I was just starting my girlfriend's tax return when I realized I didn't have her notice of assessment from 2009. I wanted her tuition carry forward so I decided to call revenue Canada to see what the amount was. To my surprise she has not filed a tax return since 2006.

Her father told her that he had filed a tax return every year but it looks like he actually didn't. She called him and he said that he did her taxes but did not mail them in because the amounts of money were small (facepalm).

My girlfriend was a student between 2006 and 2011 so I want to make sure that she gets her student tax credits and if she has penalties I want to make sure they are minimized.

I used TurboTax to do my own taxes this year and was using it to do her 2011 taxes, but I am stymied about what to do now. What is the best way to file taxes from previous years. Do I need to file those taxes before filing 2011?

What would you do in this situation? TurboTax has versions of the software dating back to 2007, so I could download those and to do her taxes. For all 2007-2010, the software will cost $250.

Revenue Canada is mailing me/her the T4s from the previous years.

Alternately, I was wondering if I should get an accountant to do it for her. Any estimates on whether this would be easy? What would an accountant charge to do this? I know that H&R Block gets a bad rap around here.

  • A similar question was raised recently about non-filed US tax returns. While Canadian tax law undoubtedly differs from US tax law, some of the generic advice in this answer to the other question might be worth reading. Apr 15, 2012 at 2:00
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    Note that the CRA have substantially stepped up enforcement actions against people who Fail to File. Any anecdotal information you find from prior to 2011 is likely no longer valid. Apr 15, 2012 at 15:19
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    If her father did her taxes but "didn't mail them in" is it possible to get those completed forms from him?
    – Nicole
    Apr 16, 2012 at 17:17

2 Answers 2


The seriousness of your situation depends on whether your girlfriend was owed a refund for each tax return she failed to file, or whether she owed additional money.

If she owed money on one or more of the tax returns she failed to file, stop! It is time to consult a lawyer. At the very least, you need to contact an accountant who specialises in this sort of thing. She will owe interest and penalties, and may be liable for criminal prosecution. There are options available and lawyers who specialise in this sort of thing (e.g. this one, from a simple google search). If she is in this position, you need professional help and you need it soon, so you can make a voluntary disclosure and head off criminal prosecution. Assuming the taxes are fairly simple, you are likely looking at a few thousand dollars, but probably less than $7,500, for professional help. There will be substantial penalties assessed as well, for any taxes owing. If you wait until the CRA starts proceedings, you are most likely looking at $10,000 to $50,000, assuming the matter is not too complicated, and would be facing the possibility of a jail term not exceeding five years.

If she was due a refund on every single one of the tax returns she failed to file, or at least if she did not owe additional money, you are probably in a situation you can deal with yourself. She will want to file all of the tax returns as soon as possible, but will not be assessed a penalty. I have personally filed taxes several months late a number of times, when I was owed a refund. You may still want to consider professional help, but it is probably not necessary.

Under no circumstances should she allow her father near her finances again, ever. You should also be careful to trust any responses to this question, including my response, because we are unlikely to be professional accountants (I certainly am not). You are well outside the abilities of an H&R Block "accountant" in this matter and need a real certified accountant and/or a lawyer who specialises in Failure To File cases.

  • Thanks. That was my interpretation as well. Believe me her father is not going anywhere near her money again. Apr 15, 2012 at 18:16
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    @GrannySmith "Believe me her father is not going anywhere near her money again" That might be harder to arrange than you might think. Another young adult discovered that not only was his father trading in his custodial account instead of turning it over to him when he became an adult, but the brokerage was letting him do so instead of following the law and relinquishing the guardianship. Apr 17, 2012 at 0:45
  • I believe that for students it should be unlikely that they owed money on their tax return. The tax credits are high enough that I as a graduate student in BC earning ~1700 per month get a full refund of all tax deductions on my salary.
    – Lagerbaer
    Mar 26, 2013 at 23:31
  • I think this is an overreaction. If the amounts of money are genuinely small, then the CRA is very unlikely to pursue criminal proceedings, and you probably don't need to spend thousands on lawyers. Work out how much tax is owed first. if it's not thousands of dollars then just talk to the CRA and work something out with them. Sep 20, 2022 at 0:38

Does her dad still have the records from those tax years? If so, I would suggest using those as a basis and if they're complete, just filing them directly.

If we're talking about software recommendations, I would suggest GenuTax as it allows for completing returns all the way back to 2003 without buying separate versions. Alternatively, there are some no-cost options. See the Wikipedia entry Comparison of Canadian-tax preparation software for personal use. Look both at the "Price" column and at the "Freebies" column.

You should start at 2006 and move forward so you can keep track of carry-forward amounts. I'm assuming your girlfriend had no balance owing from those years as she was a student so there's no penalty to worry about.

  • Apologies if my recommendation for GenuTax sounded like a sales pitch. The only reason was because it was the only software that came to mind that handled multiple years with a single download. I've actually never used the software beyond a quick demo.
    – fideli
    Apr 17, 2012 at 0:17

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