What does it mean to "file taxes"?
It's your responsibility to understand your obligations and rights under Canada’s tax system. Each year, you will submit or “file” an income tax return to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
An income tax return lists your income and deductions, calculates federal (Canada) and provincial (Alberta) tax, and determines whether you owe any taxes or whether you should receive a refund for some or all of the tax that employers have deducted from your income throughout the year.
- Learn more about common types of student income here.
- Learn more about common types of student deductions here.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is the official organization that manages tax law for the federal government and most provinces and territories (including Alberta). The CRA website provides information about how to file taxes.
How do I file taxes?
When you file taxes, this is one of the few situations where you'll need to provide your Social Insurance Number (SIN). You can apply for an Individual Tax Number (ITN) if you haven't earned income and therefore don't have a SIN, or if you're unable to obtain a SIN. Learn more about eligibility for SINs and ITNs on the CRA website.
An overview of how to do your taxes is available on the CRA website. In general, the steps are:
- Gather your tax information
- Consider which method you'll use to file your return (eg. electronically using certified software, by paper/mail, or through the SU Volunteer Tax Program)
- Fill out the tax return
- Send the completed tax return to the CRA
- Pay any balance owed or receive a refund
Learn more about the tax slips that the university will issue you.
Do I need to file taxes?
Residents of Canada who earn income in Canada must file an income tax return each year. Even if you haven't earned income, we strongly recommend you still file a return in order to:
- potentially get money back, become eligible for tax credits, or receive childcare benefits if you have any dependent children
- practice filing taxes before your income sources become more complex (eg. having multiple employers in the future)
- receive a notice of assessment which is the document you receive after filing taxes that shows the result (whether you have a refund, an amount owing, or there is further action you must take). A notice of assessment may be helpful in the future, as some government services or programs ask for this document for proof of income. Visit the CRA website to learn more about a notice of assessment.
Visit the CRA website to learn more about why you should file a tax return.
When do I need to file taxes?
Residents of Canada must file income tax returns by April 30 for the previous year. For example, you would file taxes for:
- Jan. 1–Dec 31, 2022: submit by April 30, 2023
- Jan. 1–Dec 31, 2023: submit by April 30, 2024
February is when you will typically start to receive tax slips (official documents from your employer, the university, bank, or administrator) that contain the information required to submit your taxes. Learn more about tax slips issued by the university.
- University workshops and information sessions about taxes are often run in February through the Students Union, Graduate Student Association, and MoneySmart.
February – March tax clinics are offered on-campus and around Calgary. It’s best to start preparing your taxes early, as appointments at tax clinics can fill up. Learn more about the SU volunteer tax program.
I just started a new job. What forms do I need to fill out?
Whenever you're starting a new job, you'll probably receive two tax forms that you must complete and return to your employer:
- TD1 is the Government of Canada (federal) tax form
- TD1AB is the Government of Alberta (Ppovincial) tax form
They both look very similar. The main difference between the two is the tuition amount you can claim in the form. Generally, you'll only need to complete the section of tuition and fees. However, make sure to read all options with caution in case any of the other sections apply to you.
These forms are personal tax credit returns and are used by employers to determine the amount of federal and provincial tax to be automatically deducted from an individual’s income
When calculating the tuition and fees amount, please include any tuition expenses between January 1 to December 31 of the applicable tax year.
What can I do if I didn't file taxes in a previous year?
If you owe taxes and miss the deadline, the CRA may charge you a penalty and interest on unpaid tax. If you have missed filing taxes for previous years, you'll need to file for each year to catch up. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for a refund for previous years or may be responsible for paying any owed tax and interest.
Your situation may be more complex. We recommend you contact a tax specialist through a tax clinic, your bank, or a certified private company.
Learn more on the CRA website.
Where can I receive help or find resources?
Student Union Volunteer Tax Clinic typically runs February to March on-campus. This program provides free support for students who meet eligibility requirements. Appointments can fill up quickly. Learn more.
MoneySmart runs workshops on taxes
For CRA presentation handouts, please refer to here and here.
Free tax clinics: Many community volunteer income tax programs host free tax clinics around Calgary to help eligible residents submit their tax return. You can find a list of free clinics near you and what documents to bring with you on the CRA website.
Community organizations also host free workshops on taxes:
Your bank my provide tax support as a free or paid service. Ask about any services provided (and mention that you're a student, in case discounted rates apply).
There are private companies that can help you file your taxes either in-person or through online software programs for a fee. Examples include H&R Block, UFile, and TurboTax.
- Using UFile online (free student code is CFS1981). Note: UFile may not be an option for international students filing for the first time.
You should be cautious if you receive a phone call, email, text message, or letter that claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) if they:
- request your personal information (like your SIN, credit card number, bank account information, or passport number) or
- use threatening or coercive language to scare you into sending money
These are scams and you shouldn't respond or provide any of your personal information.
Learn more on the CRA website
Visit the CRA website to learn more about:
- what to expect when the CRA contacts you
- examples of scam communication (calls, emails, texts)
- how to report a scam
- what to do if you're scammed