If you are new to Canada or if you are just entering the workforce, you may be wondering if filing a Canadian Income Tax return is a necessity, and if so, when do you have to file your first tax return?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does require annual filing for most citizens but there are exceptions, so let’s have a look at who is required to file a Canadian T1 General tax return and when.

You Must File an Income Tax Return, if:

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Making Money in Canada

Your Canadian residency status doesn’t affect whether or not you have to file a Canadian income tax return, however, it does affect how you file your taxes, what income you need to report, and the availability of certain credits or deductions.  If you meet any of the CRA’s criteria listed above, for example, you have to file a tax return regardless of your residency status.

If you live in another country but receive income from a business you own in Canada, or from investments you have in Canada or if you have property in Canada, then you will need to file an income tax return.

No Exemption for Age or Occupation

Whether you’re 9 or 90, age has no effect on your requirement to file a tax return. If you meet one of the above requirements, the CRA expects to receive an income tax return from you.

Students are not exempt from filing either. If your 17-year-old child is an entrepreneur who made over $3,500 (after expenses) running a small business last summer, they must file an income tax return even if they’re still in school. All working children should file a tax return as soon as they start earning income.

Should I File a Return Anyway?

Even if you’re not required to file, sometimes it’s in your own best interest to do so anyways, for the following reasons;

  • You want to claim a refund.
  • Entries on your tax return determine if you’re eligible for certain federal and provincial benefit programs. Even if you had no income, you still may qualify for the GST/HST Credit, or provincial benefits such as the Ontario Trillium Benefit. You can find a complete list of provincial benefit programs here.
  • Your RRSP contribution limit starts growing as soon as you earn any income. Even if you’re not expecting a refund, the more RRSP contribution room, the better.
  • If you want to claim the Canada Workers Benefit (CWB) or if you want to continue receiving your Canada Child Benefit (CCB)
  • If you attended school and have eligible tuition fees, you must declare the amounts on your tax return, even if you are not using them. You might not need to use the credits this year, but in order to carryforward or transfer them, they must be reported on your current year tax return.
  • If you or your spouse want to continue to receive Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) on your Old Age Security (OAS) payments.