The 2016 tax season is upon us – if you’ve paid taxes or made income in 2015, it’s time to file a return.
Take advantage of the credits and deductions you have as a student this year to boost your annual tax return and help pay off your student loans. All you need is your computer!
Here are six simple steps to complete your 2016 tax refund:
1. Gather your T1 income tax information
You will need your T4, T4A, Revele 8 (QC Residents only), T2202A slips, U-pass form, and any other associated receipts for reference. You do not need to send in any physical receipts unless the CRA requests them at a later date, but you will need the information on them to file your taxes online.
A quick glossary of Canadian tax terms
T1: Also called General Income Tax Form or Income Tax and Benefit Return, this is your personal tax refund.
T4: Forms for income earned in the calendar year. You may have more than one T4 if you’ve had more than one source of income.
T4A: The forms for your bursaries, scholarships and awards.
T2202A: Your tuition tax receipt that shows the amount that can be deducted for income tax purposes.
Revele 8: For QC residents o nly, these tax forms show amount of tuition that can be deducted on personal income tax return.
2. Create a My Account on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website
It can help you to track your refund, view or change your return, and set up a direct deposit. This way, you’ll be able to create a profile with your personal details that will be saved for future tax returns, which will make the following tax seasons a little easier. Furthermore, a CRA account will allow you to use the NETFILE online web service that will process and then transmit your refund directly to your bank account.
3. Choose certified software to file your taxes
These programs help you prepare, complete, and save your tax return in an easy and straightforward manner. Some tax-preparation software options are free, and will walk you through every step and each line of your return. These programs are also equipped with a help button for any questions you may have, and can help you maximize your return. For example, the software can determine if you are eligible for a refund from an education tax credit, or if you can claim your share of rental expenses if you lived in residence to get some money back.
4. Check all the credits and deductibles you are eligible to claim
Once you have chosen your certified software, the program will give you a list of credits and deductibles you are eligible to claim on your T1 as a student. These include child care benefits, moving costs, interest on loans, and education costs (tuition, books, etc.). Check out the full, detailed list here. Taking the time to check your eligibility is well worth the effort— you don’t want to miss out on any opportunities to get your money back.
5. File and send in your return
Once you have looked it over and made sure all your tax information is accurate, you can file your taxes electronically from within the certified tax software with one click to NETFILE, which will then process and transmit your return to the CRA. Most kinds of tax-preparation software will double check your information for you to ensure you are getting the maximum refund possible, and save your data for future tax seasons.
As students, you’re probably not the highest priority on CRA’s list to be audited, since your return is simple and deductibles standard. However, there’s always a chance that your file will be randomly assessed after you get your refund, especially if you are self-employed or income is based on commission.
Tips to avoid getting audited:
- File on time. This year, the deadline is April 30th, 2016. Filing before the deadline also avoids late payment to your refund or GST/HST return.
- Don’t make things up. If you don’t have the receipt to prove a claim, leave it out.
- Keep your records in a safe place, so you can back up your claims if you are indeed audited.
- Report all your income. If you’ve changed jobs during the year, make sure you have records of all your T4s and aren’t missing any sources of income.
- Respond to information requests. Sometimes the CRA will ask to verify certain claims of costs such as childcare expenses or charitable donations after you’ve received your refund. Do not avoid these requests of information and send them over promptly.
6. Receive your refund!
Once sent, it’ll take as little as 8 days to process your electronic claim and you will receive your eligible tax refund in your back account if you’ve opted for direct deposit, or in the form of a cheque.
Doing your taxes doesn’t have to be scary! Just follow these simple steps and you’ll be done in no time.