–Updated on: Friday, April 11 at 10:55 a.m. ET–
If you were planning on preparing and filing your taxes before the weekend is up or before the weather gets even better, you still can despite the CRA’s NETFILE outage.
Security should be top of mind however in light of the recently disclosed “Heartbleed Bug,” an Internet security hole affecting certain versions of OpenSSL, a widely used encryption code. The CRA shut down its entire suite of electronic services Tuesday after discovering it was indeed susceptible to Heartbleed. Services including EFILE, NETFILE, My Account, My Business Account and Represent a Client could be up and running again as early as this weekend as the CRA works to patch the problem.
The CRA confirmed Thursday that interest and penalties will not be applied to individual taxpayers filing their 2013 tax returns after April 30, 2014 “for a period equal to the length of this service interruption.”
In the meantime, you can prepare your taxes and hit “save” on your return until the CRA’s electronic services are back on line, if your tax preparation software is safe. After all, Heartbleed is not unique to the CRA. Plenty of popular online services are using some version of OpenSSL, including Yahoo and a number of popular tax preparation programs.
Desktop tax applications don’t leverage OpenSSL until the point of transmission, so you can feel confident about preparing your taxes using a NETFILE-certified in-the-box kit you’ve purchased at the store or downloaded to your computer.
The majority of NETFILE-certified online products have already been patched for Heartbleed or were not affected. Still, it’s wise to check the Heartbleed test tool before you start to prepare your tax return using a cloud-based service to see if your program of choice may be affected.
EasyCTax, H&R Block Online, TurboTax, UFile, Tax Chopper, EachTax, AdvTax and SimpleTax have already confirmed with MoneySense that their web based programs have not been affected by Heartbleed and are safe to use going forward.
“We’re advising Canadians to keep on preparing, even though NETFILE is down,” said TurboTax spokesperson Matthew Kanas in a statement to MoneySense. “We’re asking our customers to simply fill out their return as normal, and when TurboTax prompts them to file, to save their progress. We then request our customer’s email address, which we’ll use to immediately inform them when the CRA is back up. From there they just need to log back in and file through NETFILE.”
UFile meanwhile is suggesting users prepare their taxes as normal before printing their return, complete with unique barcode, and mailing it to their local CRA district office.
Of course you can always prepare your return the old-fashioned way, on paper.