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Why Is My Tax Return So Low Canada?

Navigating the intricacies of the Canadian tax system can often be a perplexing journey, especially when the anticipated tax return falls short of expectations.

In this blog post, we delve into the fundamental aspects of “Understanding Deductions and Credits” to demystify the reasons behind lower-than-expected tax returns in Canada. From gaining a comprehensive overview of available deductions and credits to unraveling the significance of meticulous record-keeping, we aim to equip you with the insights needed to optimize your tax returns.

Additionally, we’ll explore the profound impact that life events can have on your financial landscape and the importance of adapting your expectations accordingly.

Join us as we navigate the nuances of personal finance, offering practical advice on updating crucial personal information with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). By the end of this exploration, you’ll be better equipped to approach your tax returns with confidence, understanding, and a proactive mindset.

Why Is My Tax Return So Low Canada?

Several factors can contribute to a lower-than-expected tax return in Canada. Here are some common reasons:

  1. Income Level: If your total income is low, your tax liability will be lower, resulting in a smaller tax return. This includes employment income, investment income, and other sources of income.
  2. Tax Deductions and Credits: Your tax return may be affected by the deductions and credits you are eligible for. If you didn’t claim all the eligible deductions and credits, or if your expenses were lower than expected, it can reduce your tax refund.
  3. Withholdings: If too much tax was withheld from your paychecks throughout the year, you may have received a smaller refund. While this means you’ve already paid your taxes, it can reduce the size of your refund.
  4. Changes in Personal Situation: Significant life changes, such as getting married, having children, or changes in employment status, can impact your tax situation. Certain credits and deductions may vary based on your personal circumstances.
  5. Provincial Differences: Taxation in Canada includes both federal and provincial components. If you’ve moved to a different province during the tax year, the tax rates and credits may differ, affecting your overall return.
  6. Taxable Benefits: Some benefits and allowances you receive, such as employer-provided benefits or certain social assistance programs, may be taxable and reduce your refund.
  7. RRSP Contributions: If you contributed to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), it can increase your tax refund. If you didn’t make significant contributions, this could impact your return.

To get a better understanding of your specific situation, it’s advisable to review your tax return with a tax professional or use tax software to identify potential areas for improvement. They can help ensure that you’ve claimed all eligible credits and deductions and provide insights into optimizing your tax situation for the future.

Understanding Deductions And Credits

Deductions And Credits In Canada

In Canada, there are various deductions and credits available to taxpayers to reduce their taxable income and the amount of tax they owe. Here’s an overview of some common deductions and credits:


  1. Basic Personal Amount: Every taxpayer is entitled to claim a basic amount that is not subject to federal income tax.
  2. Employment Expenses: Some employment-related expenses may be deductible, such as vehicle expenses, home office expenses, and certain work-related supplies.
  3. Business Expenses: If you’re self-employed, you can deduct business-related expenses to calculate your business income.
  4. RRSP Contributions: Contributions to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) are deductible from your income, reducing your taxable income.
  5. Home Buyers’ Amount: First-time homebuyers may be eligible for a tax credit for certain homebuying expenses.


  1. Canada Child Benefit (CCB): Families with children may receive a tax-free monthly payment based on income and the number of children.
  2. Child Care Expenses: You can claim a credit for eligible child care expenses, allowing you to work or go to school.
  3. Medical Expenses: Certain medical expenses, such as prescription drugs, medical services, and certain assistive devices, can be claimed as a credit.
  4. Education Credits: Students can claim credits for tuition fees, education amounts, and textbooks.
  5. Public Transit Tax Credit: While this credit has been eliminated at the federal level, some provinces may still offer a similar credit for public transit expenses.
  6. Disability Tax Credit: Individuals with a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions may be eligible for this non-refundable tax credit.
  7. Charitable Donations: Donations to registered charities can result in a non-refundable tax credit.
  8. First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit: This credit provides assistance to first-time homebuyers with the costs associated with the purchase of a home.
  9. Volunteer Firefighters’ Tax Credit: Eligible volunteer firefighters may claim a credit for their service.

It’s important to note that tax laws can change, and eligibility criteria for deductions and credits may vary. Additionally, some credits are non-refundable, meaning they can reduce your tax liability to zero but won’t result in a refund. Others may be refundable, providing a refund even if your tax liability is already zero. It’s recommended to consult with a tax professional or use tax software to ensure you are taking advantage of all the deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your specific situation.

Importance Of Keeping Track Of Receipts And Documentation

Keeping track of receipts and documentation is crucial for several reasons, especially when it comes to financial matters such as taxes, budgeting, and business expenses. Here are some key reasons why it’s important to maintain organized records:

  1. Tax Compliance: Proper documentation is essential for claiming tax deductions and credits. This includes receipts for business expenses, charitable donations, medical expenses, and more. In the event of a tax audit, having organized and accurate records helps demonstrate the legitimacy of your claims and ensures compliance with tax laws.
  2. Financial Planning: Tracking receipts allows you to monitor and analyze your spending habits. This information is crucial for creating and sticking to a budget.  Keeping records helps you evaluate progress toward financial goals, whether it’s saving for a major purchase, building an emergency fund, or investing for the future.
  3. Business Operations: For businesses, maintaining receipts and documentation is vital for tracking expenses. It helps in budgeting, managing cash flow, and preparing financial statements. Businesses need accurate records for tax reporting, including income statements, expense reports, and supporting documentation for deductions.
  4. Legal Compliance: Certain industries and businesses may be subject to specific regulations that require accurate record-keeping. Failure to comply with these regulations can lead to legal consequences.
  5. Insurance Claims: In the event of an insurance claim, receipts and documentation serve as proof of ownership and value for damaged or stolen items.
  6. Warranty and Returns: Keeping receipts is often necessary to avail of warranties on products and services. Retailers often require proof of purchase for returns or exchanges. Keeping receipts ensures a smoother process.
  7. Personal and Family Matters: Organized records can simplify the estate planning process for your heirs and beneficiaries. Documentation is crucial for managing insurance policies, including health, life, and property insurance.
  8. Financial Accountability:  Keeping track of receipts fosters financial accountability, encouraging responsible spending and financial decision-making.

To streamline record-keeping, consider using digital tools such as expense tracking apps, accounting software, and cloud storage solutions. Regularly review and update your records to ensure they accurately reflect your financial activities and facilitate ease of access when needed.

Common Mistakes Impacting The Return Amount

Several common mistakes can impact the amount of your tax return or even result in a higher tax liability. It’s important to be aware of these errors to ensure accurate and optimal tax filings. Here are some common mistakes that can affect the return amount:

  1. Incorrect or Incomplete Information: Providing inaccurate personal information, such as your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or address, can lead to processing delays and potential errors in your return.
  2. Failing to Report All Income: Forgetting to report all sources of income, including self-employment income, freelance work, or income from investments, can lead to underreporting and potential penalties.
  3. Overlooking Deductions and Credits: Not claiming eligible deductions and credits can result in a higher tax liability. Ensure that you are aware of all the deductions and credits you qualify for and claim them accurately.
  4. Math Errors: Simple mathematical errors can lead to miscalculations in your return. Double-check all calculations to avoid mistakes that could affect your final tax liability.
  5. Forgetting to Sign and Date: Failing to sign and date your tax return can result in processing delays. Ensure that all required signatures are included before submitting your return.
  6. Late Filing: Filing your tax return after the deadline can result in penalties and interest charges. Ensure that you file your return on time, or consider filing for an extension if needed.
  7. Not Keeping Proper Records: Insufficient documentation, missing receipts, or disorganized records can lead to missed deductions and credits. Keep thorough records of your income, expenses, and supporting documentation.
  8. Ignoring Changes in Personal Situation: Life changes such as getting married, having children, or changing jobs can impact your tax situation. Update your information to ensure you’re taking advantage of relevant tax benefits.
  9. Mismatched Information with Employers: Ensure that the information on your tax return matches the information provided by your employers, such as the T4 slip. Discrepancies can lead to discrepancies in your return.
  10. Not Reviewing the Return Before Submission: Before submitting your return, review it carefully to catch any errors or omissions. Once the return is filed, correcting mistakes may require additional paperwork and time.
  11. Ignoring Tax Law Changes: Tax laws can change from year to year. Stay informed about any changes that may affect your tax situation and adjust your filing accordingly.

To avoid these mistakes, consider using tax preparation software, consulting with a tax professional, or both. These resources can help ensure accuracy and maximize your eligible deductions and credits, ultimately optimizing your tax return.

Changes In Personal Circumstances

Impact Of Life Events On Tax Returns

Life events can have a significant impact on your tax returns, influencing your income, deductions, and credits. It’s essential to understand how various life events can affect your tax situation. Here are some common life events and their potential impact on tax returns:

  1. Marriage or Common-Law Partnership: Changes in your marital status can affect your filing status and may lead to different tax obligations and benefits.  Assess whether filing jointly or separately is more advantageous. You may also qualify for certain credits or deductions available to married or common-law couples.
  2. Having Children: The birth or adoption of a child can result in additional tax benefits, such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), the Child Care Expense Deduction, and the Child Disability Benefit. Ensure you update your marital status and claim any applicable credits or benefits for your child.
  3. Job Changes or Loss of Employment: Changes in employment status can affect your income, potentially altering your tax bracket and eligibility for certain credits. Consider the tax implications of severance pay, employment insurance benefits, and any deductions related to job-search expenses.
  4. Homeownership: Purchasing or selling a home can result in changes to your tax situation, such as eligibility for the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit or the Principal Residence Exemption.  Keep track of eligible home-related expenses, and be aware of any tax implications when selling a property.
  5. Educational Pursuits: Enrolling in post-secondary education can lead to tax credits, such as the Tuition Tax Credit and the Education and Textbook Tax Credits.  Keep records of tuition fees and other eligible expenses, and explore education-related credits and deductions.
  6. Retirement: Retirement can result in changes to your income, affecting your tax liabilities. You may also qualify for pension income splitting or the Age Amount Tax Credit. Plan for the tax implications of withdrawing funds from retirement accounts and receiving pension income.
  7. Disability: Becoming disabled or having a family member with a disability can lead to tax credits, such as the Disability Tax Credit and the Canada Caregiver Credit. Ensure that you qualify for available disability-related credits and deductions.
  8. Changes in Health: Certain medical expenses may be eligible for tax credits. Additionally, severe and prolonged illnesses may qualify for the Medical Expense Tax Credit.  Keep track of medical expenses, including prescription costs, travel for medical purposes, and assistive devices.
  9. Divorce or Separation: Changes in marital status can affect your filing status, spousal support payments, and eligibility for certain credits and benefits. Ensure proper documentation and understanding of the tax implications of divorce or separation agreements.
  10. Inheritance or Windfall: Receiving a significant inheritance or windfall can have tax implications, including potential capital gains taxes. Consult with a tax professional to understand the tax consequences and plan accordingly.

It’s crucial to stay informed about how life events can impact your tax situation and to update your tax documentation accordingly. Consulting with a tax professional can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances, helping you maximize your eligible benefits and minimize your tax liabilities.

Adjusting Expectations Based On Significant Life Changes

Significant life changes can indeed have a profound impact on various aspects of your financial situation, including your taxes. Adjusting your expectations and planning accordingly is crucial to navigate these changes effectively. Here are some general considerations for adjusting expectations based on common life changes:

  1. Marriage or Common-Law Partnership: Expect changes in your tax filing status, potential eligibility for joint credits, and alterations in your combined income.  Consider optimizing your tax situation by exploring deductions and credits available to married or common-law couples. Assess whether joint or separate filing is more beneficial.
  2. Having Children: Anticipate additional expenses and potential changes in income. You may become eligible for child-related tax benefits. Budget for childcare costs and explore credits such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Expense Deduction. Update your tax information to claim eligible benefits.
  3. Job Changes or Loss of Employment: Changes in income can impact your tax bracket and eligibility for certain credits. Severance pay and employment insurance benefits are also taxable. Be prepared for potential changes in tax liabilities. Consider the tax implications of severance pay and explore available deductions related to job-search expenses.
  4. Homeownership: Homeownership can bring tax benefits (e.g., First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit) and responsibilities (e.g., property taxes). Keep track of eligible home-related expenses and understand the tax implications of buying or selling a property. Explore available credits and deductions.
  5. Educational Pursuits: Returning to school can impact your income and make you eligible for education-related tax credits.  Keep records of tuition fees and other eligible expenses. Explore credits such as the Tuition Tax Credit and Education and Textbook Tax Credits.
  6. Retirement: Retirement brings changes in income sources and potential eligibility for pension-related credits. Plan for the tax implications of pension income, consider pension income splitting, and explore credits available to seniors.
  7. Disability: A disability, whether personal or in the family, can lead to tax credits and deductions. Ensure you qualify for available disability-related credits and deductions. Keep thorough records of medical expenses.
  8. Changes in Health: Significant health changes may result in additional medical expenses and potential eligibility for medical-related tax credits. Keep track of medical expenses and understand the criteria for claiming the Medical Expense Tax Credit.
  9. Divorce or Separation: Divorce or separation can impact your filing status, spousal support payments, and eligibility for certain credits. Understand the tax implications of divorce or separation agreements. Ensure proper documentation and updates to your tax information.
  10. Inheritance or Windfall: Receiving a significant inheritance or windfall can lead to changes in your financial situation, including potential tax obligations. Consult with a financial advisor or tax professional to understand the tax consequences and plan accordingly.

In all cases, seeking advice from financial advisors, tax professionals, or other experts is advisable to make informed decisions tailored to your specific circumstances. Adjusting expectations and planning ahead can help you navigate significant life changes more smoothly and optimize your financial situation.

Updating Personal Information With The CRA

Keeping your personal information up-to-date with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is important to ensure that you receive the correct tax credits and benefits and to avoid any issues with your tax filings. Here are steps you can take to update your personal information with the CRA:

  1. Online Account:Log in to your CRA My Account online. This secure portal allows you to view and update your personal information, including your address, direct deposit information, and more.
  2. Address Change: Log in to My Account and update your address information. Make sure your mailing address and residential address are accurate. Call the CRA’s individual enquiries line at 1-800-959-8281 to update your address over the phone.
  3. Direct Deposit Information: In My Account, you can update your banking information for direct deposit, ensuring that any refunds or benefit payments go directly to your bank account. You can also update your direct deposit information by calling the CRA at 1-800-959-8281.
  4. Name Change:  If you’ve legally changed your name, you’ll need to complete and mail the RC65 Change of Address and/or T1013 form to the CRA. You can find these forms on the CRA website.
  5. Marital Status Change:  If your marital status has changed, you can update it by mailing the RC65 Change of Address and/or T1013 form to the CRA. Ensure that you include supporting documents, such as a copy of your marriage certificate or divorce decree.
  6. Updating Other Information: Use My Account to update other personal information, such as your phone number, email address, and more.
  7. SecureKey Concierge: If you don’t have a CRA My Account, you can use the SecureKey Concierge service to log in securely with your online banking credentials and update your information.
  8. Authorized Representative: You can authorize a representative to act on your behalf in My Account. This is useful if you want someone else to update your information or handle your tax matters.

It’s important to update your information promptly, especially if you’ve experienced significant life changes. Keeping your information current ensures that you receive the correct tax credits, benefits, and communications from the CRA. Regularly checking and updating your personal information in your CRA My Account is a convenient and secure way to manage these changes. If you have questions or need assistance, you can contact the CRA directly for guidance.


In examining why your tax return may be lower than anticipated in Canada, it’s crucial to first scrutinize your income sources and level. A lower income can naturally result in a reduced tax liability and, subsequently, a smaller tax return. Ensure that you have accurately reported all sources of income, including employment, investments, and other financial activities, to provide a comprehensive overview of your financial situation.

Moreover, the deductions and credits you claim play a pivotal role in determining your final tax return. Missing out on eligible deductions or failing to claim applicable tax credits can significantly impact the amount you receive. Take the time to review your tax return carefully, ensuring that you have considered all relevant credits and deductions, from employment-related expenses to credits for education, homeownership, and family-related benefits.

Life changes, such as getting married, having children, or experiencing a change in employment, can also influence your tax situation. These events may introduce new tax implications or alter your eligibility for certain benefits. As such, it’s important to update your personal information with the Canada Revenue Agency, ensuring that your tax return accurately reflects your current circumstances. By staying informed about these factors and seeking professional advice when needed, you can proactively manage your tax situation and work towards optimizing your returns in the future.