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Paying taxes can be annoying and pricey. But, the money you get from your tax refund may help you cover many purchases, like groceries, household bills, and emergencies. Even though tax refunds sometimes don’t arrive due to a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) error, there are ways to retrieve that money retroactively. 

Read on to find out how long it takes to get a tax refund in Canada.

Key Points

  • It can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks to get your tax refund, depending on how you file your taxes. 
  • You can track your tax refund status online through My Account on the CRA website, or by calling the CRA directly. 
  • Signing up for direct deposit is the fastest way to get your tax refund.

How Long To Get A Tax Refund In Canada?

While certain issues can get in the way, the time it generally takes for the CRA to deliver your tax refund usually depends on how you file your taxes

Filed OnlineThe CRA aims to send the funds within 2 weeks of applying.
Filed By Paper The CRA aims to send the funds within 8 weeks of applying.
Note: these times are only applicable to individuals who file their income taxes by the deadline (April 30).

Refunds may take up to 16 weeks if you live outside of Canada and file a personal income tax return as a non-resident. The CRA may also take longer to process your tax refund if your return requires a more thorough review.      

You can also check your processing time on the CRA’s website. 

How Long To Get A Tax Refund In Canada If You Have Direct Deposit?

The time it takes to get a tax refund also depends on whether you’ve registered for direct deposit with the CRA. 

Tax Refund In Canada Via Direct Deposit

  • Paper File – If you choose to file your return by post, your tax refund could take much more time to process. The standard wait period is 8 weeks, without delays.   However, you may get your money 3-5 days faster than a cheque. 
  • Online File – When you file your tax return online, you can expect to receive both your Notice of Assessment (NOA) and tax refund within 2 weeks. 

How Long To Get A Tax Refund In Canada If You Don’t Have Direct Deposit

  • Paper File – If you submit a paper tax return without direct deposit, the CRA will have to mail you a cheque. That means you’ll need to wait for the processing and postal period to get your tax refund, which could take around 8 weeks in total.    
  • Online File – If you file your tax return online but don’t have direct deposit, you’ll once again need to wait for the CRA to mail you a cheque. Although the online process can be a bit faster, it may still take about 2 weeks to get your tax refund.    

How Can You Check The Status Of Your Tax Refund?

If you live in Canada and haven’t gotten your tax refund yet, make sure to wait 8 weeks before you contact the CRA for an update. If you live outside Canada, increase that time to 16 weeks. After that point, there are two ways to check the status of your tax refund:

  • Online – Create or log into your CRA My Account to get secure online access to your tax return/refund information. You can also download the MyCRA web app. 
  • Over The Phone – To check the status of your tax refund by phone, call the CRA automated help line at 1-800-959-1956. To verify your identity, they’ll need your:
    • Full name
    • Date of birth
    • Complete home address
    • Social Insurance Number (SIN)
    • Line 15000 (from your most recent tax assessment)

How Do I Know If I Will Get A Tax Refund In Canada?

If you paid more taxes than you owe, then you are entitled to a tax refund in Canada. 

For instance, let’s say you earned $50,000 in a year and prepaid $12,000. After filing your taxes, you find that your taxes due on your return are only $10,000. In this case, you’ve overpaid by $2,000, which means you should get that extra money back as a tax refund when you file.      

You’ll find out whether you’ll be getting a tax refund after filing your taxes. Remember, this isn’t free money – it’s simply the CRA returning the amount you overpaid throughout the year.

What Can You Do With Your Tax Refund?

When you get a tax refund in Canada, it can be wise to spend it on important items, rather than non-essential goods. For instance, you could always use your tax refund to: 

Save Or Invest

It’s a good idea to store your tax refund in a savings account with a high interest rate. This way, you’ll earn interest on the funds and can access them fast in an emergency. Alternatively, you can invest your money in various accounts such as a TFSA or RRSP, or even the new FHSA.        

Pay Off Debts

Using your tax refund money to pay off debt can save you a lot of interest and fees over time. Start with the higher-interest debts, like credit cards, then work your way to the lower-interest ones. Paying off your debt can help free up room in your income to do other things. 

Pay For Expenses

If you have other essential costs to cover, such as rent, utilities, tuition fees, or groceries, a solid tax refund can help pay them off too. Depending on how much you get back and how you choose to live, it can also be a good way to pay for big-ticket items like new appliances and vacations, but make sure these discretionary spending items are within your budget.       

Why Haven’t I Received My Tax Refund?

There are many reasons why you may have not received your tax refund, from errors on your tax return to owing money to the CRA. Unfortunately, the CRA may choose to keep part or all of your tax refund amount if:

  • You owe (or are about to owe) them any tax money
  • Your tax refund is $2.00 or less
  • You have unpaid GST/HST returns from a partnership or sole proprietorship
  • A court has ordered your wages to be garnished (under the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act)
  • Overpayments from social assistance benefits or training allowances
  • You have other unpaid federal, provincial, or territorial government debts, like:
    • Student loans
    • Employment Insurance (EI)
    • Immigration loans

What If I Owe Tax Money?

When you owe money to the CRA, you won’t receive a refund at all. In this case, there are other options you can consider, including:

  • Make Arrangements With The Government – If you can’t pay a debt but can prove that you tried to unsuccessfully, the CRA may let you pay it in installments over a set term. They will then review your financials and form a plan that treats both parties fairly. Make sure to file your tax returns on time from that point on.      
  • Use A Personal Loan – If you can’t make a government arrangement, you can also take out a personal loan to spread your CRA tax debt out over time. In that case, having a good credit score can help you qualify for the best loan terms and interest rates. So, don’t forget to check and improve your credit score before you apply.        

What If You Are Owed Money From The CRA From Previous Tax Years?

If you discover that the CRA owes you money, you can get those funds back retroactively using Family Tax Recovery (FTRS), a team of expert accountants who specialize in tax returns, tax filings, and tax reviews. They work with Canada’s tax codes to locate missed credits and benefits, without the high fees that most tax firms charge. 

Essentially, the FTRS begins their review process for free and only charges fees once the recovered funds have been sent to your bank account or received as a CRA credit. As soon as you have your money, they take a 33% share of that amount for payment.           

How Does The Family Tax Recovery Service Work?

Family Tax Recovery is pretty easy to use. Just follow these four steps:

  1. Give Them Your Contact Information – To apply with the FTRS, you’ll need to provide various personal details, including your name, address, email, and SIN. 
  2. Fill Out A Refund Maximization Form – Most FTRS tax reviews recover a few hundred to a few thousand dollars of unclaimed tax benefits (average: $3,000). 
  3. Sign The Authorization Form – Once your information is approved, you must sign an authorization form and give the FTRS permission to review your taxes.  
  4. Talk To Your Tax Refund Specialist – If all goes well, you’ll be assigned to an FTRS expert, who will process and manage your tax review from that point on.

How To Calculate Your Tax Refund

An easy way to calculate your tax refund is to use an online tax calculator. Otherwise, the math is relatively simple, though more complex scenarios may require more in-depth formulas. 

The basic formula to calculate your tax refund is as follows:

  • Total income – Total deductions = Taxable income 
  • Taxable income x tax rate bracket you fall under = Total taxes owed  
  • Total taxes paid – total taxes owed = Tax refund

Keep in mind that if you’re eligible for deductions and credits, your exact tax refund amount will vary.

Wondering How Long It Takes To Get A Tax Refund In Canada?

If you’ve been waiting a long time to receive your tax return, it might be due to an error by yourself or the CRA. Either way, make sure to speak with a tax expert or CRA representative immediately. Otherwise, you could miss out on money you’re entitled to. 

How Long To Get A Tax Refund In Canada FAQs

Will I get a tax refund?

The size of your tax refund depends on several factors, including your gross income, dependents, and tax credits.

Are tax refunds taxable?

No. One great thing about your tax refund is that the money you get back doesn’t count as income, which means you won’t have to pay taxes on it.

What is the average tax refund in Canada?

According to Statistics Canada, for tax returns filed and processed from February 10, 2022 to January 28, 2023, the average return was $2,093.

Can I track my tax refund?

Yes. If you file your tax return online, the CRA will update your My Account, where you’ll be able to track your refund status. Shortly after assessing your tax return, you should receive a notification, too. As mentioned, signing up for direct deposit is normally a much faster way to get your tax refund back than waiting for the CRA to issue you a cheque.
Bryan Daly avatar on Loans Canada
Bryan Daly

Bryan is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University. He has been writing for Loans Canada for five years, covering all things related to personal finance, and aims to pursue the craft of professional writing for many years to come. In his spare time, he maintains a passion for editing, writing screenplays, staying fit, and travelling the world in search of the coolest sights our planet has to offer.

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