For Canadians, April is income tax season. It’s a time where many Canadians pull out their boxes of receipts and pay a visit to their accountant, or bring out a pencil and calculator and prepare their income tax forms themselves.

For international students, there are many reasons to file income tax in Canada, even if you do not have income to declare.

What is income tax in Canada?

Income tax in Canada is a progressive tax system based on a taxpayer’s income. Canada has a federal income tax and most provinces and territories, including British Columbia, also have their own income taxes. Governments set their own income tax rates in Canada and income brackets. As an individual’s income increases, they move into higher tax brackets and pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes.

Taxable income is calculated by subtracting eligible deductions and credits from total income. Some common deductions and credits include RRSP contributions, childcare expenses and charitable donations.

The deadline for filing income tax in Canada is generally April 30, though this year it is May 1 as April 30 falls on a Sunday.

Income tax helps fund government programs and services, such as healthcare, education, social services, infrastructure projects, national defense and public safety.

Taxes for international students

In general, if you are an international student studying in Canada, whether to file an income tax return in Canada depends on your residency status for tax purposes, your income earned in Canada and any applicable tax treaties between Canada and your home country.

Residency status for tax purposes in Canada is determined by the Canada Revenue Agency based on factors such as the duration of your stay in Canada, your residential ties to Canada and your significant social and economic connections to Canada. If you are considered a resident of Canada for tax purposes, you are generally required to report and pay taxes on your worldwide income, which includes income earned both inside and outside of Canada.

If you are a non-resident of Canada for tax purposes, you are generally only required to report and pay taxes on certain types of Canadian-source income, such as employment income earned in Canada, rental income from Canadian properties and certain other types of income. Non-residents may also be eligible for certain tax exemptions or reduced tax rates under applicable tax treaties between Canada and their home country.

One reason for international students to file taxes is it’s the only way to obtain benefits like GST credits (payments to offset all or part of the tax paid on purchases), the Child Tax Benefit or to claim a refund.

It’s important to note that the Canadian tax system can be complex, and there are various rules and regulations that apply to international students. It’s recommended to seek professional tax advice from a qualified tax professional or accountant who is knowledgeable about Canadian tax laws and regulations for international students to ensure that you comply with your tax obligations and take advantage of any available tax benefits or exemptions.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has a list of reasons why you should file a tax return.

What you need to file an income tax return

These are the most common documents needed to file income taxes:

  • T2202. This form shows the tuition fees you paid for the tax year. You can download your T2202 from the MyUCW Student Portal.
  • T4. This form comes from your employer and includes your employment earnings and deductions from the tax year.
  • T4A. If you received a scholarship or bursary, you will be issued a T4A slip indicating the full amount even if you can claim a scholarship exemption to completely eliminate that amount from being included in your income. It is a student’s responsibility to determine the amount of any scholarship exemption that may be entitled to claim.
  • Interest tax slips like a T3 or T5 from financial institutions. Contact your financial institution for a copy if applicable.
  • Receipts if you donated to a Canadian charity.
  • Medical receipts for out-of-pocket expenses.

For more information about Canadian taxes, please see filing an income tax return as a student or contact the Canada Revenue Agency.

Published on April 14, 2023.