04/25/2013 12:00 EDT | Updated 06/25/2013 05:12 EDT

Tax Deadline Canada: Poll Finds Most Will Act Responsibly With Tax Refunds

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MONTREAL - Just 10 per cent of Canadians expect to spend their tax refund this year on travel or luxury goods, with more than half planning to pay down debt or invest, according to a new poll.

The BMO Nesbitt Burns tax survey conducted in mid-March found that eight in 10 Canadians expected to receive a refund, with 37 per cent saying they planned to pay down debt.

Another 20 per cent said they would invest it in a Registered Retirement Savings Plan or a Tax Free Savings Account or otherwise save the money.

Seven per cent of those surveyed said they planned to do some home renovations with the money.

John Waters, a vice-president and head of tax and estate planning at BMO Nesbitt Burns Wealth Planning Group, said the results showed that people are getting out of the mindset that their tax refund is a sort of windfall.

"I think what we're trying to get into people's minds is this is really your money that the government has had and now they're giving it back to you," he said.

"It's refreshing to see that people are generally putting it toward investing or paying off the debt," Waters added in an interview from Toronto.

To date, the average individual tax refund has been $1,585, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Waters said the 10 per cent of Canadians who planned to spend their money on travel or luxury goods is consistent with past surveys.

"Maybe by the time we get our refunds it's nice here in Canada and we're less apt to go off to some sunny and warm climate. It might be different if we got our refunds in January," he joked.

The survey also found that 82 per cent of those surveyed were satisfied with their notice of assessment. That's the form the Canada Revenue Agency sends after reviewing a person's taxes to notify whether a refund is due, a balance is owing or any corrections.

Waters said a lot of people don't read their notice of assessment thoroughly and can be unaware of such things as unused contribution room for their RRSPs.

He added that there are studies showing taxpayers have a "huge" amount of unused contributions for their RRSPs.

Even though taxpayers are often on a "mad scramble" to get their taxes done it pays to take note of changes to tax rules and to be aware of all possible deductions, he said.

"Learn form this experience. Look at new tax credits, anything else that could save money down the road," he said. "It definitely takes discipline."

As of April 18, the Canada Revenue Agency said it had received more than 13.1 million tax returns and that 86 per cent had been filed electronically. The deadline for filing personal tax returns is April 30.

The online survey wad done by market research firm Pollara between March 15 and March 19 with a sample of 1,002 Canadians.

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