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By News Editor Aislinn Cottell
It’s tax season and, for many students, that may seem an intimidating task on top of all the other spring responsibilities—aka exams. But taxes are important to complete, not only because of the civic duty, but also because many lower income students are eligible for tax benefits returns. It may seem like a headache now, but those cheques can feel like a godsend when struggling to make ends meet in the middle of semester next year.
So, how do you do it?
First of all, know your due dates. For most Canadians, tax filings for income tax and benefits returns are due by April 30. For self-employed individuals and their spouses or common law partners, the due date is June 15.
Tax files can be sent by mail to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), or filed online using certified tax preparation software or a certified web application. The CRA has a list of certified tax preparation software on its website, including some that are free. To find out more, check out cra.gc.ca/netfile.
If you’re reading this and have absolutely no idea where to start, tax filing help is available through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, for those with a modest income and simple tax situation. To find a free, volunteer tax preparation clinic near you, use the MyCRA mobile app at cra.gc.ca/mobileapps or go to cra.gc.ca/volunteer.
Next, know what you can claim.
As a student, education costs can be used to balance against any income made during the tax year, and lower the tax amount owed. Each student should have received an email notifying that their official tax receipt, or a Form T2202A (Tuition, Education, and Textbook Amounts Certificate), has become available through their online student record. This form details the total eligible fees associated with university which can be claimed for the tax year.
Full-time students (or part-time students who can claim the disability amount or have a certified mental or physical impairment), can claim $400 for each month enrolled in a qualifying educational program at a designated educational institution. Part-time students can claim $120 for each month enrolled. If a student can claim either of these, textbook costs can be claimed: $65 for each month of full-time study, and $20 for each month of part-time.
International students studying in Canada must determine residency status at <cra.gc.ca/internationalstudents>. If a student is required to file a return, or are filing to claim a refund or credit, they must send their return to the CRA’s International and Ottawa Tax Services Office. Questions can be directed to the CRA’s international tax and non-resident enquiries line at 1-800-959-8281.
Use of public transit can also be claimed. Keep all transit passes for local buses, streetcars, subways, commuter trains or buses, and local ferries, and enter the total public transit amount on line 364 of Schedule 1, Federal Tax. To find out if a transit pass is eligible and for more information, go to cra.gc.ca/transitpass.
Students with a low or modest income who are residents of Canada, and over 19-years-old, may be eligible for the goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit, as well as credits and benefits under related provincial and territorial programs. Qualification for these credits is automatic: the CRA determines your eligibility when returns are filed, and will send a notice if a student qualifies.
Child care during work or school hours can be deducted, and parents of children under the age of 18 may be eligible for the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), a monthly, tax-free payment to help families with the cost of raising children, as well as related provincial and territorial programs.
If a student has moved locations to study full-time in a post-secondary program at a university, college, or other education institution, moving expenses may be claimed. These costs can only be deducted from the scholarships, fellowships, bursaries, certain prizes, and research grants section of income. Moving expenses can also be claimed if a student has moved to work (including summer employment) or to run a business. These can only be deducted from the employment or self-employment income earned at the new work location, and to qualify, the new home must be at least 40 km closer to the student’s new school or work location.
Interest paid on student loans can be claimed if a student or family member made payments on their loan in 2016 for post-secondary education. Interest paid over the last five years can also be claimed if it hasn’t been already. Only interest paid on loans received under the Canada Student Loans Act, the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, the Apprentice Loans Act, or similar provincial or territorial legislation for post-secondary education can be claimed.
Looking for more information? Check out cra.gc.ca/students. As well, the CRA has informative videos just for students, at cra.gc.ca/videogallery.
Good luck, and happy filing!
Aislinn is a third year Bachelor of Arts and Science student majoring in creative writing and minoring in chemistry. New to The Nav team this year, she’s enjoying finding out about all the interesting things happening on campus. Her hobbies include reading, drawing, Netflix, and the copious consumption of coffee.