A guide for int’l students

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Nothing is certain but death and taxes, goes the saying. If you’re an international student in the Land of Maple Leaf, you may want to learn how to do a tax return in Canada or risk getting into serious trouble. 

Learning to file your taxes is a big step into adulthood, and it’s critical that you understand what your obligations are under Canada’s tax system. Failing to fulfil your tax obligations could result in a penalty or even interest on any unpaid amounts.

We wouldn’t be doing you any justice if we didn’t offer some guidance. Below is a summary of some of the general things you should know about your filing your tax return in Canada: 

Do international students have to file a tax return in Canada?

Generally, you would need to file your taxes if you received a Canadian sourced income or if you owe the government money.

The government notes that international students must determine their residency status to know how they will be taxed in Canada.

Find out what your residency status is, which determines your income tax return filing requirements in Canada (click here if you need help determining your residency status).

You may also want to file your taxes — even if you didn’t receive an income — for refunds or credit payments. Get clarification here.

Tax return in Canada

If you’re an international student in the Great White North, you may have to file an income tax return in Canada. Source: Daniel Slim/AFP

Do I need to submit a tax return if I work on campus?

You should file your taxes whether you earn an income from on or off-campus work. All income earned in the country is taxable. 

The government notes on its website: “If you are a resident or deemed resident of Canada, you must include your world income on your tax return. This is your income for the year from all sources inside and outside of Canada.

“Generally, if you are a non-resident of Canada, you will only have to report Canadian-source income, such as from employment.”

What do I need to file my taxes in Canada?

To file your taxes, you will either need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) or an Individual Tax Number (ITN). 

There are three ways to apply for a SIN: online, by mail and in person at a Service Canada office (find one closest to you here). Do note that you’ll need to be in Canada to apply for this number. The application is free

Conversely, you can get an application form for an ITN here.

Other documents or items that you may need to file your taxes could include: 

  • T4 (a form from your employer that highlights your employment income and deductions) or T4A (for students who received a scholarship/bursary in the tax year)
  • T2202 form that shows the tuition fees paid for the tax year (obtained from your school) 

Do I need to file my taxes myself, or can I get an accountant?

You can complete it yourself or hire an accountant. 

What’s the deadline for filing my tax return in Canada?

Generally, your income tax return in Canada has to be filed on or before April 30 of the year following the year for which the return is being filed. 

The government notes: “If you owe tax and you file your tax return late, the CRA [Canada Revenue Agency] will charge you a late-filing penalty and interest on any unpaid amounts.”

Where can I get help to file my taxes?

Many Canadian universities have an FAQ section for international students on filing their taxes online. You might also be able to get information from your university’s Student Service Centre. 

Do your due diligence by checking the Canadian government’s website for details. Contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) if you have questions about filing your tax return in Canada. You may be able to get help at free tax clinics too.



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