Tax season is upon us. Between the months of February and April everyone rushes around collecting the final bits of forms, trying to get access to any tax clinics and advisors you can find. If you are able to, you probably got your parents doing it for you, but at some point you are forced to take matters into your own hands. Unfortunately, one of the most annoying things about being a fully functional adult is having to file your taxes until the day you die. As such, I would like to impart some of the knowledge I have accumulated throughout my very limited years of experience with regards to this topic.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert in taxes or a financial advisor by any means. Please know that all of the advice in this article comes from anecdotal experience and not a background of qualifications in the field.
As an international student who had to learn about doing taxes from scratch in the country, I turned to the tax clinics on campus, like so many of us did. Some of us also got help from other tax advisors around the community. However, since the in-person tax clinic at the university will not be functional this year, given the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes sense to go online. It is important to learn about your tax obligations before everything else, but once you feel comfortable with that, you should figure out how to file your returns. You can go over the government's certified list of tax software and use any of those, but I am going to be referring to the process of filing with Wealthsimple Tax.
Assuming you are a student, there are some staple forms you will have to gather. This includes:
- T2202 - Tuition paid for the past year, which includes all academic expenses; find it in your SSC account!
- T4A - Scholarships, bursaries, grants, etc. that you may have received
- T4 - Given to you by your employers, showing your employment income and any deductions made to your paycheque
Note: The U-Pass fee used to be a taxable benefit, but it is not anymore.
Wealthsimple Tax is a website that allows you to file your taxes online on a pay-what-you-want basis, so that you can choose to pay $5 or use it for free if you want. The aim of the website is to make doing your taxes more accessible and easier to understand. Wealthsimple is a personal favourite because, if you have your CRA account registered and have filed returns for previous years, the auto-fill function makes the whole process so easy. It also helps to review the information and fill out some of the details manually if you find them to be inaccurate.
If you are an international student who has not been to campus and are taking your classes remotely, you may want to figure out how taxes work in your home country since Canada's taxes are based on residence rather than citizenship. If you are an international student who is in BC but do not have any income, you can still file a tax return, according to UBCO's Tax Services. Contact International Programs and Services for more information.
If you have not been in BC but are a Canadian citizen in a different province, you should still be able to file your returns, but make sure to confirm with a tax advisor what the specific requirements are.
Doing your taxes does not have to be difficult or complicated. Especially as students, the process is incredibly simple if you know what you are looking for. You can find free tax clinics around your community, no matter where in the country you are, and get personalised help if you need it. Learning how to handle your taxes early in life can help you get a handle of your overall finances in the long run as you continue to grow in life.
Here are some free tax clinics in Kelowna that serve the general public:
765 Dodd Rd
Kelowna BC V1X 5H1
Pick up and drop offs are not available here right now due to the pandemic, but call for more information!
Primary contact: Henriette Faber - (250) 878 8833
Contact them to make a virtual appointment for all your tax needs.
Phone: (250) 801 9479
What are some tax tips and tricks you have gathered in your lifetime? DM us!