You might think that as a student who’s earned little to no income, that there’s really no point in filing a tax return. In fact, both you and your family can benefit from a number of different student specific credits and deductions – but only if you file a return.
Depending on your situation, you might be able to claim the following tax credits:
- Tuition, education, and textbook amounts
- Interest paid on your student loans
- Public transit costs
- Moving expenses
- Childcare expenses
- Child and family benefits
- Canada employment amounts
Tuition, education, and textbook amounts
Important: Beginning January 1, 2017, the tuition, education, and textbook tax credit is being replaced with the tuition tax credit. If you have unused education and textbook credits from a previous year, you’ll still be able to claim them on your 2017 return or on a future return.
In order to claim your tuition, education, and textbook amounts, you must have received a T2202A, TL11A, TL11B, TL11C, or a TL11D certificate from the educational institution you attended (or, if you’re a resident of Québec, an RL-8 slip). Each of these documents reports the number of months that you were enrolled in an educational program and the amount of tuition you paid.
If the tuition amount you paid was more than $100, you can claim the tuition amount. The amount you receive for your education tax credit will depend on the number of months you were enrolled in the program. If you were enrolled in a:
- full-time program, you’ll be able to claim $400 for each month indicated on your certificate
- part-time program, you’ll be able to claim $120 for each month indicated on your certificate
Whether or not you’re entitled to the textbook amount depends on if you’re eligible for the education amount. If you are, you’ll be able to claim $65 for each month you qualify for the full-time education amount and $20 for each month you qualify for the part-time education amount.
Should you not need all of your tuition, education, and textbook amounts to reduce your income tax payable to zero, you can choose to carry forward these amounts to use them in a future year or transfer them to your spouse or common-law partner, parent, or grandparent.
Remember, 2016 is the last year you’ll be able to claim the tuition, education, and textbook amounts. For 2017 onward, you’ll need to claim the tuition tax credit.
Interest paid on your student loans
If you’re financing your education through a student loan, chances are you’ve had to pay interest on those loans throughout the year. If the loan is administered under the Canada Student Loans Act, the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, or a similar provincial or territorial government law for post-secondary education, you’ll be able to claim the interest that you, or a person related to you, paid on the loan.
Unfortunately, you can’t transfer this amount to another person; you can however carry forward unused amounts for up to 5 years to use on a future return.
Public transit costs
If the cost of your public transit pass hasn’t been claimed by someone else, you’ll be able to claim the public transit amount on your return.
If you were enrolled in a full-time program in 2016 and received a T2202A, TL11A/B/C/D certificate or an RL-8 slip (Québec only) from your educational institution, you might be eligible to claim your moving expenses if:
- you moved to attend a post-secondary educational institution
- you moved for your job (this includes your summer job)
Note: If one of the above situations applies to you, your moving expenses will only be deducted from the taxable part of the scholarships, fellowships, study grants, artists’ project grants, or bursaries that you received during the year. Fortunately, you can also carry forward any unused moving expenses to a future year.
If you’ve got a child under the age of 16 (or have a child with a physical or mental impairment), you or your spouse can claim the childcare costs that you had to pay in order to go to school or earn an income.
As a general rule of thumb, the person with the lower net income (even if this amount is zero) has to claim these expenses on their return. That said, the person with higher net income can claim this expenses if their spouse is enrolled in an educational program.
Child and family benefits
Oftentimes students forget about these additional benefits which they might be entitled to receive:
- GST/HST credit and related provincial credits
- Canada child benefit (CCB)* (new for 2016)
* As of July 1, 2016, the CCB is replacing the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), and the national child benefit supplement (NCBS).
Even if you don’t have any income to report for the year, you need to file a tax return in order to receive these benefits!
Canada employment amount
If you earned employment income during the year, you’ll be able to claim the lesser of $1,161 and your total employment income on your return.
For example, if you reported $20,000 in employment income on your return, you’ll be able to claim the maximum Canada employment amount of $1,161 on your return.
Health/dental plan premiums
The premiums you paid for the student health and dental plan(s) that you enrolled in while attending a post-secondary institution can actually be claimed as a medical expense on your return. You should be able to figure out the total premium amount you paid for the academic year by checking the receipt or account summary provided by your educational institution.
Professional or union dues
Depending on your situation, you might be able to claim the professional or union dues that you were required to pay as a grad student. Like the health/dental premiums discussed above, you can refer to the account summary provided by your educational institution for a breakdown of all the non-instructional fees you paid for the year.
Charitable donations made through your school
You can claim a tax credit for the charitable donations you made to a registered charity through the post-secondary institution that you attended in 2016. Before claiming these amounts on this year’s return, it’s important to remember that you can hold on to your donation amounts for up to 5 years and claim them in a year that will be of greater benefit to you (when doing this, be sure to keep the donation receipt(s) or printout(s) containing your donation amounts with your records).
If you’ve never claimed the charitable donations tax credit before, you might even be eligible to claim the First-time donor’s super credit (FDSC); an incentive that could result in your donations earning you an extra 25% donation tax credit on monetary donations up to $1,000!
Note: Amounts donated through your school might appear on your T2202A certificate in the Student number box. It’s important to remember however that not all institutions report your donation amounts in this way; if in doubt, speak to a representative of your school’s registrar’s office.
I’m an international student, what credits can I claim?
Depending on your situation, you might be able to claim certain tax credits as an international student. For example, if you’re an international student who’s enrolled in an eligible post-secondary program in Canada, you can claim the tuition, education, and textbook amount, moving expenses, and public transit amount (if applicable). You can also apply to receive the Canada child benefit and GST/HST credit.
Note: As an international student, you can only claim your moving expenses if you moved to Canada to be a full-time student. These expenses can only be deducted from the taxable part of the following income sources:
- Bursaries and
- Research grants
If you’re a non-resident of Canada and 90% of the income you earned in 2016 is from Canadian sources, you can also claim the interest you paid on a Canadian student loan.
In terms of claiming childcare expenses, you can claim the amounts you paid (in Canada) so that you can go to school – as long as you meet the eligibility requirements.
If you spent part of the year working in Canada, you might also be eligible to claim the following:
- Registered pension plan (RPP) deductions (if you have an amount in box 20 of your T4 slip)
- Annual union or professional dues (if you have an amount in box 44 of your T4 slip)
These represent just a few of the credits and deductions you might be eligible to claim on your Canadian tax return. For more information, check out the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.