Canada tax question - How long to keep tax return?

How long does Revenue Canada (CCRA I think it’s called now) require us to keep copies of our old tax returns? I’d like to clear out my filing cabinets of some of this old paperwork, but I don’t want to throw away anything I’m obligated to keep…

I searched their website, but didn’t find anything relevant.
Does anyone know? (a link would be great if you can find one)


No cite, but I think you’re safe with five years.

I seem to recall the forms somewhere saying that they have five years to reassess a return if they feel the need. After that, I believe they consider the matter closed, so keeping five years’ worth of paperwork and returns should be fine.

Anybody know for sure?

Well, they can audit for up to seven…


Note the weaselly “generally”. I just shredded my pre-1994 information a few weeks ago and I’ll be keeping a seven-year cycle from now on. If they want to audit me further back, let them do their own damn research.

Ok, someone who does know for sure. Keep your returns going back 6 years; in other words if you’ve just filed your 2001 return, you can get rid of your '95 return and anything earlier - you’ll have six years worth of returns on your own file then - 96, 97, 98, 99, 00, and 01.

CCRA can audit back 6 years… so after you’ve filed for 2001, they can audit you on anything going back to '96 - AND - if they find something suspicious in any of those returns going back 6 years, they can then go back another 3 years from '96… find something suspicous there then they’ve got a pattern, and can go back 3 years prior to that, and so on and so forth. It depends how much time they have and how much money they believe you’ve hidden away. It’s unlikely they’d bother to go back really far unless you’ve been doing some major tax evasion worth many thousands of dollars to them.

So, if you’ve been evading on a consistent basis - AND they catch on - they can essentially go back to your first return ever filed. However, the only reason to keep every return is if you’re a major criminal, but then again keeping a paper trail of your own criminal activities would defeat the purpose.

So, for all you regular law-abiding types (and the shady characters as well :D), keep your Canadian tax returns going back 6 years.

  • An employee of a certain very big tax preparation company -

But you know, they don’t take up much room if you keep them. They memorialize your life from year to year, and I kind of like looking back and remembering what we were doing in 1982, 1988, 1990, 1994…they really bring back memories. They fit in a small box and it’s no trouble to stick them on a shelf. I guess I’m not answering your question, but I wonder why people are so eager to get rid of them when it’s so easy to keep them. Mine take up no more room than a big shoe box, and that’s over 20 years worth. Is it a storage problem?

I just picture riblet with a grandchild on his/her knee, “…and I got this one when I filed Form TL2, Claim for Meals and Lodging Expenses. That was way back in 1992. Can you say ‘TL2’ ?”

Seriously, dude, you need a photo album or a scrapbook or something.