As a Student, Do I Have to File a Tax Return? 

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

You’ve ventured out into the world of post-secondary education, and have a lot going on. Taxes are not something you’re thinking about, and besides, you don’t have any income, or other reason to file a return. Or do you?

Most income you receive is taxable and you have to include it on your return. However, you do not have to include your GST/HST credit, Canada child tax benefit payments, or related provincial or territorial program payments, lottery winnings, or most gifts and inheritances.

The most common forms of income are: employment income (T4 or T4A); income not showing up on a T4 (tips, gratuities); scholarships, fellowships, bursaries, study grants, and artists’ project grants (awards); net research grants; apprenticeship incentive or completion grants; RESP withdrawals; interest and other investment income.

There are other reasons to file a tax return, you may have a refund, you or your spouse may want to get the GST/HST credits, you or your spouse may qualify for child tax benefits, and more.

Tuition/Education Credits

You still need to file a tax return as you have to claim your tuition, education, and textbook amounts first on your own return, even if someone else paid your fees. The amount you must use on your own tax return is equal to the amount of credit required to reduce the taxes you owe. The calculation for this amount is included on Schedule 11.

Even if you have no tax to pay and you are transferring part of your tuition, education, and textbook amounts, file your return and a completed Schedule 11 so we can update our records with your unused tuition, education, and textbook amounts available to carry forward to other years.

If you are transferring an amount to a designated individual, only transfer the amount this person can use. This way, you can carry forward as much as possible to use in a future year.

You may transfer a maximum of $5,000, minus the amount you used to reduce your tax owing as calculated on Schedule 11. You can transfer all or some to your spouse or common-law partner (who would claim it on line 360 of his or her Schedule 2) or to your or your spouse's or common-law partner's parent or grandparent (who would claim it on line 324 of his or her Schedule 1).

Depending on their province or territory of residence, your spouse or common-law partner may have to complete Schedule (S2) to calculate their provincial or territorial transfer amounts.

Which tax package should you use?

Generally, you have to use the package for the province or territory where you resided on December 31. If you were living in a province or territory other than the one you usually reside in, use the package for your usual province or territory of residence. For example, if you usually reside in Ontario, but you were going to school in Alberta, you would use the package for Ontario.

If you resided in Quebec on December 31, use the package for residents of Quebec to calculate your federal tax only. You will also need to file a provincial income tax return for Quebec.

As you can see there are many reasons to file a tax return, even if you have no, or little, income. There are many credits you will get as a result of filing a tax return, and you don’t want to miss out on free money, now do we.

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