FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The official start of tax season was February 22nd, and more people are looking for help to get the most on their returns this year.

Fort St. John H & R Block owner Bernice McLennan says with unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s wise to get an extra pair of eyes on your taxes.

“We actually had a fellow the other day that did it himself online, and he had a $4,000 refund. Then he thought he would just get us to do it up for him. We got him around $6,500, so he was happy to pay our fee,” says McLennan.

This year, Canada Revenue Agency has delayed the interest charge on late payment of taxes. In regular years, a penalty of 5 per cent is charged.

“Normally, If you owe money and you haven’t filed by May 1, you’ve got an automatic 5 per cent late filing penalty. This year, CRA has said as long as you file on time, you don’t get that late filing penalty and they don’t charge interest until April 30, 2022. So you’ve got a whole year to be making payments without being charged interest.”

One benefit of living in Fort St. John is the Northern Residents Deduction.

“If you live in Fort St. John and you lived here all year, and you’re the only person claiming in your house, then you have a $4026 deduction on your taxes. Depending on your bracket, it could save you $805.”

McLennan says some people are having fears about filing taxes this year with confusion surrounding the Canada Economic Response Benefit. She suggests it’s always better to get it done than deal with the penalties.

“The sooner you file, and there’s no interest, it’s going to save you if you file before April 30. Quite often, you don’t owe as much as you thought.”

Canada Revenue Agency announced some changes for 2021 tax season. During the pandemic, CRA has seen an increase in call volume, so additional call centre operators have been added.

Since many Canadians worked from home last year, CRA has announced home office expenses can be deducted. If you worked more than 50 per cent of the time from home for at least four weeks, you are eligible to claim expenses for the 2020 tax year.

If you received federal response benefits, you will receive a T4A from CRA, or a T4E from Service Canada in the mail. If you received Canada Emergency Response Benefit or Canada Emergency Student Benefit, no tax was withheld when payment was issued.

If you received Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, or Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, 10 per cent tax was withheld at the source.