Tax Slips: Why you need them and how you can get them (Part 2)

In the first entry of this multi-part blog post, we talked about some of the reasons you might need your tax slips and where you can go to get them.  I had suggested that it’s often easiest to get them directly from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), particularly if you need to file your taxes for previous years and are not sure all of the years you need to file.  The next two posts will provide greater detail about some of the ways you can request tax slips from the CRA.  We’ll look at three ways you can get your tax slips from the CRA and one way that will probably not work.  Part two will discuss contacting the CRA by phone and part three will look at other options including requesting information by mail or online.

For most people wanting to obtain their tax slips, my first suggestion would be to try calling the CRA since it’s often the fastest way to get this information.  However, there are a few pitfalls to calling that you should know about.

The CRA’s number for individual income tax enquiries within Canada is 1-800-959-8281.  Agents are available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  However, just because you call between those hours, doesn’t mean you’ll get through on your first try.  The line is often tied up with other calls.  However, I generally find that this changes, almost literally, from second to second.  In my experience, I can usually get through within about 1-3 minutes, but that’s because I’m not afraid to call 5 or 6 times in a row if necessary.

I prefer to use a cell-phone or a phone with redial so I do not have to manually punch in the number each time.  This may seem like overkill but it does tend to work.  As a rule of thumb, I would suggest that if you cannot get through within about 5 minutes using this trick, the line may genuinely be tied up and you might consider waiting a few hours or until the next day to try again.

Once you do get through you will be greeted by an automated system.  I encourage you to listen to the options provided but if you’re impatient, the fastest way to request an operator (as of the writing of this post) is to press “1” followed by the “star” key.  You’ll have to wait on hold for an agent but not for long.  Usually it only takes 1-2 minutes and I cannot even think of a time when it took more than 5 minutes for me to get through.

After all this, you should finally be on the line with a real person.  In order to access your file, they will need your Social Insurance Number, date of birth, and full name.  With only very limited exceptions, you should never try to request information about someone else’s tax situation.  You should never impersonate another person for the purposes of obtaining such information.

Not unlike the Bridge Keeper in Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail”, you will have to answer a challenge question before the agent you are speaking to will provide you with any personal information.  These challenge questions provide an extra layer of protection against income tax and identity fraud, but they can be a bit of a pain to answer.  You won’t always be asked the same questions in the same order, but some questions that come up frequently include “What was the amount on line 150 of the last tax return you filed”, “who did you work for in a given year”, “what are the full names and birthdays of your dependent children” or “what are your previous addresses”?  If you can answer one of the challenge questions to the satisfaction of the agent, she/he should be able to provide you with information about your tax slips as well as the years you still need to file your tax return.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to answer a challenge question or otherwise prefer not to request information over the phone, there are a few other options available to you.  These will be discussed in the last part of this series.

Thanks for reading!  Any errors or omissions in this or other posts on the Tax AID blog are the fault of the author.  Changes in CRA policy or procedure may impact the accuracy of the information in this post.  Part three will cover other options for obtaining tax slips from the CRA.  It will be posted on September 18.

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