that could affect you and then either file your return yourself or hire someone to do it for you.
With the exception of self-employed people, tax returns must be filed on or before April 30 every year. CRA has helpful information on their website at www.cra-arc.gc.ca which can take the guesswork and stress out of completing your return yourself.
Once you've completed your return, consider what you can do now to avoid a bill next year. Can you ask your employer to deduct additional income tax from your pay cheques?
How about starting an RRSP or increasing your contributions to your RRSP? Not only will you reduce the taxes you pay, but you'll build your retirement savings.
Do you need to plan your donations or restructure your investments more beneficially?
Lastly, if you do get money back, consider how best to spend your refund. Top up an emergency savings account, pay down expensive credit-card debts or put it towards one of your other financial goals.
Seeking advice early on not only helps you feel more prepared, it also lets you plan ahead . . . about how you'll spend your refund!