How to File Previous Years Tax Returns In Canada

The information you need to know on filing past tax returns. Canada Revenue Agency may allow you to file a prior year return, depending on your situation.

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Information on How to File Previous Years Tax Returns in Canada


For one reason or another, you may not have filed you tax returns when you were supposed to. You may have forgotten, you may not have realized that you needed to file a return, or you may have intentionally not filed a return. For whatever reason, you might now be looking for a how to file previous years tax returns in Canada.

The good news is that there is a way that filing past tax returns in Canada is possible. However, how you go about dealing with this situation will depend on your particular circumstances. If you believe that you will owe money to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) when you file your returns, it is best that you file them sooner rather than later. The CRA charges sizeable penalties and interest charges on unpaid tax debt, so the longer you wait to file your taxes, the more you will owe when you finally do. Do not assume that just because the CRA hasn’t contacted you about your previous year tax returns yet that they will forget about you. They won’t. Eventually the CRA will come to collect.

If you do not believe that you will owe money, you’ll still want to file your previous year returns. After all, you might be entitled to a refund! If you are thinking of filing past year tax returns Canada Revenue Agency has a program that may help you. It is called the Voluntary Disclosure Program.


The CRA Voluntary Disclosure Program


The CRA’s Voluntary Disclose Program (VDP) is designed as a “second chance” to correct previous tax returns that have already been filed or for filing past tax returns. Canada Revenue Agency may give you relief from prosecution and penalties if you file your previous year tax returns through this program. While you can file through the VDP yourself, there are certain conditions that must apply:

  • The disclosure must be voluntary.
    • This means that you must file before the CRA contacts you regarding previous year returns. If you have already been contacted by the CRA about taxes owing or previous year returns, or if the CRA has already taken compliance action against you, then the VDP does not apply to you.
  • A penalty must apply
    • If you owe money on previous years tax returns, or if you owe late filing penalties, late remitting penalties, or any other penalties, then the VDP will work for you. If you do not owe the CRA money, then you do not need to file your returns through the VDP. However, you should still file your tax returns. After all, if you don’t owe money, there’s a chance that the CRA owes you money, and you’ll need to file to get it.
  • You include all relevant information
    • When you file previous years tax returns through the Voluntary Disclosure Program, you need to make sure that all returns are 100% complete and accurate to the best of your knowledge. All information must be disclosed and all outstanding years must be filed.
  • The information is at least a year overdue
    • If your returns are less than a year overdue, then the VDP does not apply to you.

If you use the Voluntary Disclosure Program for filing past tax returns, Canada Revenue Agency may only charge you the money that you owe on your taxes plus interest. This means that you can save paying penalties and other charges by using this program. The VDP is open to individuals and businesses, whether you are a resident or non-resident of Canada.


How to File Previous Years Tax Returns Canada If You Do Not Owe Money


As mentioned, if you do not owe money on your taxes, you should still file. You may be entitled to a refund or credit. If you believe that you are in this situation, contact the CRA and let them know. They may be able to provide you with assistance.


If the CRA Contacts You About Previous Year Tax Returns


If the CRA contacts you stating that you owe money and/or regarding previous tax returns, then you will want to speak with a tax professional right away. Dealing with the CRA can be very difficult and, if you owe money, the CRA will not be very accommodating. Contact a member of our team right away to find out how to file previous years tax returns Canada Revenue Agency is asking for and how to handle communication with the CRA going forward.

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