News & Resources

How to File Your Taxes Without a T4 or When You're Self-Employed

March 6, 20
5 mins
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For some Canadians, tax season is a breeze, especially if you only have one T4 slip to submit. For others, tax season can be an added stress to an already busy schedule. Here is some information to help you with common tax-time problems that will (hopefully) make this year a bit more stress-free.

What to Do If You’re Missing Information

No one is perfect, and losing a piece of paper, such as a T4 slip, is pretty easy. Rest assured, all hope is not lost, and there is a way to recover your information.

If you’re unsure, a T4 is a tax slip that indicates how much you were paid before deductions by an employer, in addition to your CPP, QPP, EI contributions as well as other amounts deducted from your paycheque during the tax year. No matter if you’re a salaried or hourly-paid employee, each employer should give you a T4 if you have worked for them within the last tax year. Depending on how many companies you worked for, you may have multiple T4s that you’ll need to rely on to file your tax return.

Employers are regulated to send out T4s by February 29, 2020, at the latest. Even if you’re not with the same employer, they are still obligated to send you a T4. But sometimes addresses and contact information change, things slip through the cracks, and you’re stuck without a T4 as the tax deadline looms.

Luckily, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) now features a service called My Account Online that allows you to access slips that have been processed. You can also check if there are balances you can forward from the year before, such as tuition credits, and your RRSP contribution limits.

Only some of your slips may be available online, but you can also give the CRA a call at 1-800-959-8281 for more information. When you call, make sure you have last year’s return and personal information on hand because they’ll need to verify your account. You’ll also need these details when you initially set up your online account.

When you know you’re going to be filing expenses on your return, keep track of them throughout the year and keep all of your receipts. If you can’t find all of your information, you can always file an adjustment later on, or claim it on next year’s return.

If worse comes to worst and you can’t find your T4, and it has not been processed by the CRA, you can also use old paystubs to figure out prorated figures for the year. The CRA will review your return, so it’s important to file your return on time and make adjustments later.

Filing Taxes If You’re Self-employed

The best advice you can follow if you’re self-employed is to keep track of everything, including income and expenses, throughout the year. Log all your business receipts with accounting software and keep them for at least six years, in case the CRA audits you. It’s best to keep your personal and business affairs separate. Experts recommend keeping two separate banking accounts – so you can easily follow your cash flow. Using an Excel sheet can make it simple for you to calculate how much you owe in income taxes and HST each month.

When it comes to filing business expenses, be reasonable. CRA will consider items that are essential to your company as reasonable expenses, including business meeting lunches and company car use. If you are uncertain, check with CRA or an accountant.

If you’re self-employed, you’re responsible for deducting your income tax. It’s easiest to pay every month to avoid the huge bill at the end of the financial year. The same goes for HST if you’re collecting it. You only have to file an HST and income tax return once a year (unless you’re making $1.5 million or more per year).

When to Call in Extra Help

Some people are simply old pros when it comes to filing their taxes. But, if you just don’t have the time to figure everything out, there’s no harm in calling in reinforcements.

Online NETFILE-certified programs can make filing your return quick and easy. Or, if your taxes are really complicated, you can hire an accountant. An accountant may be able to suggest other expenses you can claim on your return, which is why it’s important to save all of your receipts.

If an accountant isn’t in the budget, and you also don’t want to file online, many communities offer no-charge tax return consulting sessions. Some schools and community centres may even offer simple tax help. Happy filing, and don’t forget the deadline to file your taxes this year is April 30, 2020!

*The CRA has extended the 2019 tax deadline to June 1, 2020, for individuals and certain trusts. 

This post has been updated.

Patrick Faller

Patrick is a writer, creative media producer, and award-winning journalist with a love of technology, the arts, and design. He’s passionate about consumer affairs and helping Canadians make the best possible choices when it comes to their finances. You can find him on social media @patfaller.

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