Did you work from home in 2020 because of the pandemic?
You may be eligible to get some money back by claiming expenses. The government has introduced a new temporary, flat-rate method to simplify these expense claims. (View this infographic for a detailed breakdown of the flat-rate expense method.) You’re eligible to use this new method if you worked from home due to COVID-19 for more than 50% of the time during a period of at least four consecutive weeks in 2020. Learn more about home office expenses for employees on the Canada Government website.
Updated March 1, 2021
Who is eligible to file an individual tax return?
Generally, if you are 18 years of age or older, you are eligible to file a tax return and receive benefits. This applies to 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 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?
Filing a return will make you eligible to receive important benefits and credits available to low-income individuals and families in Canada. You will not be able to receive these benefits without filing a tax return. Only individuals who owe the CRA taxes will need to pay after filing. However, students without an income will not be subject to taxes.
I want to file my own taxes this year. What free software should I use?
First of all, congratulations! Everyone should be motivated to try to file their own taxes. This is an important part of understanding your financial situation and knowing where your tax money is going and what it’s being used for.
The CRA recommends several free tax programs. In our tax webinars, we introduce students to a program called Wealthsimple Tax because it is straightforward and intuitive, and it works well for simple returns.
You can find more software options on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website. Remember, the concept of what to include and what to claim on your return remains the same for any software. The navigation is the only thing that will change.
For my taxes this year, do I need to use the same software I used last year?
No, you can use whichever software you would like, as long as you haven’t already filed a return for the current year. If you’ve chosen a new program this year, delete your account on any programs from previous years.
I moved last year. Which address do I include on my tax return?
Your address is an important piece of identifying information for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). When you move, you’re required to contact the CRA to update your address. You can do this online using CRA My Account. Or, you can call 1-800-959-8281. The CRA will need to verify your identity over the phone, so have a previous Notice of Assessment (NOA) and Tax Return (T1) to answer the identification questions.
If you have trouble getting through to the CRA, then use the address from your last tax return, as long as you have already registered for direct deposit. The only problem with this is that the CRA will mail your NOA to your previous address. In this case, ensure that you have registered for mail forwarding with the post office so that you will receive all important documents at your correct address. Remember, you still have to change your address with the CRA.
What is a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) PIN? How does it help me?
You now have the option of using a personal identification number (PIN) when calling the CRA about your individual tax return and benefits. A PIN is a fast and secure way for you to identify yourself over the phone. You can set up a PIN on your CRA My Account. Then, the next time you call the CRA, you won’t have to answer specific questions about your tax information in order to verify your identity.
What is CRA My Account, and how does it help me?
My Account is a secure online portal that lets you view your personal income tax and benefit information and manage your tax affairs. Using My Account, you can track your refund, view or change your return, check your benefit and credit payments, view your RRSP limit, set up direct deposit, receive email notifications and so much more. You can also opt to auto-fill your return if you’ve used certified software. We recommend that you sign up for My Account.
Additionally, the government has introduced three new recovery benefits to support Canadians who continue to face financial hardship due to COVID-19: the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit. If you’re eligible, you can apply for these benefits using My Account.
Find out how to register for My Account on the CRA website. Before you can register using option one or two listed on the website, you must have filed your tax return for the current tax year or the previous tax year. You can also check out CRA apps to access your information easily from your phone or mobile device.
Do not sign up for email notifications on your tax return if you have not registered for CRA My Account.
Does it matter if my address is wrong on Mosaic?
Having the incorrect address on your Mosaic account won’t affect your tax return. However, you should ensure that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has your current address that you’ll be including on your tax return. If you need to notify the CRA of a new address, you can do this online using CRA My Account. Or, you can call 1-800-959-8281. The CRA will need to verify your identity over the phone, so have a previous Notice of Assessment (NOA) and Tax Return (T1) to answer the identification questions.
However, it’s still a good idea to ensure your address is listed accurately in Mosaic. You can update your personal information on the self-serve portal.
Do spouses file their tax returns separately?
Yes. Some benefits are based on family income, and only one partner will receive the benefits on behalf of the family.
However, spouses should prepare their tax returns together because some of the required information will apply to both individuals. Most tax software makes it easy to prepare returns together but file separately.
Information regarding children under the age of 18 also needs to be included. To be considered a common-law couple, you must have lived together for 12 consecutive months, unless there have been extenuating circumstances. Email us at email@example.com if you are unsure.
I have a lot of tax questions or a few questions that are a bit more challenging. What should I do?
This will depend on your question(s). You can contact Mac’s Money Centre (firstname.lastname@example.org) for inquiries. If we don’t have an answer for you, we’ll let you know what you need to do.
Where do I upload my documents on the tax software?
You don’t need to submit documents when you file your taxes. In Canada, our tax system is based on self-assessment. This means that we prepare our taxes using the honour system. However, you must keep your receipts and any documents for six years, in case the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requests documentation to support your claims.
Remember, the CRA already has a copy of all your T4-related slips — these are submitted by your employer(s). So, if you omit a T4 on your return, the CRA will re-assess your return to include it. They may request copies of your T2202, a form that your educational institution provides to identify the tuition you paid.
What if I forget to include some important expenses on my return?
Unfortunately, you cannot re-file a return after you’ve submitted it. In this case, you must fill out a T1 adjustment form and mail it to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) after you’ve received your initial Notice of Assessment (NOA). This form allows you to identify the information you missed and where it applies in your return. Then, the CRA will make the adjustments for you and send you a copy of your revised NOA.
Note: Do not submit a T1 adjustment form until you have received your initial NOA. If you have already registered for CRA My Account, you can submit the adjustment online.
I haven’t filed a tax return before. Where should I start filing for previous years?
Don’t worry. You can still file previous tax returns for up to 10 years. Start with the first tax year that you were eligible to file a return (18 for purposes of the sales tax credit), and work your way from there. Most of the free software will help you file returns for previous years.
I filed my return. What do I do now?
Make sure you keep a copy of the confirmation that says your file was submitted to the CRA. Then, wait for your Notice of Assessment (NOA) to come. It usually takes the CRA a few weeks to process your return. You can generate a PDF of the return to have a copy to refer to, if needed.
What is an NOA?
An NOA, or notice of assessment, is essentially a receipt from the government that confirms your tax refund and any benefits and credits based on the information you provided. The CRA will also include any adjustments they made to your return in your NOA. Check your original tax return to find out if the amounts match. If you don’t understand an adjustment, contact the CRA to get clarification.
I tried to file my return electronically (using NETFILE), but I got an error message. What do I do?
Carefully read the message to find out why you weren’t able to submit your return. The name registered with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may not match the name you included on your tax return. This is common. In this case, try using the name indicated on your SIN. Sometimes, the first name and last name are mixed up. If you’re still unable to submit your return, contact the CRA to find out what information they have and ensure they have not made an error. Remember, your name, birth date, SIN and address must match what the CRA has in your record.
In some cases where the CRA may not have any record for you, you will need to mail in your return. (There’s no need to mail in any documentation.) The mailing address you need to use will depend on where you live. Find the correct mailing address for your area on the CRA website. Remember to keep copies of your return. Mailed returns will take longer to process.
I’m afraid I might make a mistake if I file my own return. How do I learn the right way to do it?
Once you learn how to do your taxes, you’ll no longer be afraid. Doing your own taxes is empowering, and it’s an important part of understanding your financial situation and where your money goes.
Learning how to prepare and file your return can take a bit of time, but don’t get frustrated. Make sure you check your return and ask questions — feel free to email us at email@example.com. Most student returns are not complicated, so you can file them easily using free software.
Plus, you’ll save money! Agencies can charge up to $90 for straightforward returns.
Is there a tax deadline for me to receive benefits? What happens if I miss the deadline?
The normal deadline for filing returns is April 30. However, if you don’t owe money to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), you can complete your taxes anytime, technically. If you are filing returns for multiple tax years, you can only receive these benefits for the last four years.
Generally, students won’t have to pay more taxes when they file their return. The deadline is more important for individuals who owe the government income taxes. However, we still recommend that you file your return on time so you receive your benefits as quickly as possible.
What qualifies as income?
Income refers to funds that come from any of these sources: employment (T4), scholarships and bursaries (T4A), interest earned on investments (T3 and T5), government programs (i.e. Ontario Disability Support Program, Ontario Works, COVID-19 benefits) and tips and gratuities.
You should have received slips from the various sources no later than March. If you are missing a slip, you should contact your employer, bank or whatever institution provided you with these funds. If you have a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) My Account, you may also access information on your revenue sources there. Bank slips are often mailed electronically to your online bank account. Check there first.
I received COVID-19 benefits (CESB) last year. Do I need to pay taxes on that amount?
The government introduced a number of COVID-19 benefits in 2020. Many students would have received the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) due to reduced jobs available. If you received this benefit, you should be receiving a T4A slip for that amount. You’ll need to include this amount in your income sources on your tax return under line 13000 (other income).
Depending on your tax situation, you may be required to pay taxes on this amount since the government didn’t deduct any taxes automatically.
Do I need to include self-employment income? How do I do it?
Yes — you’re required to claim any income you received from any of the listed sources.
With self-employment income, you can also claim eligible expenses. Eligible expenses are expenses incurred to earn income. For example, if you’re an Uber driver, you will be able to claim a mileage allowance. The easiest way is to include the net amount (income less mileage) under other income. Make sure to keep documentation for any expenses you claim in case the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) asks for proof. If you have a more complicated business with several expenses, then you have to fill out an income and expense statement. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need support.
What if I have multiple income slips? Should I be adding these up myself?
There’s no need to add up any slips. Any tax software you use will do this for you.
Once you include a slip using Wealthsimple Tax, you will get an option to “add another T4” (or T4A, depending on the type of slip you added). Make sure that you’re not including any duplicate slips.
Why do I need to include my scholarships and bursaries from my T4A in my return? I thought these amounts weren’t taxable.
If you’re a full-time student, these amounts aren’t taxable. However, you need to include them because the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) uses them to calculate your eligible benefits.
I have invested money in my account to help pay for school and living expenses. Is this money considered income for tax purposes?
Money that you’ve saved, brought with you from another country or received as a gift isn’t considered income. However, the interest the your invested money generates counts as income. You should receive a T5 slip from the institution for the interest you received.
I worked remotely during the pandemic. Can I claim any work-from-home expenses?
The government has introduced a new temporary, flat-rate method to simplify these expense claims. (View this infographic for a detailed breakdown of the flat-rate expense method.) You’re eligible to use this new method if you worked from home due to COVID-19 for more than 50% of the time during a period of at least four consecutive weeks in 2020. You can claim $2 for each day you worked from home during that period. The maximum amount you can claim using this method is $400 (200 working days) per individual. You can also claim “actual” expenditures without the flat-rate method, but this requires a more detailed calculation and documentation from your employer. Learn more about home office expenses for employees.
What type of receipts do I need from my landlord to claim the rent I paid?
You must have proof of payment to your landlord. You should first contact your landlord and ask them for a letter confirming the total amount that you paid for the year. Have them include their name and address, and your name. They are legally required to provide you with this. As a backup, keep a copy of your e-transfers or cancelled cheques as proof of payment in case the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requests documentation. You should never pay rent with cash.
I lived in residence. What expenses can I claim?
You can only claim $25 in occupancy costs if you lived in residence.
I rent with a roommate, but only one of us is on the lease. How do I claim rent?
You should ask your landlord for two separate receipts for payment of rent so you can both claim your share. Next time you rent, make sure that both names are indicated on the lease.
Can a lease be used as documentation for the rent I paid?
No. You’ll need to get a letter from your landlord that confirms the amount of rent you paid.
I live with my parents, and I pay 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.
Can I claim commuting expenses like my bus pass?
Unfortunately, you can’t claim bus pass expenses after 2018. If you have to travel more than 40 kilometres to school, then you can submit that as an expense only after you have come back from a summer break or from a co-op or internship.
Can I claim medical expenses?
You can deduct premiums paid for these expenses, as well as any costs that your insurance didn’t cover. If you have a complicated medical condition and have a number of expenses, email us at email@example.com. We can help you identify which costs to claim on your return.
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.
Note: These benefits aren’t considered income, so no need to claim them on your tax return.
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, even those working part-time, 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 you’re eligible 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).
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. If you’re eligible, you’ll receive regular quarterly benefits on July 5, October 5, January 5 and April 5.
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 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 fuel. 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 don’t 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.
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’re 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)?
The CCB is a tax-free monthly payment for eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years old. 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. You will still need to submit your RC66 form, which is the CCB application, along with other provincial, federal and territorial programs.
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 a newcomer or resident. However, this does not mean that you are a “permanent resident” in terms of your immigration status.
I moved back to my home country from Canada because of COVID-19. This means that I was not in Canada on December 31, 2020. Am I still eligible to receive benefits?
Yes! We have inquired with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and you are still eligible to receive benefits.
I returned to my home country due to the pandemic, but I still have a Canadian bank account and I still pay rent. Am I considered a resident for tax purposes? Do I need to file a return?
Yes. The government has advised us that you’re still considered a resident because of your ties to Canada (i.e. bank account, rent), and the fact that you’ll be returning. This means you should file a tax return. You’re still eligible for tax benefits and credits, depending on your tax situation.
I got a job in my home country. I’m also paying taxes in my home country. How do I account for this money when I file my Canadian tax return?
You need to include this income for Canadian tax purposes. Prior to filing your Canadian tax return, you should first file your return in your home country. Based on the tax treaty between Canada and your country, you’ll be able to claim the taxes paid as a foreign tax credit on your Canadian return. This means that you won’t be taxed twice on the same income. You may be required to do some research, depending on your situation. Learn more about Canada’s tax treaties.
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 don’t need to sign the form.
My partner or spouse does not live in Canada. Do I still indicate that I’m married or in a common-law relationship on my tax return?
Yes. You will need to answer questions about your and your family’s income before you arrive in Canada so that the CRA can calculate the benefits you can receive.
I will be arriving in Canada with my spouse/partner and child/children. Do I need to file any other forms?
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 includes 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 Canada Revenue Agency (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.
- 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.
- Post-secondary scholarships, bursaries and awards are not taxable if you are considered a full-time student. They must still be included to calculate benefits and credits.
- 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 Ontario Trillium Grant combines the Ontario Sales Tax Credit, Ontario Energy and Occupancy Credit and the Northern Ontario Energy Credit into one monthly payment. You must also be 18 years of age to receive the sales credit and 19 years of age for the occupancy credit. Rent paid is classified as occupancy costs. If you live in residence, you can only claim $25 in occupancy costs.
- The Climate Action Incentive (CAI) Grant is a benefit for residents of Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Starting in April 2019, residents of these provinces were being charged a new federal carbon tax as part of the Government of Canada’s climate action plan to raise funds toward a more sustainable plan to protect the environment. In 2021, single adults will receive $300. This payment will be part of your income tax refund. Please note that, in order to qualify for this benefit, you must have been a resident for the entire tax year (January to December).
- If you are married and have children, you may also be eligible for the Canada Child Credit based on your family’s financial situation for dependent children below the age of 18 (or older if they have a disability). International students living in Canada with their family are also eligible to make an application for these benefits after living in Canada under a valid study permit for a full 18 months. Learn more about the Canada child benefit.
- New for the 2020 tax year: If you are no longer a student and you’re now working, you may qualify for several other benefits, including the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax (LIFT) Credit if you are receiving minimum wage. This credit can provide a non-refundable credit of $850 against their Ontario taxes payment. Learn more about the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax Credit.
- If you are a person with a disability or if you care for someone with a disability, you may be eligible for additional benefits and credits through the Disability Tax Credit, Caregiver Expenses, Medical Expenses and the Registered Disability Plan. Learn more about tax credits for persons with disabilities.
- New for the 2020 tax year: The Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit will put more money in the pockets of families and provide the flexibility they need to choose childcare options that work best for them. Eligible families can claim up to 75% of their eligible childcare expenses, including services provided by childcare centres, depending on the tax situation. Learn more about the Ontario childcare tax credit.
- 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.
- Keep your tax documents and records for six years.
- Be proactive in tax planning; keep all your slips and back up documents in one central place.
- File your return on time to avoid penalties and interest, and to receive your benefits on time.
- Keep track of your carry-forwards so you don’t lose these benefits.
- Register for a CRA My Account so you can auto-fill your return.
Don’t fall for tax scams through telephone, mail, text message or email. The CRA will never contact you to request personal information such as your SIN, credit card number, bank account number or passport numbers.
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) resources
- Learn about income taxes for students.
- Learn about your rights as a taxpayer and what to expect from the CRA.
- Get ready to do your taxes.
- Learn how to fill out a basic tax return and more.
- Access free tax software.
- Watch tax videos.
Stay connected with the CRA on social media