Deciphering the Notice of Assessment

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By the middle of May 2018, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had processed just over 26 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2017 tax year. Just over 14 million of those returns resulted in a refund to the taxpayer, 5.5 million required additional payment and about 4.4 million returns were “nil returns” where no tax was owing and no refunds were claimed, but the return was used to provide income information to determine eligibility for tax credit payments (like the federal Canada Child Benefit or the HST credit).

No matter what the outcome of the filing, all returns filed with and processed by the CRA have one thing in common: they result in the issuance of a Notice of Assessment (NOA) by the Agency, outlining income, deductions, credits and tax payable for the 2017 tax year, whether you will be receiving a refund or you have a balance owing. The amount of any refund or tax payable will appear in a box at the bottom of page 1, under the heading “Account Summary.”

On page 2 of the NOA, the CRA lists the most important figures resulting from their assessment, including your total income, net income, taxable income, total federal and provincial non-refundable tax credits, total income tax payable, total income tax withheld at source and the amount of any refund or balance owing. Page 2 also includes an explanation of any changes made by the CRA to your return during the assessment process and provides information on unused credits (like tuition and education credits) that you earned and can claim in future years.

On page 3 of the NOA, you will find information on your total RRSP contribution room (i.e., maximum allowable RRSP contribution) for 2018.

Finally, page 4 provides information on how to contact the CRA with questions about the information provided on the NOA, on how to change the return filed and on how to dispute the CRA’s assessment of the individual’s tax liability.

In a minority of cases, the information presented in the NOA will differ from what you provided on your return. Where that difference means an unanticipated refund, or a refund larger than the one expected, it’s a good day! If the NOA will swing the other way, that’s less good.

When that happens, you must figure out why, and to decide whether or not to dispute the CRA’s conclusions. In that case, your best bet is to consult a tax or accounting professional at Segal LLP.

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