Tax tips students need to know

Get your taxes filed and learn how to do it yourself

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—for accountants.

And as a student getting money back from your taxes doesn’t hurt either.

Bienvenido Isla, a professor in the school of accounting and finance at George Brown College (GBC) spoke with The Dialog and shared some tax tips any student should know.

Students should always file tax returns
In the Income Tax Act, a general rule requires all persons to file a tax return. For students there are many reasons to do so but the most commons are: to get a tax refund; to build RRSP contributions regardless of age; to register for benefits once they turn 19 and to claim tax deductions, credits and expenses reducing the amount of tax to be paid.

International students must file a tax return
Canada determines the obligation of filing tax returns by residency, not citizenship. Canadian residents are required to file a Canadian tax return for their world income. International students who are residing in Canada and earn income, must file a Canadian income tax return.

You don’t need any income to file an income tax return
There’s always an opportunity to get some tax refund without even having any income to report. Essentially, students with no income will get between $400 to $500 by way of entitlement to a federal GST/HST and Ontario property tax credits.

Tax credits for students
Students may be eligible for refundable tax credits such as GST/HST, provincial or territorial benefits; non-refundable Canada child benefit, tuition, public transit passes and eligible electronic payment cards for public transit, (up to June 30, 2017) interest paid on student loans, and disability tax credits.

The Ontario Trillium Benefit
If you are paying rent, or own a house and pay property tax, you may be entitled to the Ontario Trillium Benefit (OTB). However, the OTB is not an automatic tax benefit, students have to apply by filing a tax and information return to receive it.

Students can transfer or carry forward amounts
If you don’t use the full amount of federal tuition fees, and applicable provincial and territorial tuition, education and textbook amounts, you can transfer them to your spouse, parents, grandparents, or your spouse’s parents or grandparents to a maximum of $5,000 of the current year’s federal tuition amount. Since Jan. 1, 2017, the federal education and textbook tax credits were eliminated, but students can still carry forward unused education and textbook credit amounts from years prior to 2017.

Common deductions from income
The most common deductions that apply to students are moving expenses and child care expenses. Moving expenses can only be deducted from the taxable part of scholarships, fellowships, bursaries, certain prizes, and research grants. Also, moving expenses can be deducted if moving to a new location is a condition of employment.

Student tax clinic

Overwhelmed already? Don’t worry, the Student Association (SA), which funds The Dialog, will run a free income-tax clinic for students with a modest income from March 12 to 23.

Around 40 to 50 GBC student volunteers will receive training by the SA in partnership with the Canada Revenue Agency’s Community Volunteer Income Tax Program and help students file their taxes.

For Ronnie Cruz, the SA’s community services co-ordinator, an essential part of the clinic is educating students on how to do their taxes.

“I made sure that the volunteers are also teaching (the students) because it’s honestly really, really simple.” said Cruz. “They think it’s so complicated but it’s so damn simple that they can do it on their own.”

Cruz, who is running the tax clinic also had some tips for students.

  • Gather all of your documents before your appointment so there are no delays at the clinic, and no problems if you are audited in the future.
  • Open an Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). It allows you to save money on your taxes and plan for your retirement.

The income-tax clinic will run at St. James campus in the Quiet Lounge, room 150F, and at Casa Loma campus in room E116, Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit the SA tax clinic’s website.

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Tax tips students need to know