No income, no tax return? No refund!

canada-tax-deductionsEven if you have little to no income in the year, filing a tax return has its advantages — it’s the only way to receive all the benefits that are available to you.

  •  If you are 19 or over, you are eligible for the annual GST/HST credit.  To obtain this money, which is paid in quarterly instalments, you have to apply for it by filing a tax return and completing the GST/HST application section of your return.
  • Some provinces provide tax credits for low-income taxpayers, which are
    paid in the form of a tax refund.  As a student, you probably qualify so check out what’s offered in your province.  You may be able to get a tax refund even if
    you never paid any tax!
  • If you worked last summer and tax deductions were made from your paycheque, you can probably recover most of the tax, and some of the CPP premiums, when you file your return.
  • Take advantage of as many deductions as you can.  The tuition fees, the education amount and the textbook tax credit may be available to you.  If you prefer, they can also be carried forward via your tax return, so that you can use them in a future year when your income is higher.
  • Not all of your student income is taxable.  Since the 2008 tax year, all income from scholarships, fellowships, bursaries and achievement prizes are tax exempt if you are enrolled in a program that qualifies for the education amount in 2007,
    2008, or 2009.
  • Student loans, of course, are completely non-taxable.  You can even claim a tax credit on the interest when you begin paying back the loan.
  • If you relocated during the course of the year, either to get a summer
    job or to take up attendance at your college or university (40km or more), it’s
    possible that you can deduct your moving expenses.  However, they can only be deducted against either employment income or against scholarship/grant income.  Moving expenses include transportation costs such as your plane ticket, gas expenses and/or the cost of any meals and lodging en route.
  • You can claim tuition fees over $100 for post-secondary courses at a college or university or, if you are 16 and over, for courses that you take at other approved institutions to improve your occupational skills.  Eligible tuition fees include all mandatory fees charged by post-secondary institutions for educational purposes.  However, these do not include fees levied by student bodies.  For example, you cannot claim the following:
    •  Students’ association fees
    • Medical care
    • Meals and lodging
    • Transportation and parking
  • You may also claim an education amount of $400 per month for every month during the year which you were enrolled full-time in college or university.  The $400 per month amount is also available to full-time post-secondary students enrolled in distance education programs or correspondence courses.  If you are
    enrolled in a qualifying program but can only attend part-time because of a
    mental or physical impairment, you can still claim the $400 education amount.
  • If you are enrolled part-time in college or university, you may be entitled to a special education amount of $120 per month.  In order to qualify for this amount, the eligible program must last at least three consecutive weeks and involve a
    minimum of 12 hours of courses each month.
  • Post-secondary students will benefit from a tax credit for textbooks.

The amount on which the credit is based will be calculated as:

    •  $65 for each month the student qualifies for the full-time education
      amount; and
    • $20 for each month the student qualifies for the part-time education
  •  Transit includes travel by local bus, streetcar, subway, commuter train, commuter bus and local ferry.  You can claim the cost of monthly transit passes or passes of longer duration.  You can also claim the cost of shorter
    duration transit passes if each pass allowed you unlimited travel for at least 5 consecutive days and you purchased enough of these passes to cover 20 days in
    any 28-day period.   The cost of electronic payment cards can be claimed when they are used to make at least 32 one-way trips during a period not exceeding 31 days.   Make sure you keep your passes and receipts so that you can substantiate your claim.

Tax deductions can also vary from province to province so be sure to check out your provincial website for more details.  More importantly, if you don’t file your taxes, you can’t get these deductions and you may lose out of getting money back that you can use to help pay your education bills.

If you don’t feel that you comfortable filing out the tax forms manually or using tax software, there are some tax preparers that will offer a discount for students.  Just be sure that the preparer is reputable and will stand by you in case the Canada Revenue Agency requests an audit.

For more details, check out our book “It’s All About the Elizabeths: A Financial Management Guide for Canadian Teens” available for purchase at or on Amazon.



About Suzanne

Suzanne Kleinberg is a Toronto based career coach and author who has provided consulting services to corporations, not-for-profit organizations and individual clients. With a B.A. in Economics from York University, Masters in Project Management and PMP certification, Kleinberg is an avid ‘career changer’, having worked in a variety of fields that include stock brokerage, advertising, television production, financial and IT. In 2010, Kleinberg founded Potential to Soar, a unique career and talent coaching service wherein she guides new graduates, seasoned professionals and corporations, small and large, through private coaching, customized workshops and psychometric assessment tools. Kleinberg’s books include Employee Rights and Employer Wrongs, an everyman’s guide to navigating the complex world of labour and employment law, It’s All About the Elizabeths, which introduces financial management to teens, and From Playstation to Workstation, aimed at youth starting their careers. From Playstation® to Workstation is available in paperback via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and her website,
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