A Student’s Guide to Taxes: Canada 2017

Are you a secondary or post-secondary student and need to file your taxes? Worry not! Our comprehensive guide breaks down what you need to do, step by step, to file your taxes. Even if it’s your first time!

Wait, don’t click away!

I know taxes may not seem like the most interesting thing in the world, but they’re incredibly important for a few reasons. Not only are you preventing future issues with the Canada Revenue Agency by filing your taxes on time, but you’re also making sure that you receive certain grants and other funding that you’re entitled to.

For example, if you’re paying rent in an apartment or student residence in Ontario, you’re eligible for the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit that can help to subsidize the cost of rent and property taxes you pay.

1. Before getting started…

Before you start preparing your taxes to be filed, make sure you have everything you need. For most students, this could include:

  • All T4 slips for employment or work income (usually mailed to you by your employer. Call and ask if you don’t have them yet!)
  • Receipts for charitable donations and political contributions (typically given when you donate. Call and ask for a replacement copy if you need it)
  • T2202A slips for all tuition fees paid to your university or college (you can usually find this in your school’s online account or visit your Student Life Centre)
  • T4A slips for all scholarships, bursaries, and awards received, including some student grants/loans (this should also be in your online account. Visit your school’s financial aid office if it’s not)

2. Don’t do it alone

Gone are the days of needing to print forms, fill in tiny boxes, and make calculations yourself. There are several different tax programs available that can help guide you through your taxes and even submit them for you. No envelope or stamp required!

3. Picking a Tax Program

With so many options, it can be hard to pick one that is easy to use, works well, and is affordable. If you’re a student on a budget and looking for something simple, straightforward, and free, there’s nothing better than SimpleTax!

Your Options

If you want to explore some other options before making a commitment to one tax program, here’s a quick summary of what’s out there for students:


  • $0, donations welcome
  • Online (computer or tablet)
  • Everything included (T4, T4A, T2202A, and more)
  • Searches credits and deducations for the maximum refund (more money for you!)
  • Accuracy guarantee

TurboTax Standard

  • $0-$19.99
  • Online (computer)
  • Everything included (T4, T4A, T2202A, and more)
  • Searches credits and deductions for the maximum refund (more money for you!) — not included in free edition
  • Accuracy guarantee


  • $0
  • Online (computer)
  • Everything included (T4, T4A, T2202A, and more)
  • Searches credits and deductions for the maximum refund (more money for you!)
  • Accuracy guarantee

4. I’ve picked one. Now what?

Great! We’ve optimized this guide for SimpleTax, so if that’s what you picked, follow along! If you went with a different tax program, you may need to consult their website for help but the general process should be fairly similar.

We recommend you create a SimpleTax Account to save your information so you can save your progress and return to your tax return later. It also allows you to carry information forward in subsequent years.
Click “Sign up” when prompted
Provide an email address and create a password. Note that this will be used to encrypt your information so don’t forget your password!

From here, fill in all your biographical and contact information so the Canada Revenue Agency can get in touch with you. Sign up for online mail as well so you can receive your Notice of Assessment online!

Use the search box to search for your relevant slips. You can even enter things like “tuition” or “employment” if you don’t know the name of the slip! As you go, fill in the details in the boxes exactly as they appear on the slip.

You’re done!

And that’s it! Once you’ve filled in everything you need to do, review your tax return and see a summary. Before you submit, double check that you entered everything correctly and didn’t miss anything.

Tax Tip: If you have time before your taxes are due, verify that your refund or the taxes you owe are the same across different tax software packages. For example, if you prepared your return in SimpleTax, enter everything again in TurboTax for free and see if the numbers match.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I lived in Ontario but am attending university in Quebec. What is my province of residence?
A. In this case, the Canada Revenue Agency advises that you select “the province or territory where you have your most important residential ties. For example, if you usually reside in Ontario, but were going to school in Alberta or Quebec, you would use the package for Ontario.” As a result of this, you should determine where you have stronger residential ties. If you’re unsure, talk to an accountant or call the CRA.

Q. Can I transfer excess tuition tax credits to my parents or use it next year?
If your income as a student is not high enough that you would benefit from the full tax credit as a result of paying your tuition, you may be able to carry it forward or transfer it to a parent or grandparent. See here for more details.

Q. What is the difference between refundable and non-refundable tax credits? Which one is tuition?
Tuition payments earn you a non-refundable tax credit. The main difference between refundable and non-refundable this this:

  • Refundable tax credits can earn you tax refund (money back)
  • Non-refundable tax credits can only lower your tax owing (if any) to $0. They do not help you receive any money back as a tax refund.
  • Non-refundable tax credits generally can’t be carried forward, though tuition is an exception.

Best of luck on your taxes, and don’t forget to file by the April 30 deadline!

Disclaimer: The contents of this post should not be taken as legal, personal, or tax advice. The information is provided as-is and with no guarantee as to its accuracy or completeness. The FCSS-FESC cannot be held liable for any inaccuracies that may exist in this information. You should seek legal/tax advice from a registered professional with any questions or concerns.

Originally published at www.fcss-fesc.ca.



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Since 2012, the FCSS-FESC has strived to provide Canadian secondary school students in and CÉGEPs the tools they need to succeed in post-secondary life.