As an international student, am I required to file income taxes?

You must file an income tax return if:

  • You receive any income in Canada (from employment, scholarship/bursary, fellowship, assistantship, investments, etc.)
  • You want to claim a refund
  • You want to apply for the GST/HST (Harmonized Sales Tax), Ontario Trillium Benefit and other tax credits
  • You or your spouse or common-law partner want to start or continue receiving Canada Child Benefit payments
  • Employment income, research grants and investment income are all subject to Canadian income tax. Depending on the amount of money you earned and your eligibility for deductions, you may receive a refund OR have to pay taxes.
  • Even if you did not receive income while in Canada, it is recommended that you complete an income tax return (see next question for more information).
  • If you owe taxes to the government and you do not file your income tax return by the deadline (April 30), you will be charged a late-filing penalty and interest on unpaid amounts.

If I did not receive income in Canada, why should I complete a tax return?

It is strongly recommended that you fill out a tax return even if you did not receive income in Canada because you may benefit from filing taxes in the following ways:

  • You may qualify for the GST/HST tax credit or the Ontario Trillium Benefit
  • You may want to claim a refund
  • You can claim non-refundable tax credits that allow you to carry forward the unused part of your tuition credit to a future year when you may be working in Canada. In other words, these tax credits may be used later to reduce your taxes in future years.
  • You or your spouse or common-law partner want to start or continue receiving Canada Child Benefit payments

As an international student, am I considered a resident for tax filing purposes? How do I determine my residency status for income tax purposes?

Your Canadian Immigration/Residency status does not determine your Residency Status for income tax purposes. You must know your residency status for income tax purposes in order to submit the correct tax forms. To determine your residency status, you can determine it yourself or you can request CRA's opinion by completing the Determination of Residency Status (Entering Canada) NR74 Form well before the tax deadline and mail it to the address listed on the form. You will receive a letter informing you of your status. Keep the letter and include a copy with your tax return.

Your status is determined based on factors such as:

  • The length of time you have been in Canada
  • Tax treaties between Canada and your home country  
  • Residential ties you have established in Canada, including:
    • A home in Canada
    • A spouse or common-law partner and dependents in Canada
    • Personal property in Canada, such as a car or furniture
    • Social ties in Canada
  • Other ties that may be relevant include:
    • A Canadian driver's license
    • A Canadian bank account or credit cards
    • Health insurance with a Canadian province or territory

Types of Residency Status

  • Resident: If you have been in Canada for more than 183 days in the year and you have residential ties to Canada, you are considered to be a resident for tax purposes only. You should complete a General Income Tax form.
  • Non-Resident: You have been in Canada for less than 183 days in the year and you have not established residential ties with Canada. Only Canadian source income will be taxed. You should complete a General Income Tax form for Non-Residents & Deemed Residents.
  • Deemed Resident: You have been in Canada for more than 183 days in the year but you have no significant ties to Canada and you are not considered a resident of your home country under the terms of a tax treaty between Canada and your home country. You should complete a General Income Tax form for Non-Residents and Deemed Residents.
  • Deemed Non-Resident: You have established significant ties with Canada and are considered a resident of another country with which Canada has a tax treaty. The same rules apply as a non-resident of Canada.

For more information about determining your residency, read:

Where can I get forms for completing my tax return?

  • Any postal office in Canada. A postal office is located in the pharmacy in the basement of the UCC.
  • Any Canada Revenue Agency office
  • Canada Revenue Agency website

Select the appropriate year, province and forms.

Students may also have the option of filing their tax returns online.

What official tax receipts will I need to file my income tax return and where can I get them?

Beginning in January, you may start receiving tax receipts from your employers or in the mail. You will need these receipts to file your taxes.

These are some examples of tax receipts (T-slips) you may receive:

  • T4: Employment income (i.e., TA, RA, etc.); issued by your employer
    • If you work at Western, your T4 may be available online on your MyHR website
  • T4A: Income from scholarships, bursaries, fellowships, and/or research grants; issued by the University
    • T4As for your scholarship from Western, may be available on your Student Center account if you consented to receive it online. Otherwise it will be mailed to your home address.
    • T4As for your research grant from Western may be available online on your MyHR website
  • T2202A: Tuition and Education Amounts Certificate stating the amount of tuition fees paid and the number of months you were in school for the calendar year (not the academic year). Available from the Student Center website.
  • T3 or T5: Income earned as interest on investments and deposits; issued by your financial institution. If you earned less than $50 in interest your bank will not issue you a T5 slip.

Please note that all receipts are issued based on the calendar year January 1 to December 31. Make sure to keep copies of all your official receipts for at least 6 years.

Why do I have two T4A tax slips? How do I tell the difference between the two?

Some students, in particular graduate students may receive two different T4A slips, depending on their funding package.

Students who received a scholarship will receive a T4A slip on their Student Center account. The T4A slip will have code 105 written on one of the boxes. Scholarships may be non-taxable if you are a full-time student. You must claim your tuition on your tax return!

Students who received a research grant, usually from being a research assistant, will receive a T4A slip on their MyHR account. The T4A slip will have code 104 written on one of the boxes. Research grants are taxable.

What other receipts and forms will I need to file my tax return?

In addition to the official T-slips you will receive, you may be able to claim may include: 

  • Copy of last year's tax return and Notice of Assessment, if you filed taxes the previous year
  • Rent receipts (if you lived off-campus) - from your landlord
    • Receipts should include your name, your landlord's name, the address where you are renting, the month(s) of rent paid, total amount of rent paid, and your landlord's signature
  • Bus pass expenses (for monthly or longer bus passes)
    • This expense can only be claimed up until June 30, 2017*
  • Medical expenses, including UHIP and your extended health plan, prescriptions, etc.*
  • Charitable and political donations*
  • Union dues (found on your T4 slip if you are a TA)
  • Child care and camp expenses
  • Moving expenses (only if you moved for work or had a research grant)
  • and others...

*To view your bus pass, UHIP, extended health and dental plan expenses, and student donations from Western, click on the "Detailed Account Statement" in your Student Center account. Keep in mind that the tax year is from January 1 - December 31, however some of your expenses paid for on your Detailed Account Statement cover 2 tax year periods (September 1 - December 31, and January 1 - August 31). You may need to pro-rate some of the expenses to only claim expenses for the current tax year.

Can I file my income tax return if I don't have a Social Insurance Number?

Yes. International Students who do not have a Social Insurance Number (SIN) can still file an income tax return. For more information on how to apply for a Social Insurance Number, please visit our section on Social Insurance Numbers.

If you are not eligible to get a SIN and you have never applied for a Temporary/Individual Tax Number, you must apply for an Individual Tax Number (ITN) by completing the Application for a Canada Revenue Agency Individual Tax Number for Non-Residents (form T1261).  Send the completed form to the address listed on the form along with the required documents. Do not complete this form if you already have a SIN (even if it has expired), you are eligible for a SIN, or already have an individual tax number or a temporary taxation number.

If you have either of these numbers, but they have expired and you are not currently employed, you can use your expired number for filing your Canadian tax return. If you are currently employed, you must ensure that your SIN is currently valid.

Is there anything I should do differently if this is the first time I am filing a tax return in Canada?

  • Make sure that you E\enter your date of entry to Canada on your first year's tax return. This date is ONLY included in your first year's tax return!
  • Include Statement of World Income letter with your tax return providing them with information on your world income from January 1 until the date you arrived in Canada, even if it was $0. Make sure the amount you indicate is in Canadian dollars. You will not be taxed on this income, however, it is used to determine the amount of some credits you may be eligible for.
  • Fill out Form RC151 GST/HST Credit Application for Individuals Who Become Residents of Canada and mail it to the address listed on the form.

Where should I submit my income tax return?

Students filing an income tax return for the first time may need to must submit a paper copy and mail it in along with your T-slips and any receipts requested by CRA. Visit CRA's website for instructions on where to mail your tax return.

For any years after that, you may be able to NETFILE your tax return using a CRA certified software.

If someone is helping you file your tax return (an accountant, tax clinic, etc.), they may be able to EFILE your tax return for you.

Remember to keep all your original receipts and copies of your income tax forms for at least 6 years in case you are audited.

When will I receive my tax return?

If this is your first time filing Canadian Income Taxes, your tax return can take 4 months to be processed. If this is not your first time filing an Income Tax return, it is usually processed in two to six weeks.

What happens after I file my tax return?

Once you have submitted your tax return, you should receive at least 3 letters from Canada Revenue Agency:

  • Notice of Assessment
  • Letter from the GST/HST Office
  • Letter from the Ontario Trillium Benefit Office

It is very important that you read and review the information on the letters you receive as they may be asking you to provide additional information. You should keep these letters, along with your tax return for a minimum of 6 years.

If you have registered for a myCRA account, you will be able to access these letters online, along with other important information.

If you need to make a change to your tax return, you will need to request for an adjustment which you can do through your myCRA account or using ReFILE through a certified software.

I didn't file my income taxes in previous years. Can I file taxes for past years now?

Yes. You can file a tax return to claim a refund for the previous ten years. Attach receipts for all the deductions or credits you are claiming. Tax forms for previous years can be downloaded from the Canada Revenue Agency.

What is a Notice of Assessment?

When the Canada Revenue Agency receives your income tax return, they will review your information and send you a summary of the results of your income tax return, also known as a Notice of Assessment. Please review your Notice of Assessment to ensure that all the information is correct. You will need to keep your Notice of Assessment in your files to use it for the next year's income tax return. Your Notice of Assessment or Notice of Reassessment will show unused tuition amounts carried forward from previous years.