Tips and Resources
As you get ready to do your taxes, here are some tips and resources to help.
If you have any questions or would like a second opinion, you can book an appointment with our money coach on OSCARplus.
Who is eligible to file an individual tax return?
If you are a Canadian resident who is 18 years of age or older, you are eligible to file a tax return. This includes international students as well as their partners residing with them in Canada.
Why should I file a tax return if I do not have any income? Will I get into trouble with the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA)?
Filing a return will make you eligible to receive important benefits and credits that are available for Canadian individuals and families with a low income. You will not be able to receive these without filing a tax return. Only individuals that owe the CRA taxes will be penalized with a fine. However, students with no income will not be subject to taxes or a fine.
I want to file my own taxes this year. Which free software should I use?
First of all, congratulations! Preparing your tax return is a great way to gain a better understanding of your financial situation and where your money is going.
There are several free tax software that the CRA recommends. In our clinics, we use Simple Tax because it is easy to use, and it works well for simple returns. You can learn about other CRA-recommended software on the CRA website. Remember, tax return requirements stay the same across the different software — only the navigation will change.
What if I used a different software last year? Do I need to stick with the same one?
No, you can use any software you like, as long as you have not already filed a return for the current year. Simply delete your account on the other software and open up a new account on the platform of your choice.
I’ve moved since last year. Which address do I include on my tax return?
Your address is an important piece of information that the CRA will use to identify you. If you have moved, you need to update your address by contacting the CRA (1-800-959-8281) or online through your CRA My Account. You may need to answer security questions, so have a copy of last year’s Notice of Assessment (NOA) and tax return (T1), if possible.
If you are having trouble contacting the CRA to make this change, you can use the address that you listed on last year’s tax return if you have already registered for direct deposit. However, your NOA will be mailed to this address, so make sure you have registered for mail forwarding through the post office so that your mail will be directed to your new address.
Does it matter if my address is wrong on Mosaic?
An incorrect address in Mosaic will not affect your tax return. It only matters that the CRA has your current address. However, you can easily update your address on Mosaic using the self-serve portal.
Do married couples (including common-law couples) file separate tax returns?
Yes. However, you and your partner should prepare your returns together because you will need to fill out some of the same information. Any tax software you use will be able to prepare both yours and your partner’s return so that common information is filled out but the returns are kept separate.
The reason you need to file separate returns is that some benefits are based on family income, and only one partner can receive the benefit on behalf of the family. To be considered a common-law couple, you must have lived together for 12 consecutive months, unless there are extenuating circumstances. If you have questions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is CRA My Account? Do I need to register before I file my taxes?
The CRA My Account is a secure online service offered by the CRA that give you access to your tax and benefit information. You can edit your personal information, set up direct deposit, file your income taxes using auto-fill, sign up for email communication, check when your benefits will be released and more. My Account is easy to set up, but you will need to submit your tax return before you can register. Do not sign up for email communication on your tax return if you have not registered for a My CRA Account.
What should I do if I have a lot of tax questions or if your tax situation is more complicated?
This will depend on your questions. You can contact Mac’s Money Centre (email@example.com) for support. Even if we do not have the answer, we will point you in the right direction to get answers.
Where do I upload my documents on the tax software?
You do not need to submit documents when you file your taxes. When you submit your return, you are confirming that all the information you provided is accurate. In case the CRA contacts you for more documentation, you must keep your receipts for six years. Remember that the CRA already has a copy of all your T4-related slips, provided by your employer. If you leave out a T4 and do not claim that income, the CRA will re-assess your return. The CRA may request copies of your T2202 – Tuition slips to prove these credits you have claimed.
What if I forgot to include important expenses on my return? Can I edit my return?
Unfortunately, once you file your tax return, you cannot edit or re-file. You must fill a T1 Adjustment Form and mail it in separately. This form allows you to identify which information you missed and where on the return it should have been included. The CRA will make the adjustment and send you a copy of your revised NOA. Do not submit a T1 Adjustment form until you have received your initial NOA. If you have already registered for a CRA My Account, you can submit this adjustment online.
I have not filed any returns before. Where should I start?
You can still file tax returns from previous years for up to 10 years. Start with the first year that you were eligible to file a return (18 for purposes of the sales tax credit), and work your way from there. Most free tax software will give you an option to prepare tax returns for previous years.
I filed my return. What’s next?
Make sure you keep a copy of the confirmation that states your file was successfully submitted electronically to the CRA. Then wait for your Notice of Assessment (NOA) to come. It usually takes a few weeks to process. You can save a PDF copy of your return to keep for your records.
What is an NOA?
Your NOA is a confirmation from the government that confirms your tax refund, benefits and credits based on your tax submission. It will also contain any adjustments that were made to your return, if applicable. You can compare your NOA to your original tax return to check if the amounts match. If you need clarification or have questions about your NOA, contact the CRA.
I tried to file my return electronically (using NETFILE), but I’m getting an error message. Now what?
Read the message carefully to find out why you are unable to file. The name you provided on your tax return may not match the CRA’s records. Try using the name on your SIN. You can contact the CRA for more information and to make sure your name on their records is correct.
Remember, your name, birth date, social insurance number (SIN) and address must match your CRA records. If the CRA does not have a record on you, then you will need to mail in your return to your nearest tax office. Visit the CRA website for a list of tax offices. Make sure to keep copies of your return. Additionally, if you mail in your return, it will take longer to process.
I feel intimidated by filing my return. I am worried I might get it wrong. What should I do?
Once you learn how to file your taxes, you will no longer feel intimidated. Additionally, learning to do your taxes can make you feel empowered and help you understand your financial situation.
It may take some time to learn the process, but do not get frustrated. Make sure to check your return and ask questions. Most student returns are not complicated, and they can be completed using free software. Agencies can charge upwards of $90 for straightforward returns, so save your money and file your taxes yourself.
Is there a deadline for me to submit my taxes?
If you don’t owe the CRA money, there is technically no deadline for you to submit your tax return. However, if you are filing returns for multiple years, you can only receive benefits for the last four years.
The normal tax deadline, which generally applies to people who owe the CRA money, is April 30. However, as a result of COVID-19, the deadline for 2019 tax returns is now June 1, 2020. We recommend that you try to submit your taxes by this deadline so that your benefit payments are not delayed.
What qualifies as income?
Income refers to funds you receive from any of the following sources: employment (T4), scholarships/bursaries (T4A), interest earned on investments (T3 & T5), government programs (i.e. Ontario Disability Support Program, Ontario Works), tips and gratuities. You should have received income slips from these sources no later than March. If you are missing an income slip, contact your employer, bank or whatever institution provided you with these funds. Bank slips are often sent electronically to your online bank account. Check there first. As you receive income slips, store them safely in a file until you are ready to prepare your return.
What about self-employment income?
You are required to claim every type of income you receive, including income earned through self-employment. If you are self-employed, make sure to claim any eligible expenses, such as car mileage. To claim mileage, you will need to keep a record of your car usage.
The easiest way to claim your self-employment income is to include the net amount (with any eligible expenses deducted) under “other income.” If you have a more complicated business with several expenses, then you will have to fill out an income and expense statement. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a more complicated situation.
What if I have multiple revenue slips? Should I be adding these up myself?
If you are using tax software, there is no need to add up any slips. For example, once you add in a slip on Simple Tax, there will be an option to add another slip (i.e. “Add another T4”). Make sure not to include any duplicates.
Why do I need to include my scholarship and bursary amounts on my T4A? I was told that these payments are not taxable.
If you are a full-time student, then your scholarship and bursary amounts are likely not taxable. However, the CRA uses any funds you received to calculate the amount of benefits that you are eligible for.
I have money from investments in my account to help pay for school and living expenses. Is this money considered income for tax purposes?
If you have money that you have saved from a previous year, brought with you from another country or received as a gift, it is not considered income. Only the interest that you earn from this money is considered income. You should receive a T5 slip from your bank or institution to give details on interest earned from investments.
What kind of receipts do I need from my landlord to claim rent on my tax return?
You must be able to prove the rent you paid your landlord. Contact your landlord and ask them for a letter that confirms the total amount of rent that you paid for the year. Make sure they include their name and address, and your name.
Your landlord is legally required to provide you with proof of rent paid. However, it is a good idea to keep a copy of your e-transfers or cheques as proof of payment in case the CRA requests documentation. Never pay your landlord by cash, as this is difficult to track.
I lived in residence. What can I claim?
You can only claim $25 in occupancy costs if you lived in residence.
What if I pay rent with my partner or friend and we are under one lease?
You should still ask your landlord for two separate receipts. This way, you can both claim your share of the rent on your tax return. Next time you rent, make sure that everyone’s name is included on the lease.
Can a lease be used as documentation for the rent I paid?
No, you must have more detailed proof, such as a letter from your landlord.
I live with my parents, but I pay for rent. Should I be claiming this amount?
Yes, you can claim the rent you pay your parents, but only if they also claim the amount as income on their tax return.
I pay to commute to school (GO bus, school bus pass). Can I claim this expense?
Unfortunately, you cannot claim your school bus pass as an expense. You can claim commuting expenses if you are travelling more than 40 km to school, but only after you have come back from a summer break or a co-op or internship.
Can I claim medical expenses?
You can deduct premiums you paid for medical expenses, as well as any costs that were not covered by insurance. If you have a complicated medical condition that results in a lot of expenses, you can email us at email@example.com. We will help you identify which costs you can claim.
Can I claim daycare or childcare expenses?
Yes. If you are the only person supporting the child, you can claim the expenses you paid. If you have a partner, then the partner with the lower income is eligible to claim these expenses. You must have a receipt from the childcare provider to claim this expense.
Please note that you do not need to claim benefits as income.
How do I know if I qualify for tax benefits?
Your eligibility depends on several factors, including your income, the number of people in your family and the type of deductions you have utilized. Most students qualify for these benefits. If you are using software to prepare your tax return, the program will be able to calculate the amount of benefits that you are qualified to receive.
What benefits should I be checking for after I prepare my return?
Always check your return before you file to make sure you have identified all the benefits and credits. Check and re-check your return. You should consider the GST/HST credit, the Ontario trillium benefit (OTB) and the climate action incentive (CAI).
Do I need my receipts to claim benefits?
No, receipts are not required. The amount of benefits you will receive is based on your income.
What is the GST/HST credit?
The GST/HST credit represents the federal government’s portion (5%) of the 13% tax that you pay on most purchases. This credit is designed to give back some money to help individuals and families with lower income to offset this tax. You must be 19 years of age to apply. To help you during COVID-19, the government will be doubling your annual credit for 2019–2020 through an additional, one-time payment in early May 2020.
What is the Ontario trillium benefit (OTB)?
This benefit combines the Ontario sales tax credit and the Ontario energy and property tax credit (OEPTC). To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old and have lived in Ontario in December of the previous year.
To receive the OTB, you only need to apply for the occupancy tax credit. When you use tax software, the Ontario sales tax credit is automatically calculated. If you are eligible, you will receive monthly payments or a lump sum. If you qualify for less than $360, then you will receive a lump-sum payment in July. If you qualify for more than $360, you will receive equal payments on day 10 of every month.
What is the climate action incentive (CAI)?
The CAI is a refundable tax credit for people who live in Ontario, Saskatchewan or Alberta. This credit offsets the federal carbon tax, which began in April 2019 to encourage people to use less fossil fuels. The CAI helps eligible Canadians with these higher energy and gas costs. To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old and have lived in Ontario for the entire previous year.
I do not own a car. Can I still claim the climate action incentive (CAI)?
Yes, you should still apply for the CAI.
How do I claim my tuition credits?
You can only use tuition credits to offset certain government taxes. However, you are likely not paying these taxes while you are in school. You can defer your tax credits so you can use them when you are eligible — i.e. when you are working full-time and paying full taxes. To do this, you need to record them each year that you pay tuition so that your credits will accumulate in your tax account. You can find these amounts on your T2202 tuition and enrolment slip.
Does that mean that the government will be paying back my tuition fees?
Not exactly. The credits you receive will cover 15% of your total tuition costs. This amount is meant to offset the taxes you will be paying when you start working full-time — likely after you graduate.
The tax software is asking me for the amount of unused tuition credits. Where do I find this?
You can find this amount on your notification of assessment (NOA) or your online CRA My Account. If you cannot find this number, you can leave the section blank. The CRA will be able to calculate the amount for you.
What does it mean to transfer my tuition credits to my parents?
As a student, all tuition credits belong to you, regardless of who paid the tuition. If you choose, you can transfer up to $5,000 to your parents or partner (if they are working full-time and able to use the credit to offset taxes). Here’s a tip: If you need the credit to pay a loan or to pay for school, you can ask the person you transferred the money to, to use the credit for you.
If you are an international student, you must stay in Canada to be able to use your tuition credit.
What type of moving expenses qualify for a credit?
If you have to move to attend school, you can claim some of the expenses — such as renting a moving van, gas, food and temporary accommodation — and receive a credit. Additionally, if you have to travel more than 40 km to school or work, you can claim expenses, such as gas, train and bus costs, etc. You must have receipts to claim moving and travelling expenses on your tax return.
If you are an international student, you can only claim the expenses you pay to come to Canada. You cannot claim costs for return flights to go to your home country.
Who qualifies for the Canada child benefit (CCB)?
Eligibility for the new CCB is based on your family’s total income. For more information, visit the CRA’s CCB webpage.
International students with families are also eligible for the CCB, as long as they have lived in Canada with their child for at least 18 consecutive months. You will need to apply for this benefit separate from your tax return by submitting an RC66SCH form.
What does it mean to be considered a newcomer or resident for tax purposes?
This status only refers to international students and their families, as taxes and benefits are calculated based on residency. If you came to Canada to study or work, rent a place to live, spend money in the economy, set up a bank account, etc., you are considered to be a newcomer or resident. However, this does not mean that you are a “permanent resident” in terms of your immigration status.
As a newcomer or resident (for tax purposes), do I need to do anything special to receive benefits?
If you are single or married without children, you must fill out an RC151 form to receive the GST/HST tax credit and the Ontario trillium benefit. This form is separate from your tax return. You only need to fill out the RC151 in the year that you came to Canada. If you have a partner or spouse who does not live in Canada, they do not need to sign the form.
My partner or spouse does not live in Canada. Do I still indicate that I am married on my tax return?
Yes. You will need to answer questions about your and your family’s income before you arrived in Canada so that the CRA can calculate the benefits you can receive.
What if I am arriving with my spouse or partner and my child?
If you come to Canada with children, then you will need to file the RC66SCH form in addition to the RC151 form. These documents are similar, but the RC66SCH incudes a citizen questionnaire.
How do I receive the Canada child benefit (CCB)?
You are eligible to receive the CCB if you have been living in Canada on a study or work permit with your child for more than 18 months. On month 19, you can submit an application for the CCB by using the RC66 form.
I received a letter from the CRA asking me about my residency status. Which form do I need to submit?
If you are single or married without children, then you must fill out the RC151 form and attach the original CRA letter. If you came to Canada with your spouse or partner and children, then you must fill out both the RC151 form and the RC66SCH form.
Where do I mail these forms?
The RC151 form and RC66SCH form (if applicable) will include a mailing address. If you have registered for an online CRA My Account, you can upload these documents online.
I own a foreign rental property. How does this impact my tax return?
If you own a foreign rental property that is worth more than $100,000 CAD, you must fill out a T1135 form. This information will apply to the “real property” section of the form. The amount that you enter should be the fair market value of the property at the time you arrived in Canada. The form will also ask for gross rent. For T1 purposes, you will need to include net rental income. You can deduct eligible expenses from the gross rent amount to calculate the net income. If you have questions about how to calculate this amount, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can include this rental income under “other income” on your tax return. You do not need to fill out this information if you are not receiving rental income.
It’s tax season and we are here to help!
Check out our online tax webinars — we’ll help you file your taxes for free.
- Moving expenses can be deducted against taxable scholarships, research grants, and other such awards, if you moved at least 40km in order to attend a post-secondary educational institution. You can also deduct moving expenses that result from moving back and forth from university after summer break. You can carry these moving expenses forward until you have enough eligible income to claim them.
- Full time students can claim the full time education deduction. Post-secondary scholarships, bursaries, and awards are not taxable up to the amount required to support you in that program.
- Don’t forget to claim your GST/HST tax credit. This is a tax- free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low or modest income to offset all or part of the GST or HST that they pay. You must be 19 years of age to receive this credit. The maximum credit is $268 for 2014-2015.
- The Ontario Trillium Grant combines, the Ontario Sales Tax Credit, Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit, and the Northern Ontario Energy Credit into one payment. You must also be 19 years of age to receive this credit and payments are made monthly. Residence fees are not eligible for this credit because this is not considered your principal residence.
- Understand the tax laws; the more you know, the more you can possibly save
- Use resources from an official source, like Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
- Consult with a tax professional when needed
- Hold on to your tax documents and records for 6 years
- Be pro-active in tax planning; keep all your slips and back up documents in one central place (visit our Money Coach)
- file on time to avoid penalties and interest
- Keep track of your carry-forwards so you don’t lose these benefits
** Don’t fall for tax scams received either through telephone, mail, text message or email. CRA will never request personal information such as a SIN, credit card number, bank account number or passport numbers.
- Students and Income Tax Guide
- Income Tax Calculator
- Your personalized CRA account – This tool allows you to view or modify your return, track your refund, set up direct deposit, check your payments and much more!
- If you are registered with My Account, you can also use auto-fill my return when you file using online certified software.
- MyCRA Mobile App – You can access key parts of your tax information and manage personal details wherever you are.
- Check out the CRA’s Video Series:
- Tax Ombudsman
- CRA’s Fairness and Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights
- Community Volunteer Tax Program – CRA runs a number of free service clinics when your income is low with trained volunteers. Check it out if you need help or want to volunteer
- Mac’s Money Centre Volunteer Tax Clinics – We host tax clinics every March and April