Students miss out on untapped tax benefits

Graphic by Jessica Mitra
Graphic by Jessica Mitra

As soon as the snow melts a new storm of receipts and forms is upon us—tax season is quickly approaching. The deadline for Canadians to file personal income tax is Apr. 30 and many students miss out on the opportunity of untapped expenses.

Jeel Shah, a first-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University, believes that the main issue at hand is lack of knowledge about the process.

“I think students might not know about how to file a return or might not know about it period,” he said.

Shah, speculated that there is a lack of knowledge available for students on tax returns, as many don’t file because they either are uneducated or don’t know where to go.

Reasons for why students neglect their tax returns are also rooted in not properly understanding the benefits of filing. In addition, some claim it is time consuming or irrelevant to their student status.

However, according to Ling Chu, an associate professor of accounting at Laurier, there are many tax refunds and credits that both the federal and provincial governments offer that are worthwhile.

“A student without any income should file a tax return as they may be eligible for a refundable GST/HST credit and can only receive the refund by filing a tax return with the CRA,” said Chu, who specializes in taxation. “Refundable tax credit means that you can actually receive a cheque from the CRA.”

She went on to list the many expenses incurred by students, including tuition and textbooks, student loans, public transportation and even daycare — all of these could earn tax refunds.

Students can pick up an official school tax form, a T2202A, showing that they are indeed a student and detailing how much tuition they have paid.

“If you don’t plan to claim the tuition tax credit this year, then hang on to these slips so you can use them in the future,” said Chu. Students can also attain tax credits on future incomes using these slips that their schools offer them.

According to Canada Revenue Agency communications manager Keith Brooks, the process of filing a return is actually quite simple.

“First thing you have to do is gather the information pertinent to your situation, so income tax T4s from employers or bank statements or rent receipts,” he explained. “You need to gather information slips to file a return,”
Brooks went on to mention that for students, filing online could be a very time and money-neutral option.
“Look at whether you would file electronically or on paper,” Brooks said.  “A number of these are free, particularly for students.”

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