Can Students Write Off Tuition?

As the cost of post-secondary education in Canada continues to climb, every dollar saved becomes increasingly important. “You can claim tuition credits, both federally and provincially,” says London, Ontario accountant Chris Follett. “These generate a nonrefundable reduction in your taxable income, but it’s not a dollar-to-dollar write-off. There are other education amounts as well to increase your tax savings.”

You can claim tuition amounts for any recognized school inside or outside Canada.

You can claim tuition amounts for any recognized school inside or outside Canada.

Tuition credit eligibility

“Most tuition fees for Canadian colleges and universities in excess of $100 are eligible for the tuition tax credit,” says London, Ontario accountant Chris Follett. “However, these must be paid by you or someone from your immediate family. If your employer pays or reimburses you without including that amount in your pay, you can’t claim the credit. The same applies if it’s your parent’s employer.”

A similar rule applies for any government program or job training where the government pays tuition without including the amount in your income. Exam fees required for certification as a tradesperson or to obtain a professional designation are generally covered if the government recognizes the institution giving the exam.

As of 2018, Ontario and Saskatchewan no longer have a tuition credit, and Alberta will eliminate the credit as of 2020. New Brunswick eliminated the credit in 2017, but then brought it back, so you can claim your 2017, 2018, & 2019 tuition tax credits on your 2019 tax return.

The tuition paper trail

You’ll be issued a form T2202A slip by your trade school, college or university certifying that you were enrolled and taking courses that qualify for the tuition tax credit. The sessions of your enrolment, eligible tuition fees and your full-time or part-time status are listed on the T2202A. Tuition fees are entered on Schedule 11 of your tax return and calculated based on your part-time or full-time study status. Many schools no longer mail out paper T2202A slips, and provide them electronically instead. Check with your school to see how you can get yours.

Education and textbook amounts

Please note that as of 2018, only Nunavut has a textbook credit. The Federal textbook credit was eliminated in 2017. Also as of 2018, most provinces and territories still have an education credit.

The T2202A slip also lays out your education and textbook amounts, since the T2202 slip (education and textbook amounts certificate) was discontinued in 2013. To calculate your education amount, consult the tax certificate you received from your school, noting how many months you were enrolled either full-time or part-time. You can claim $400 a month (listed in Box C) if you were enrolled full-time. If you were enrolled part-time, you can claim $120 a month, listed in Box B (unless you received a grant, were reimbursed for the course’s cost or received a benefit or allowance for completing the course).

You can also claim a textbook amount, but only if you’ve claimed the education amount. Note that the textbook amount is a set number, not the total cost of all your books. If you were full-time, it’s $65 per month. Part-time students will receive $20 per month.

Many schools do not mail out paper copies of your T2202A. Check your online student account for an electronic copy. Although CRA does not require you to submit the form with your return, you may be asked to provide the slip at a later time. Because it may be difficult to obtain this info after you graduate and no longer have a student account, print a copy for your own records.

Transferring tuition amounts

Unused tuition credits are calculated on Schedule 11, which allows you to spread out the tax savings past the current year. These amounts can be carried forward to future tax years or transferred to a partner or other relative. Eligible recipients include a spouse or common-law partner, parents or grandparents, and in-laws. You will designate the person to receive the balance of your tuition credit through form T2202A, unless you attend school outside Canada.

Note that if your partner claims you on her tax return because she provided financial support to you during the tax year, you must transfer the unused credit to her, or carry it forward yourself. Other family members are not eligible in that case.

Also note that you can only transfer your tuition the first year you claim it. Any amounts that carry forward to future years can’t be transferred.

References & Resources

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