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Understanding Tax Installments: A Key Aspect of Financial Literacy

Paying taxes is an essential civic duty that supports the functioning of our society. For many Canadians, taxes are typically paid as a lump sum by April 30th each year. However, if your net tax owing exceeds certain thresholds, you may be required to pay tax installments throughout the year. This blog post aims to enhance your financial literacy by explaining what tax installments are, who needs to pay them, how to calculate and make these payments, and the implications of not adhering to the installment schedule.

What Are Tax Installments?

Tax installments are periodic payments made throughout the year to cover the taxes you owe, similar to how an employer deducts tax from each paycheck. These installments help distribute the tax burden more evenly over the year, preventing a large lump-sum payment at the end of the tax year.

Who Has to Pay Tax Installments?

You may need to pay tax installments if your net tax owing is more than $3,000 (or $1,800 if you reside in Quebec) for the current tax year and in either of the two preceding years. This requirement often applies to individuals with income sources that do not have tax withheld at source, such as self-employed individuals, investors, and those receiving rental income.

Why You Have to Pay Tax Installments

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requires tax installments to ensure a steady flow of revenue throughout the year. This system also benefits taxpayers by breaking down their tax obligations into manageable payments, reducing the financial strain of paying a large amount at once.

Options to Calculate Required Tax Installments

There are three main methods to calculate your tax installments:

  • No Calculation Option: This method is based on the CRA’s installment reminders, which calculate your payments based on your previous year’s tax return.
  • Prior-Year Option: This method involves paying installments based on the amount you owed in the previous year.
  • Current-Year Option: This method estimates the current year’s tax liability and divides it into equal installments.

Choosing the right method depends on your financial situation and income predictability. If your income is stable, the prior-year option might be straightforward. For fluctuating incomes, the current-year option may be more appropriate to avoid overpaying or underpaying.

Payment Due Dates for Tax Installments

Tax installment payments are generally due on the following dates:

  • March 15
  • June 15
  • September 15
  • December 15

For farmers and fishers, the due date is December 31.

How to Pay Tax Installments

You can pay your tax installments using various methods:

  • Online Banking: Set up CRA as a payee in your online banking.
  • CRA My Payment: A secure online payment service.
  • Pre-Authorized Debit: Set up automatic payments from your bank account.
  • Mail: Send a cheque or money order along with a remittance voucher to the CRA.

Ensure you keep records of your payments and verify them in your CRA online account.

Claiming Installment Payments on Your Tax Return

When you file your tax return, you must report the total amount of installment payments made during the year. This amount is credited against your total tax owing, reducing the balance you need to pay by April 30.

Interest and Penalty Charges

Failing to pay the required installments can result in interest and penalty charges. The CRA charges installment interest if you did not make payments or if your payments were late or insufficient. Penalties are applied if your installment interest is more than $1,000. To avoid these charges, ensure you make accurate and timely payments.


Understanding and managing tax installments is a crucial aspect of financial literacy, especially for individuals with significant income not subject to withholding at source. By making regular installment payments, you can better manage your cash flow, avoid interest and penalties, and fulfill your tax obligations smoothly. At Shajani CPA, we are committed to helping you navigate your tax responsibilities. Remember our motto: Tell us your ambitions and we will guide you there.


This information is for discussion purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. There is no guarantee or warrant of information on this site and it should be noted that rules and laws change regularly. You should consult a professional before considering implementing or taking any action based on information on this site. Call our team for a consultation before taking any action. ©2024 Shajani CPA.

Shajani CPA is a CPA Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer firm and provides Accountant, Bookkeeping, Tax Advice and Tax Planning service.

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Nizam Shajani, Partner, LLM, CPA, CA, TEP, MBA

I enjoy formulating plans that help my clients meet their objectives. It's this sense of pride in service that facilitates client success which forms the culture of Shajani CPA.

Shajani Professional Accountants has offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. We’re here to support you in all of your personal and business tax and other accounting needs.