All you need to know about your Notice of Assessment.

January 13, 2017

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You’ve organized your paperwork, done all your calculations and filed your taxes on time like a boss. With all that heavy lifting behind you, it might seem like this year’s taxes are all wrapped up. But before you file those papers away, make sure you’ve received your Notice of Assessment (NOA) back from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

What is my NOA and why do I need it?

Whether you filed your taxes with help at H&R Block, used an accountant or did them yourself online, you should always receive a Notice of Assessment (NOA) from the CRA. When they get your tax return, they’ll review or “assess” your numbers, then send you back this paper that lets you know they’ve received it.

Your NOA explains how the CRA calculated your return, and it’s handy for lots of reasons. Mostly because it includes the amount of your refund, or if you happen to owe taxes, the amount you need to pay. If their numbers are different from the ones you came up with when you filed, any changes that were made on their end will be explained here.

Your NOA is full of other important info, and we’ve broken down everything you need to know about it before you can officially call your taxes done and done.

When will I get my NOA?

NOAs usually show up a week to two weeks after your return has been assessed. If you are not signed up for Direct Deposit and are getting a refund, it will be attached to your refund cheque. Otherwise, it will arrive separately. If you are signed up for My Account and online mail, you can get your Notice of Assessment delivered to you immediately after filing your return through the CRA's Express NOA service. My Account portal to view and print a copy for your records.

Looks like the CRA made changes to my return. Do I need to do anything?

Even if you double-checked all your numbers, mistakes can happen. For example, if you forgot to claim the Canada Employment Amount, the CRA will have added it to your return. If you claimed something you shouldn’t have, your NOA would show a change, and include an explanation.

The CRA doesn’t require any action on your end when they make changes, and will tell you if there are penalties or interest as a result of anything that’s changed.

The changes on my NOA don’t make sense to me

The Notice of Assessment is computer generated, so it may contain standard CRA explanations that don’t make sense right off the bat. If this is the case, give the CRA a call to make sure you understand any changes that have been made, and agree that they are correct.

Your NOA has a hot date.

Not one you need to shower for, but still worth paying attention to. The date on your NOA is worth taking a look at because it’s used to establish the deadline for objecting to any changes the CRA has made. It also sets the beginning of the three-year period during which the CRA can reassess your return. After this three-year period has expired, they can only reassess you if you committed fraud (not a great idea) or were negligent in the preparation of your return (oops).

This year’s NOA can help you next year

Your NOA is really handy when preparing your next tax return, so file it somewhere you can easily find it again. It contains both your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contribution limit for the year, and your Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) limit. Even though you do not report your TFSA on your income tax form, the contribution limit for the year is included in the NOA summary report.

Carry forward amounts are also included on your NOA. This would include unused tuition and education credits, and capital losses. As well as, your Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) balance and repayment information. A.k.a. more good info to have for next year’s return.

Where should I keep my NOA?

Whether you have a tax envelope, folder or drawer, or maybe even a whole closet dedicated to your paperwork (no one said shoes were everything) – your previous year’s NOA should be filed there, because you might need it for something other than your taxes. If you’re applying for a mortgage or loan, your financial institution will probably ask for a copy of your NOA to prove income. Some social programs might also request a copy of your NOA to check your annual income for the previous year.

I lost my NOA. Now what?

If you’ve searched high and low but can’t seem to track down your NOA, you can ask for information like carry forwards and RRSP contributions directly from the CRA, or sign up for their My Account service, and access the information there.

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