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Filing Your Taxes as a Student: Expectations vs. Reality

Written by Jasmine Williams

If the words “tax season” make you break out in a cold sweat, don’t worry—we get it. All the paperwork and weird codes can be a little intimidating. It also doesn’t help that there are a ton of misconceptions about filing an income tax return. This can make the process even more confusing and stressful, especially for first-timers.

Here’s the truth: filing your taxes is not as scary as it looks. In fact, the process can be quite painless if you have access to the right info and resources.

Here are four student tax season misconceptions that we’re debunking, once and for all.

“I’m a student, so I don’t have to file my taxes.”

Many students think that they don’t need to file a tax return because they don’t earn enough money to pay income tax. While it’s true that there is a basic amount of income that taxpayers are able to earn tax-free every year (for the 2018 tax year, this amount is $11,809), the chances of you earning less than this, even as a student, are slim.

Most students are at least making some money from a combination of summer jobs, part-time jobs, scholarships, bursaries, and grants. And if the total amount you’ve earned from these sources is more than the exemption amount, you have to file a return.

But keep in mind, a lot of benefits come from filing. Most full-time students are eligible for several deductions that can reduce the amount of tax you owe and lead to a pretty decent refund. For instance, there are deductions for tuition, moving expenses and you can also claim an education deduction for each month you’re enrolled full time. In short, if you don’t file, you could miss out on thousands of dollars in benefits and credits.

“Doing my taxes will take me forever.”

Maybe if you decide to do it the old-fashioned, pencil-and-paper way. But even then, you’re looking at a time commitment of anywhere from two to 20 hours, depending on how many drafts you make or rounds of review you do.

Using a tax software program can cut this process down even further. A basic electronic form can take as little as 20 minutes to fill out and up to three hours for more complicated returns. You can also ditch the DIY approach altogether and get a tax preparer to file your return for you. In fact, H&R Block has a special offer designed exclusively for students that makes filing a breeze.

For each of these methods, you’ll need to set aside time to gather your tax statements and other materials. But once you do, the process is not nearly as time intensive as people think.

“I’m bad at math so doing my taxes will be super hard.”

Not a numbers person? Not a problem. Filing a tax return does not really require a lot of complicated math. Here’s the process in a nutshell:

  1. Collect all your information and supporting documents that show your income. Ensure that they support any deductions and credits you plan to claim.
  2. Figure out how you want to file your taxes (Online? On paper? Tax software? Accountant?)
  3. Make sure your personal information is up-to-date (e.g. marital status, children, banking information, etc.)
  4. Report the income you received in the year from all sources, both inside and outside Canada.
  5. Find out which deductions, tax credits, and benefits you can claim.
  6. Send your return to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
  7. Keep your supporting documents somewhere safe in case the CRA asks to see them.

See? Not that scary, right? And if you decide to use a tax preparer like H&R Block, you won’t have to do any math at all. At H&R Block, every Tax Expert receives annual training to ensure that they’re up-to-date on the Canadian tax code and ready to get you your maximum refund.

“Hiring a professional will cost me an arm and a leg.”

Even though we’ve hopefully convinced you that doing your taxes isn’t as scary as its made out to be, we also understand if you’d rather get a professional to do it. Even if you know what you need to do, it can be reassuring knowing your tax return is being handled by an expert. Plus, if you want a big refund, you need to take advantage of every deduction and credit available to you. However, with tax laws constantly changing, this can get difficult.

If you’re a student on a limited budget, you’ve still got options if you want to go the professional route. For example, you can file with H&R Block for as little as $39.99, plus a filing fee. Their trained Tax Experts will help you claim your tuition properly, take advantage of student tax credits, and transfer unused tuition and education credits so you can claim them in the future.

See? Doing your taxes doesn’t have to be a total drag. In fact, having a general understanding of the whole process can be really empowering. It’s important to know how much money you’re making and where it went. And once you learn about the various credits and deductions available to students, you can use that information to maximize your refund and keep more money in your pocket.

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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.