Quebec opens up to online tax returns

MONTREAL – Select Quebecers will be able to file their fiscal 2002 provincial tax returns online without costly commercial software as part of a pilot project by Revenue Quebec.

Believed to be a first in Canada, between 600,000

and 700,000 singles without dependents will be eligible to file their provincial returns online. The forms will be available in February on the Revenue Quebec Web site. Quebec is the only province that collects its own provincial taxes.

Until now, taxpayers wanting to file online had to use commercial software and commercial Web sites, the most common being ImpotRapide and ImpotWeb with cost ranging between $13 and $20 a year. Federal returns will still have to be filled out separately.

If successful, the online service will be available to all Quebec taxpayers. Last spring, about 1.3 Quebec returns were filed via Internet, of which 900,000 were prepared by tax specialists out of a total of 5.6 million returns. Filing online has become particularly popular among individuals filing their own returns, since most tax specialists are already filing online.

One of the advantages of filing electronically is that rebates are paid within 14 days of filing without an accompanying T4 form listing expense receipts. But the receipts must be kept in case of an audit.

For now, only PC users can file online. Mac users will have to wait until the pilot project is complete to see if the new service will be extended to them. If the number of Mac users doesn’t increase, it’s unlikely the government will invest to develop the necessary applications to cater to them, according to Revenue Quebec spokesperson Manon Tremblay.

About two per cent of Quebec government Internet traffic is currently generated with a Mac, while international standards suggest resources shouldn’t be dedicated to anything below five per cent.

One of the advantages when filing online using PDF Dynamic forms is that if an individual is unsure how to fill out a particular section, they simply click on a box and thanks to JavaScript, up pops an explanation, said François Garon, manager of the electronic forms division for Revenue Quebec.

If the return is not completed correctly or information has been left out such as a postal code, a pop-up box will also alert the filer, Garon explained at a recent conference here called Digital Document Directions by Xplor Canada.

“”Some other advantages is that you don’t have to go to a government office to obtain a form, the form is fairly easy to complete and electronic filing tends to eliminate a lot of common mistakes,”” said Garon. “”It’s also easier to update forms for people who have to file monthly installments since most of the information has already been completed.””

Revenue Quebec expects to make early this month about other changes it is making to its online services.

Brian Dunn is a Montreal correspondent for ITBusiness.ca.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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