So you’ve filed your tax return only to find out later that you made an error on it and it needs to be changed.
The bad news is that you’ll need to fill out some paperwork to get the process started.
The good news is that the process itself is straight forward and you don’t need to be an accountant to make a simple change.
You can go back as far as 10 years to make changes to previously filed returns. This means that in 2014 you can make changes dating back to 2004.
How to Request a Change
If you missed claiming a deduction or credit on a previously filed tax return and need to go back and make a change, here are your options.
- Fill out a T1-ADJ form available on the CRA website. This form is fairly straight forward and details the change that needs to be made. You need to state the line item to be changed, the description, previous amount and new amount. Multiple changes per return are allowed but you will need a new form for each tax year. You’ll need to sign and mail this form (along with any documentation, receipts etc.) to your tax center – located on your Notice of Assessment
- Make the adjustment online through the CRA website. When you login you need to click on ‘My Account’ and then ‘Change My Return’. Note that you can only make changes to returns from the last two years using the online option.
Can I Get Money Back?
In some cases you can recover taxes paid in prior years.
Here are some examples of credits/deductions on prior year returns that could lead to a refund from prior years:
- Missed claiming safety deposit box costs for storing important investment documents
- Not recording any capital losses incurred in prior years
- Missed claiming real estate fees if you sold your home to move 40km or more to a new job
- Missed transfer of tuition credits to parents
- Missed medical expenses
Documentation is Important
Whenever you make a change to a prior year tax return, it is important you attach the required documentation as backup for the change you wish to make.
For example: for the inclusion of some previously unused tuition credits – be sure to include the original tax receipt(s). For medical expenses, include the original medical receipts with the form.
Related: How Does CRA Decide Who to Audit?
Whatever the change is you are looking to make – original documentation is required. Without it your request may be denied.
How Long Does it Take?
The time of year you file your adjustment request affects how long it will take. During tax season (February – April 30th) you will likely have to wait much longer than any other time of the year. This is because CRA is inundated with processing personal tax returns and is unlikely to look at any adjustment requests until after April 30th.
Requests made online will be processed faster (about 2 weeks) than those made through regular mail (about 8 weeks).
If your request is technical in nature or needs more review and analysis, this may also delay the request.
After the adjustment request is processed you will receive a Notice of Reassessment and a letter of explanation showing whether CRA agreed with your changes or not.
‘Normal Reassessment Period’
Technically the Income Tax Act states that CRA will reassess returns within 3 years from the date on your Notice of Assessment – the ‘normal reassessment period’.
The exception is that they will look at returns from up to 10 years ago and reassess (accept the change) assuming it would have been accepted if it was filed within the 3 year window. So essentially you can go back as far as 10 years to make changes.
Reassessments are at their discretion and they are not obligated to accept changes past 3 years, so it’s important to have as much as possible to backup your claim.
In my experience, CRA has always been willing to look at any prior year adjustment request as long as it is clearly explained, has the proper documentation (and is within 10 years).
Where To Get More Information
Click here to get more information about a prior year adjustment
Conclusion: depending on the change(s) made it may be worth your while to take a quick look at any prior year returns to see if there is money you can recover. Perhaps you missed claiming some deductions or credits. Filing out the short form could result in a refund from prior years. You can go back as far as 10 years and you don’t need to file another return for that year