Frequently Asked Income Tax Questions - International Students

Q1. I don’t work in Canada, but I am a student. Do I need to file taxes?

No, it is not mandatory if you do not work. However, filing taxes is 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 if you want to claim a refund. You can learn more about who should file a tax return here.

Q2. Do I need to obtain a Social Insurance Number in order to file taxes?

No, an ITN (Individual Tax Number) will work - complete a T1261 Application for a Canada Revenue Agency Individual Tax Number (ITN) for Non-Residents. This form is available from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.

Q3. I am graduate student and also working as a Research Assistant/Teaching Assistant on campus. What documents do I need to provide for tax purposes?

You will get a T4A slip from the University, which you will use to file your taxes. This document can be printed off from The Bridge.

Q4. I have lost my T4 from my off campus employer. What should I do to be able to file taxes?

You should first go to employer to see if you can get a replacement issued. You can also call this toll free number 1-800-959-8281 or set up a Government of Canada “My Account” online and request duplicates.

Q5. I came with my spouse/common-law partner who is working full time on an open work permit. Can we file income taxes together?

Married or common-law couples still file separate tax returns. A spouse may be able to claim you as a dependent and/or claim your tuition as a tax credit to reduce their taxes payable up to $5000.

Q6. I have children. What do I need to provide for tax purposes?

No specific documentation is required to claim dependents for tax purposes. However, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may ask later for immigration documents and birth certificates.

Q7. I only live here during the school year and don’t plan on staying in Canada long term. Should I file taxes?

All income made in Canada is taxable. If you are working on or off campus, a tax return should be filed.

Q8. Are there different ways to file taxes? Can only accountants file for me?

You can file taxes yourself using paper forms or online software. Paper forms can be downloaded or can be found at postal offices. Canada Revenue Agency has a list of recommended tax software (free and paid) and that list can be accessed here.

Q9. What are the pros and cons to filing taxes or not filing in Canada?

See Q1 above.

Q10.  I don’t make much money. Will I have to pay more money to the government if I file taxes?

It's possible, but if you do owe more money, paying it is not optional.  If you are not sure if you will get a return or if you need to pay, you should file taxes to avoid penalties.

Q11. Am I required to pay taxes?

Yes, if you are taxable, a resident, or have Canadian income. If you are an international student studying in Canada, you may have to file a Canadian income tax return. You must determine your residency status to know how you will be taxed in Canada.

Q12. Do I have to pay taxes on income I received from my home country?

If you are resident in Canada you would be taxed on worldwide income. However, taxes already paid in another country may be deductible against taxes to be paid in Canada.

Q13. As an international student, am I considered a resident of Canada? How do I determine my residency status for income tax purposes?

Yes, you are considered to be a resident as an international student in Canada. You can learn more about how residency is determined in Canada here.

Q14. I didn't file my income taxes in previous years. Can I file taxes for past years now?

Yes, always. Past years’ tax returns can be filed in the same manner as the current year: online or on paper. Prior-year tax return packages can be found on the CRA website.