If you’re a university student preparing to file your tax return, first let me say congrats! – Both on your choice to further your education and on the decision to do your own taxes. Filing as a student isn’t that much different than any other type of return but before you begin, there a few things you should know.
1. Your tuition isn’t your only credit.
The amount you paid last year for tuition is only part of the credit you could receive. In addition to the actual dollar amount of tuition, you may also be entitled to claim the education amount and the textbook amount. When you receive your tuition slip (T2202A), the number of months you attended school will appear in either box B (for part time students) or box C (for full time students). This number is used to determine the extra credits. The education amount is set at $400/month of study for full time students and $120/month of study for part time students. This amount (plus the textbook credit) is then added to your actual tuition credit to make the tuition/education/textbook amount for tax purposes.
2. The textbook amount is not the actual amount you paid for your textbooks.
In fact the textbook amount, like the education amount, is a set figure determined by the number of months you were enrolled in post-secondary last year and if you were a full-time or part-time student. For example, a first year student in a full-time program would have a textbook credit of $260 – 4 months (Sept-Dec) X $65/month (for full-time enrollment).
3. Your tuition/education/textbook credits do not expire.
Chances are that if you are a full time university student, you didn’t earn a significant amount of income last year. You likely have little to no tax owing so it may seem like all those tuition credits are going to waste. That’s not the case thankfully. Any unused tuition/education/textbook amounts are carried forward and can be used in future years when your higher education pays off with a good salary.
4. Even if your parents footed the entire bill for your education, they can only claim a portion of it on their returns.
You the student receive all of the tuition/education/textbook credits for your tax return. Your parent cannot directly claim your tuition but you can transfer a portion of your credit (up to $5000 minus the amount you used to lower your tax payable to zero). Only current tuition credits can be transferred – not unused amounts from prior years.
5. If you had no income and don’t expect a refund, you should still file a tax return.
It may seem futile to file a return if you aren’t required to but it’s truly worth it. Not only are you recording your tuition/education/textbook credits for use in future years, filing your tax return is a necessary step in qualifying for certain benefits such as the GST/HST benefit. Additionally, if you plan on transferring a portion of your credits to a parent, certain line numbers from your return are needed to complete the process.
6. Like preparing for finals week, organization is the key.
Gather your income slips from employment or RESP payments, download your tuition info from your school account, and find any expense receipts such as public transit, medical expenses (including insurance premiums you may have paid through the school), or charitable donations.
7. Taxes aren’t as hard as you may think.
Compared to your other studies, filing your tax return is a breeze. There’s no pop quiz, 2000 word essay on the impact of the industrial revolution, or need to pull an all-nighter. With the TurboTax Free App, you can even do your taxes on your phone or tablet. If it’s your first return and you want Mom or Dad to double check your entries when you come home for a visit, accessing your return on the home computer is seamless.