The government owes you money on your tax returns
It’s definitely a little strange to look forward to something as mundane as tax season, but if you ask me what’s the best part about the post-Christmas season, I’d immediately say “tax returns”. For many millennials who aren’t doctors, traders or investment bankers, a new year means the chance to pad our meagre incomes with some government dough. Especially if you’re still paying off student loans, and have little or no assets to your name, tax credits are one of easiest ways to get a small sum of money back, that in fact, you’re entitled to. Here’s a quick list of tax credits that you should never forget to claim when you file your returns next year:
Public transit credit
If you’re a frequent user of public transit across Canada, all cities and provinces offer tax credits on purchases of monthly passes, and in some cases even for short-term passes, as long as you keep some kind of proof of your purchase. According to the CRA, tax credits are issued to anyone who has some sort of proof that they paid for unlimited travel on public transit.
For Torontonians, the TTC says that you’ll end up getting back 15 percent of the value of each monthly or weekly pass purchased. That’s pretty significant. Monthly TTC metropasses cost $141.50. If you buy a pass for all 12 months of the year, you stand to get back a good $254 — cash for almost two new metropasses for 2017.
Education tax credit
This one’s a bonanza. During tax season, I wish I was still paying tuition fees if only for the tax credit. Basically, full-time and part-time students can claim three kinds of education credits — the basic federal tuition tax credit, the education and textbook tax credit, and a credit for interest paid on your student loan.
In essence, what the government has decided is that you should not have to pay any taxes on your tuition fees. Say your tuition fees are $6,000 a year. The Federal tax rate is 15 percent, on the first $45,000 of income — an income that as a full-time student, you’re probably not earning. That means you’re eligible for 15 percent of $6,000 — $900 — as a credit for paying tuition fees.
In this year’s budget though, the Trudeau government decided to eliminate the education and textbook tax credit, which is a bit of a bummer only because it was pretty generous. As a full-time student you’re eligible to claim $400 per month for being enrolled in a post-secondary program, and $65 per month for textbooks. It is set to be phased out starting January 1, 2017, which means that you’ll still be eligible for it when filing your 2016 tax returns.
Medical tax credit
If you’re a freelancer, or employee without full drug, dental, and health benefits, the government has decided they’d like to chip in a little to help. Only uninsured costs associated with any kind of medical expense are eligible for this tax credit. So you can’t be double-dipping i.e. claiming coverage from your insurance provider, and then asking the feds for more cash. Anyway, here’s a good list of what medical expenses you can get reimbursed for.
Canada Child Benefit program
This is not so much a tax credit, as a tax-free monthly payment made by the federal government to eligible families with kids under the age of 18. It was the Liberals’ grand campaign promise to Canadians — a complete reform of the Harper regime’s old child tax credit. The benefit program started on July 20 this year, and it’s expected to lift thousands of Canadian children above the poverty line.
If you’re earning $30,000 or less, you could receive the maximum tax credit, which could be as much as $6,400 per kid per year, for kids under six. Families with kids between the ages of six and 17, will receive up to $5,400 per kid per year. But of course that depends on your annual income. Under the new system, you’ll stop receiving any kind of child care benefits from the government if your cumulative household income is more than $200,000. There’s actually a calculator that will help you figure all this out.
Two final notes
First, it’s a good idea to not wait for the tax deadline of April 30 to file your tax returns. You can start doing them as soon as 2017 rolls around, and that way you’ll get your cash back sooner. Second, if your taxes consist solely of credit claims, meaning you don’t owe the government any money, you’re not bound by any kind of deadline. So for instance, you could even choose to file your 2016 and 2017 tax returns together in 2018 and receive a bigger lump sum of money at one time.
Vanmala is VICE Canada’s Money & Economics Editor. Follow her on Twitter.