About 23 million Canadians have income tax on their minds as the April 30 deadline fast approaches. Even those whose self-employed status allows them until June 15 to file an income tax return, focus on April 30 since they know that any money owning after this date carries interest charges.

Property owners anticipating a tax refund to pay down their mortgage or finance renovations and buyers eager to increase their down payment, are among the 9 million Canadians who filed by April 5 -- 1.4 million filing electronically using NETFILE.

If you file your income tax return electronically, you may get your refund within eight business days and you won't need to send any receipts along. By arranging direct deposit, you may get your refund even faster.

If you owe the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) (that's www.cra.gc.ca/tax or, through its formal name of Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency, www.ccra.ca), try not to increase your financial burden by filing late. The late penalty is 5 per cent of your 2003 balance owing plus 1 per cent of your balance owing for each full month that your tax return is late to a maximum of 12 months. If you paid a late-filing penalty for 2000, 2001 or 2002, the penalty goes up to 10 per cent of the 2003 balance, plus 2 per cent for each full month you're late up to 20 months. However, if circumstances beyond your control force you to file late, CRA may waive or cancel the late-filing penalty.

Real estate owners benefit from understanding how their properties may help them qualify for tax deductions. For instance, here are two real-estate-related tax tips:

  • If you have moved and are at least 40 kilometres closer to your new job or business, or if you are a student who is moving to study full time at an educational institution that offers post-secondary courses, you may be entitled to deduct your moving expenses, which could include the amount you pay for movers or rental vans, furniture storage, meals and lodging during the move, and the costs incurred to break your lease or sell your home.
  • Since buildings gradually wear out or become obsolete, you can deduct their cost over time, that is, take a deduction for capital cost allowance (CCA) over several years if you run a home-based business. Before claiming depreciation on your principal residence, ask your accountant or check with CRA to find out how this deduction may affect the tax-free status of your principal residence when you sell the property.

When you're searching government websites for tax-related information, keep these distinctions in mind:

  • The CRA administers tax laws so visit its website to find out what the current tax laws say and how they're interpreted and applied.
  • The Department of Finance Canada is responsible for federal tax policy and legislation so its site carries information about proposed changes to tax laws, proposed tax cuts or increases, studies about the effects of taxation and possible future tax policies.
  • The Minister of Finance and Parliament decide on tax amounts and how to calculate them. Details of legislation proposed or enacted during the current session are available on the Parliamentary website.
  • Tax legislation is also developed by individual provinces and territories.

If you are wondering about the status of your tax refund so you can move your real estate plans ahead, access this information through an online service called My Account. This is a quick, secure way to review your personal tax data, Canada Child Tax Benefit, GST credit, RRSP contributions and limits, repayments to the Home Buyers' Plan and payment status information whenever and wherever you want.

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