Just filed your tax returns for the year and thought you were done? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case—at least not in Canada. It’s only when you receive your Notice of Assessment (also called the NOA) from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Revenu Québec that you can finally consider the process complete.
Notice of assessment (NOA)
A Notice of Assessment is the evaluation summary of the taxes you just filed. It contains important details such as the income you earned over the past year, the deductions you claimed, the amount of money you owe in taxes to the government or the sum you’re owed in refund on your returns.
This is based on the information you provided on your return as well as the information the CRA has about you. If these two numbers don’t tell the same story, the CRA will automatically apply the changes to your return and you will be provided with an explanation about the amount you owe or the refund you will receive.
What does an NOA include
While the actual contents of the NOA may vary from case to case, these are the three things you should be looking at when you get your NOA from the CRA:
Tax assessment summary
Check the tax summary section on your NOA for details like your income, deductions, credits, as well as any refund issued or amount owed as a part of this year’s tax filing. In this section, you can also expect to find any penalty, interest, or the previous year’s pending balance—all of which will show up only if they apply to you.
Typically, you would owe a balance to the CRA if you didn’t pay the tax you were supposed to pay based on your income during the year. The most common reason why this happens is that your employer didn’t deduct enough tax from your pay. On the other hand, if you are owed a refund, it’s because you either overpaid your taxes or you’re eligible to receive tax exemptions or credits.
Deduction Limits and Contribution Room
Information related to your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) deduction limit and the contribution room you have left for the year always shows up on your NOA. Irrespective of whether you’ve been contributing to your RRSP over the past year or not, this section will tell you how much room you have to keep contributing as well as how much has been deducted for the next year.
Summary of changes
Any adjustments the CRA makes to your tax return, along with the reasoning behind those changes, shows up in the “Explanation of changes and other important information” section of your NOA. As mentioned previously, this adjustment is made on the basis of the information you provided and the information the CRA has on your file.
How will I get my NOA
You can expect to receive your NOA either by physical mail or you can see it online in your CRA account. You don’t need to apply for it. If you’ve filed your taxes, the CRA will automatically send it to you via your chosen method of delivery once they complete the evaluation of your return.
If you have an account with the CRA, you will see your NOA in the “View Mail” tab of the “My Account” section once you log in. You can access it through this portal as well as download it in the form of a PDF for safekeeping.
When can I expect to get my NOA?
The short answer is: It depends. Factors such as how you chose to file your taxes and how you choose to receive the NOA determine how long it will take for you to receive your NOA. If you filed your taxes electronically, you can expect your NOA in about two weeks whereas if you paper-filed your returns, it may take up to eight weeks for you to receive it. Similarly, if you have an online account with the CRA, your NOA will show up in your account immediately after you submit your returns, thanks to the CRA’s Express NOA service. If you requested a hard copy of your NOA via physical mail, it may take you up to two weeks to get it.
Why do I need an NOA?
Your NOA is a vital document that contains important information you need for the next year, information such as your deduction and contribution limits. This information is necessary to ensure you don’t accidentally overcontribute to your RRSP or TFSA next year.
Your NOA is the confirmation you need to conclude you don’t owe any outstanding taxes to the CRA. It would be difficult to understand how much refund you’re going to get, or worse how much you owe in taxes. Not knowing the second possibility is especially harmful because if you don’t pay the balance you owe, you could get into trouble.
The CRA suggests holding on to your NOA for at least six years after you receive it.
What are the next steps after getting my NOA
Every tax situation is different but typically, you can expect one of the three outcomes once you get your NOA:
You paid insufficient taxes throughout the year so you now owe a balance to the CRA. The deadline to pay your outstanding balance is April 30. If you’re unable to pay off your balance by then, CRA starts to charge you an interest for each day you owe any amount. This happens till you clear the entire balance you owe.
You get a tax refund because you paid more taxes on your income than you owe. This may happen if your employer deducted more than the required tax amount from your income or you were entitled to refundable tax credits. In this case, you don’t have to take any action—just wait for that money to hit your account!
You paid exactly what you owed so you will neither have to pay any balance, nor will you get a refund. Again in this case, no further action is needed from your end—you can stop worrying about taxes till the next year.
What happens if I lose my NOA
If you have an online account with the CRA, you shouldn’t lose any sleep if you lose your NOA. You can simply log into your account and download it again. If you don’t have an online CRA account, you would have to contact the CRA on 1-800-959-8281 to order a copy to be mailed to you.
At the end of the day, your NOA is for your peace of mind—it’s not just a tax evaluation, but a receipt that you paid all your taxes and now have nothing to worry about till the next tax season.
Meghana is a content strategist with experience writing for companies in the technology sector. Originally from India, Meghana has been living in Canada since 2019, where she continues to explore her passion for content marketing.