Making sure your taxes for 2023 are on track

Many, if not most, taxpayers think of tax planning as a year-end exercise to be carried out in the last few weeks of the year, with a view to taking the steps needed to minimize the tax bill for the current year. And it’s true that almost all strategies needed to both minimize the tax hit for the year and to ensure that there won’t be a big tax bill come next April must be taken by December 31 of the current calendar year (the making of registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions being the notable exception). Nonetheless, there’s a lot to recommend carrying out a mid-year review of one’s tax situation for the current year. Doing that review mid-year, instead of waiting until December, gives the taxpayer the chance to make sure that everything is on track and to put into place any adjustments needed to help ensure that there are no tax surprises when the income tax return for 2023 is filed next spring. As well, while the deadline for implementing most tax saving strategies may be December 31, the window of opportunity to make a significant difference to one’s current-year tax situation does narrow as the calendar year progresses.

By the middle of June, most Canadians will have filed their individual income tax return for the 2022 tax year and received a Notice of Assessment outlining their tax position for that year. Those who receive a refund will celebrate that fact; less happily, those who receive a tax bill will pay the amount owed, however reluctantly. Although few Canadians have this perspective, the reality is that getting either a big tax refund or having to pay a large tax bill is a sign that one’s tax affairs need attention. A refund, especially a large refund, means that the taxpayer has overpaid his or her taxes for the previous year and has essentially provided the Canada Revenue Agency with an interest-free loan of funds that could have been put to better use in the taxpayer’s hands. The other outcome – a large bill – means that taxes have been underpaid for the previous year and could mean paying interest charges to the CRA. Either way, it’s in the taxpayer’s best interests to ensure that tax paid throughout the year is sufficient to cover his or her taxes, without overpaying or underpaying. The best-case scenario is to file a tax return and receive a Notice of Assessment which indicates that there is neither a substantial refund payable nor any significant amount owing.

For most Canadians, income and available deductions and credits don’t vary substantially from one year to the next. Where that’s the case, the amount of tax owed by the taxpayer for 2022 (a figure that can be found on Line 43500 of the Notice of Assessment) is likely to be very close to one’s tax liability for 2023.

After determining the amount of one’s tax liability for 2022, the next step in doing a review is to get a sense of how much tax has already been paid for the 2023 tax year. There are two ways of paying taxes throughout the year. The majority of Canadians (including all employees) have income taxes deducted from their paycheques and remitted to the federal government on their behalf – known as source deductions. Taxpayers who do not have income tax deducted at source – which would include self-employed individuals and, frequently, retired taxpayers – make tax payments directly to the federal government (four times a year, in March, June, September, and December) through the tax instalment system.

Using the tax payable figure for 2022 as a guide, it’s necessary to figure out whether income tax payments made to date, either by source deductions or instalment payments, match up with that tax liability figure, recognizing that by this point in the year, approximately one-half of taxes for 2023 should already have been paid. If they haven’t, and particularly if there is a significant shortfall which will mean a large balance owing when the tax return for 2023 is filed next spring, the taxpayer will need to take steps to remedy that.

Where the individual involved pays tax by instalments, the solution is simple. He or she can simply increase or decrease the amount of remaining instalment payments made in 2023 so that the total instalment payments made over the course of this year accurately reflect the total tax payable for the year. The only caveat in that situation is that the individual should err on the side of caution to ensure that there isn’t a shortfall in instalment payments, which could result in interest charges being levied by the CRA.

The situation is a little more complex for employees, or anyone who has tax deducted at source. Often when such individuals discover that they are overpaying taxes through source deductions, it’s because other deductions which they claim on their return for the year – for expenditures like deductible support payments, child care expenses, or contributions to an RRSP – aren’t taken into account in calculating the amount of tax to deduct at source. The solution for employees who find themselves in that situation is to file a Form T1213 – Request to Reduce Tax Deductions at Source, which is available on the CRA website at T1213 Request to Reduce Tax Deductions at Source - On that form, the taxpayer identifies the amounts which will be deducted on the return for the year and, once the CRA verifies that those deductible expenditures are being made, it will authorize the taxpayer’s employer to reduce the amount of tax which is being withheld at source to take account of that deduction.

Where it’s the opposite situation and a taxpayer finds that source deductions being made will not be sufficient to cover his or her tax liability for the year (meaning a tax bill to be paid next spring), the solution is to have those source deductions increased. To do that, the employee needs to obtain a federal TD1 form for 2023, which is available on the CRA website at On the reverse side of that Form TD1, there is a section entitled “Additional tax to be deducted”, in which the employee can direct his or her employer to deduct additional amounts at source for income tax, and can specify the dollar amount which is to be deducted from each paycheque, on a go-forward basis.

Alternatively, the taxpayer who is looking at a large tax bill on filing the 2023 return can take steps to bring down that bill by creating or increasing available deductions. The most widely available strategy which will provide the greatest tax savings is an RRSP contribution, which reduces taxable income on a dollar-for-dollar basis. And while it’s difficult for most taxpayers to come up with such a contribution at the last minute, starting mid-year to transfer a set amount from each paycheque received between June of 2023 and February of 2024 to one’s RRSP can result in a substantial contribution deduction and a resulting reduction in the tax bill for the year.

No one particularly likes thinking about taxes, at any time of year, but ignoring the issue definitely won’t make it go away. The investment of a few hours of time now, and putting in place any needed adjustments, can mean avoiding a nasty surprise in the form of a large balance owing when the return for 2023 is completed next spring.