Photo by <a href="" rel="nofollow">Glenn Carstens-Peters</a> on <a href="" rel="nofollow">Unsplash</a>

This article provides a comprehensive guide on how to complete and file payroll returns in Canada. Whether you’re a business owner or a professional accountant, understanding the process and requirements for payroll returns is crucial. We will cover everything you need to know, from types of information returns to filing deadlines and accessing tax slips. Let’s dive in!

Types of Information Returns

When it comes to payroll returns in Canada, there are various types of information returns that businesses may need to fill out and issue. These include T4, T4A, T5, T5018, and more. The type of return you need to complete depends on the type of income you pay. For example, T4 slips are used to report employment income, while T4A slips are used for other types of income such as pensions or self-employment earnings. It’s important to understand which type of return is applicable to your business to ensure accurate reporting.

Filing Deadlines

Filing deadlines for payroll returns in Canada are crucial to comply with. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requires employers to issue tax slips to employees by the last day of February following the calendar year to which the slips apply. This means that if you’re filing for the 2022 tax year, the tax slips must be issued by the end of February 2023. It’s important to mark these deadlines on your calendar and make sure you have all the necessary information and documentation ready in advance.

In addition to issuing tax slips, employers also have specific deadlines for filing the summary and remitting any outstanding payments. The due dates for filing the summary vary depending on the type of return and the filing method used. It’s essential to review the CRA’s guidelines and ensure that you meet all the deadlines to avoid penalties and interest charges.

Accessing Tax Slips

Accessing tax slips is now easier than ever with the advancement of technology. As an employer, you can distribute tax slips electronically to your employees. Current employees can access their tax slips online through the Phoenix self-service portal or MyGCPay using the Compensation Web Applications (CWA). Former employees or employees on leave without pay will receive their tax slips by mail to their designated mailing address. It’s important to ensure that your employees have access to their tax slips and that they are distributed in a timely manner.

Completing Payroll Returns

Completing payroll returns involves several steps, from gathering employee information to calculating earnings and deductions, completing the necessary slips, and filing the summary. Let’s break down each step in detail.

Gathering Employee Information

The first step in completing payroll returns is to gather accurate and up-to-date employee information. This includes their Social Insurance Numbers (SIN), dates of birth, net income amounts, and any other relevant details required for reporting purposes. It’s essential to ensure that the information is accurate to avoid any discrepancies in the payroll returns.

Calculating Earnings and Deductions

Once you have gathered the necessary employee information, the next step is to calculate their earnings and deductions. This involves determining the gross earnings, including salaries, wages, bonuses, and any other forms of compensation. It’s important to accurately calculate the various deductions, such as income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, and Employment Insurance (EI) premiums, based on the information provided by the employee.

Completing T4 and T4A Slips

After calculating the earnings and deductions, you need to complete the T4 and T4A slips for each employee. The T4 slip is used to report employment income, while the T4A slip is used for other types of income, such as pensions, annuities, or self-employment earnings. These slips contain important information such as the employee’s name, SIN, and the amounts of income, deductions, and credits. It’s crucial to accurately complete these slips to ensure accurate reporting.

Filing Summary and Remitting Payments

Once you have completed the individual slips, you need to prepare the summary of all the slips and file it with the CRA. The summary provides a consolidated view of the total amounts of income, deductions, and credits for all employees. Along with filing the summary, you are also required to remit any outstanding payments, such as income tax, CPP contributions, and EI premiums, to the CRA. It’s important to ensure that you remit these payments on time to avoid penalties and interest charges.

Amending Payroll Returns

In some cases, you may need to amend your payroll returns after filing them. This could be due to errors or changes in the information reported. The process for amending payroll returns involves submitting an amended slip or return to the CRA. It’s important to follow the specific guidelines provided by the CRA for the type of amendment you need to make. Keep in mind that there may be deadlines for submitting amendments, so it’s crucial to act promptly if you identify any errors or changes.

Penalties for Late Filing

Failing to meet the deadlines for filing payroll returns can result in penalties and interest charges. The CRA imposes penalties for late filing, late remittances, and failure to issue tax slips. The amount of penalties depends on the number of employees and the length of the delay. It’s important to prioritize timely and accurate filing to avoid these penalties and maintain compliance with the CRA’s regulations.

Tools and Resources

Completing and filing payroll returns can be complex, especially for businesses with multiple employees. Fortunately, there are various tools and resources available to assist you in the process. The CRA provides online resources, including guides, forms, and calculators, to help you understand the requirements and complete the necessary returns. Additionally, there are payroll software solutions available that can streamline the process and ensure accurate reporting. It’s important to explore these tools and resources to find the best fit for your business needs.


Completing and filing payroll returns in Canada is a critical task for businesses and employers. It requires careful attention to detail, accurate calculations, and adherence to filing deadlines. By understanding the types of information returns, filing deadlines, and the process of completing and amending payroll returns, you can ensure compliance with the CRA’s regulations and avoid penalties. Remember to leverage the available tools and resources to simplify the process and make payroll returns more manageable. Stay organized, stay informed, and file your payroll returns in Canada with confidence.