Filing an income tax return may not be the most exciting part of adulting, but it's definitely time well spent — especially if you're a student.

There are special tax breaks students can claim, which may give you a sizable refund if you worked and paid taxes during the previous year. Even if you haven't done any paid work, you might still benefit from filing a return.

Here's what you need to know about filing taxes in Canada as a student.

Key Takeaways

  • The tax filing deadline for most Canadians is April 30, 2024.
  • You can expect your refund within two weeks (for online returns), and eight weeks (for paper returns).
  • Anyone who lives in Canada — including minors and domestic or international students — must pay income tax on their taxable income.
    • Taxable income can include paid earnings, interest or investment income, payments from an RESP, or a scholarship, fellowship, bursary or grant. Student loans are not taxable income.
  • You don't need to file a tax return unless your income for the year is over the annual personal exemption allowed ($15,000 for 20231), or the CRA asks you to. But you should file one anyway since you might end up with a tax refund or qualify for benefit payments from the government.
  • When you file your return, be sure to claim all the deductions and tax credits that you're eligible for, to maximize any potential tax refund.

Before we jump right into the basics of tax filing, there are some things to remember. First of all, the tax filing deadline, for most Canadians, it is on April 30, 2024. Once you file your taxes, and if you are on time, the CRA should issue your Notice of Assessment and any applicable refund within two weeks (for online returns), and within eight weeks of receipt (for paper returns).

Do students pay income tax in Canada?

The short answer is yes. If you live in Canada and have taxable income, you must pay income taxes.

Examples of taxable income include:

  • Employment income from a full-time or part-time job
  • Tips, occasional income or freelance earnings
  • Educational Assistance Payments from a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)
  • Bank account interest or investment earnings
  • Scholarships, fellowships, bursaries and grants (some may be exempt)

Do international students file taxes in Canada?

The Canadian tax system is based on residency, not citizenship. If you lived in Canada for at least 183 days during the calendar year, you're considered a Canadian resident for income tax purposes and subject to the same income tax rules as Canadian students.

Remember, if you aren't eligible for a SIN, you'll need an ITN (individual tax number) to file your taxes, which you can get from the CRA by submitting Form T1261. Otherwise, you report the same sorts of income and claim the same types of deductions and credits as any other students when you file your return — and you're eligible to get a tax refund, too!

Does OSAP count as income on tax return?

You should know that money from a student loan isn't considered taxable income in Canada. That means you don't have to pay income tax on loans provided by the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) or any other student loans.

Do I have to file a tax return if I am a student?

You're only required to file a tax return if your income for the year was over the annual personal exemption allowed ($15,000 for 20231), or if you're asked by the Canada Revenue Agency to do so.

But there are lots of good reasons to file a return anyway:

  • GST/HST Credit: It's the only way to apply for the GST/HST credit, which is basically free money from the government for adults with lower incomes to help offset the cost of sales taxes.
  • Climate Action Incentive Payment: Same goes for the Climate Action Incentive Payment, which is available to residents of some provinces (including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario), and is meant to help individuals and families offset the cost of federal pollution pricing.
  • Deductions and credits: You might qualify for deductions that lower your taxable income, or credits that reduce the amount of tax you owe. Either way, you could end up with a tax refund.
  • Carry deduction and credits forward: You may be able to carry forward some deductions or tax credits to use in future years, when you're earning more money.

Where do I file my income tax return?

You can fill out and file your return to the CRA online using Netfile certified tax software, or you can print out the forms and mail in a paper copy to the appropriate tax centre. If you need help preparing your taxes, there are free tax clinics in March and April across Canada.

What documents do I need to file a tax return?

Before you can file a tax return, you need a way for the CRA to identify you. In most cases, that means a Social Insurance Number (SIN).

Did you know

Money from a student loan isn't considered taxable income in Canada.

If you're a non-resident and not eligible for a SIN because you don't have a study permit allowing you to work in Canada, you can get an Individual Tax Number (ITN) from the CRA instead.

You'll also need to gather up some supporting documents with your tax information (also called tax slips), which can include the following:

  • T2202 Tuition and Enrolment Certificate: This tax form, which your school fills out for you, shows how much you paid in tuition fees in the last calendar year.
  • T4 Statement of Renumeration Paid: Any employer you worked for will give you a T4 slip, which shows how much you earned during the previous year and any deductions — like income tax and employment insurance premiums — taken off your pay.
  • T4A Statement of Pension, Retirement, Annuity and Other Income: “Other" income here applies if you received money from an RESP, scholarship, fellowship, bursary or grant — in which case you'll get this slip from the issuing institution.
  • T5 Statement of Investment Income: If you have (non-registered) bank accounts or investment accounts, you may receive this slip that shows how much interest or investment income you earned during the tax year. (Note: Financial institutions only issue these slips when the amount of interest or investment income is at least $50, but you still need to report those earnings on your tax return either way. Also, you won't get a T5 on a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) or Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), since interest or investment income made within those accounts are sheltered from income tax.)

If you don't receive your tax slips by early March, either contact the issuer or register online for CRA My Account, as there may be electronic copies there.

Deductions, credits and other benefits of filing taxes

Student tax deductions

One of the good things about filing a return is that you might qualify for deductions that lower your taxable income, and may help you get a tax refund. Here are a few deductions that you might qualify for as a student:

Moving expenses

If you moved at least 40km from your previous location to attend school as a full-time student, you may be able to deduct moving expenses from your taxable income. These expenses include transportation, storage, temporary living expenses and utility activation fees.

Child care expenses

If you have a child under age 16 who lives with you, and you pay for child care so you can attend school, you may be able to deduct those expenses from your taxable income.

RRSP contributions

You can deduct eligible contributions to an RRSP from your taxable income. You can also carry forward RRSP deductions, so if your income is on the low end, it may be beneficial to wait until a future year when your total income — and your tax rate — is higher to claim the deduction.

Student tax credits

Another way to lower your tax bill is to claim tax credits. There are two types of tax credits: refundable and non-refundable.

  • A refundable tax credit can be paid to you even if you don't have any taxable income.
  • A non-refundable tax credit can only reduce the taxable amounts on your income to $0. Either way, you could be eligible for a tax refund.

Here are some of the most common federal tax credits that apply to students. (You might also qualify for similar or other provincial tax credits.)

Non-refundable student tax credit


If you were a full-time or part-time employee in 2023, you can claim a non-refundable credit of up to $1,368, which could reduce your federal taxes by up to $205.20 (15% x $1,368).

Tuition amount

If you're 16 or older and have a T2202 slip showing you paid tuition fees to a designated university, college or other eligible educational institution, you can claim this non-refundable tax credit. The maximum claim is $5,000, which could save you up to $750 in federal income taxes (15% x $5,000). If you don't owe enough tax to make full use of the tuition credit, you can either carry forward the extra amounts to claim in the future, or transfer them to a spouse or common-law partner, parent or grandparent.You should know that for the purposes of this credit, tuition includes admission and academic fees, charges for use of a library or lab and examination fees. Textbooks are not included, but some provinces offer a separate tax credit for textbook expenses. to claim in the future, or transfer them to a spouse or common-law partner, parent or grandparent. You should know that for the purposes of this credit, tuition includes admission and academic fees, charges for use of a library or lab and examination fees. Textbooks are not included, but some provinces offer a separate tax credit for textbook expenses.

Canadian Training credit

If you have a T2202 and are between the ages of 26 and 64, you may be able to claim up to half of your eligible tuition as a refundable credit, which means you don't need any taxable income to qualify. Since 2019, the Government of Canada has been giving eligible taxpayers in this age group $250 a year in a CTC account. If you've qualified each year and not claimed this credit before, you should now have $1,000 available to claim for the 2023 tax year. (Keep in mind that any amount you claim under the Canada Training Credit will reduce the fees eligible for the tuition tax credit, accordingly.)

Student loan interest

As a student, you can claim a non-refundable tax credit based on the interest you've paid on federal and provincial government student loans, including OSAP. If you don't have enough income (and therefore a big enough tax bill) to claim the full student loan interest credit, you can carry amounts forward to claim on a future tax return for up to five years.


Now that you've read all of the important points to consider before filing your taxes, don't forget that the deadline in 2024 is April 30. You don't need to file your student taxes if you didn't make any income, but if you do, you might get a tax refund or benefits from the government, so it doesn't hurt to file anyway.

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