What are taxes in Canada?

Although there are many different kinds of taxes in Canada, as an international student, you will generally only encounter two types:

  • GST: This is a value-added tax that is applied to all goods and services purchased in Canada.
  • Income Tax: Income taxes will be deducted from any money you earn at a job, or from scholarships

Please note: To file your Income Tax, you need a Social Insurance Number (SIN). If you currently do not have a SIN, you need to obtain a SIN before you can file your taxes.

Get help filing your taxes for free!

Watch our video tutorials on how to file your taxes online and read frequently asked questions.

See what tax slips and documents you need to file your taxes.


  • A. General Income Tax Information

    As a student at the University of Alberta, you are subject to the taxation laws of Canada and the Province of Alberta. To help you understand the Canadian tax system visit Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.

    Canada has a self-assessment system, which means that each individual is required to determine their own taxes for each taxation year. The taxation year is based on the calendar year of January 1 to December 31. Completed tax returns should be filed by April 30 of the following year. Taxes are calculated by using income, deductions, non-refundable tax credits and refundable tax credits.

    As an international student, your requirement to file a Canadian tax return, and the type of income you must report, depends on your residency status in Canada. The CRA’s webpage will help you determine your residency status. You may also wish to consult the CRA publications “T4055 Newcomers to Canada” and “P105 Students and Income Tax” for more information.

    The costs you incurred when moving to Canada may be claimed against certain income. Be sure to keep your receipts for airline tickets and other moving expenses. For more information about reporting moving expenses, see line 219 - moving expenses; Canada Revenue Agency (CRA); general inquiries: 1–800–959–8281.

  • B. How Are Your Taxes Assessed?


    If you are a resident of Canada, you have to report your income from all sources, both inside and outside Canada, on your Canadian income tax return. The most common sources of income are from employment, scholarships, fellowships, bursaries, and interest on money deposited in the bank. The sum of these will determine your total income. Part-time scholarship recipients of $500.00 or more will be counted as income and be taxable.  


    To reduce the income subject to tax, you may be entitled to deduct the amount you paid into pension plans, registered retirement savings plans (RRSP), union and professional dues and child care expenses. There are some other less common deductions that are listed in the tax forms, such as moving expenses. The costs you incurred when moving to Canada may be claimed against certain income. Be sure to keep your receipts for airline tickets and other expenses. Subtracting your deductions from your total income gives you your taxable income. The taxable income is the amount on which your federal and provincial taxes are calculated.

    Public Transportation Receipts (i.e. U-Pass receipt, ETS Transit Monthly Pass) identify the amount you paid for public transportation. If you are a registered U-Pass user, please include your U-Pass receipt, you can print from Beartracks. If you buy an ETS Monthly Pass, please include all of your monthly bus passes, store receipts are not applicable.

    Non-Refundable Tax Credits

    You may be entitled to claim certain non-refundable tax credits in calculating the amount of tax you may owe. Non-refundable tax credits reduce your federal tax. If the total of these credits is more than the income tax you owe for the year, you will not get a refund for the difference.

    If you are a newcomer to Canada, you may be limited in the amount you can claim for certain federal non-refundable tax credits. Your residency status may also affect your eligibility to claim other non-refundable tax credits otherwise available.

    As an international student, you may be able to claim the Tuition, education and textbook amounts. These amounts allow students to reduce their income taxes by taking into account eligible fees paid for tuition, and the education amounts for full or part time attendance.

    It is important to complete Schedule 11 of the General Income Tax and Benefit Package to ensure that any unused part of these amounts is either transferred to your spouse or common-law partner, or carried forward for you to claim in a future year.

    The non-refundable tax credits are subtracted from the federal income tax to determine your net federal tax. Alberta tax is calculated as 10% of taxable income and is reduced by non-refundable credits in the same manner as federal tax. The rules for calculating your provincial non-refundable tax credits are similar to the rules used to calculate your corresponding federal non-refundable tax credits.

    Refundable Tax Credits

    These credits include the tax that has already been deducted from your earnings. The refundable tax credits are subtracted from the total tax payable to determine if you will receive a refund from Canada Revenue Agency or if you are required to pay additional taxes. Many students are entitled to a refund.

  • C. Common Tax Slips Used by Students

    A. T4 summarizes your employment income and deductions for the year and is sent to you by mail from your employer.

    B. T4A summarizes the bursaries, scholarships, fellowships, and grants you received during the year and is sent to you by mail.

    C. T5 identifies the amount of interest you received from a financial institution and will be mailed to you. Some banks only provide receipts for amounts over $50. If you don’t receive a T5, you still must report your income.

    D. T2202A (Tuition, Education and Textbook Amounts Certificate) identifies the number of months you attended university during the calendar year. The eligible tuition fees are also indicated on this form. This form is available for printing on Bear Tracks.

    E. Public Transportation Receipts (i.e. U-Pass receipt) can be downloaded and printed from Bear Tracks.

    If you are wondering which tax slips you need to file your taxes, answer the checklist questions and bring all documents you answered with a "yes."

    Important Tax Slips Checklist (download)

    You can search for any CRA forms on their website, by entering the form name or number in the search bar.

  • D. How to file Income Tax Returns

    You can file your income tax by visiting a free Tax Clinic, using a paid service (i.e. accountants, H&R Block) or with an online application.

    There are many online applications available to file your income tax: TurboTax, UFile, SimpleTax, etc. These are user-friendly applications accompanied with instructions to guide you through the process. You might be able to file your income tax for free, please check the applications’ website for student promotions.

    Each year, International Services Centre works in partnership with the University of Alberta Accounting Club (UAAC) to help international students file their income tax return for free.

    Due to COVID-19, the International Services Centre Tax Clinic is closed until further notice. 

    When you visit the clinic, make sure to bring your tax slips and documents.

    How to file your tax return?

    STEP 1: Determine your residency status.

    As an international student, the Canadian tax return requirements and type of income you must report depends on your residency status in Canada. Determine your residency status, visit Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website or contact CRA at 1-800-959-8281.

    STEP 2: Obtain your Social Insurance Number (SIN).

    If you are an international student and you are currently working in Canada, you should already have a SIN.

    If you received your Individual Taxation Number, bring it with you when you file your tax return at the Tax Clinic.

    If you do not have Social Insurance Number (SIN) or Individual Taxation Number (ITN), see below to determine which you will need to file a tax return:

    • If you have a study permit that indicates “may accept employment” or “may work” in Canada - APPLY for SIN
    • If you are unable to obtain a SIN, then you must complete the ITN application form and mail it together with your 2017 Tax Return.

    In addition to the ITN application form, you also need to include:

    • A certified copy of your passport
    • A certified copy of your valid study permit

    Next, you need to send your 2017 Federal Returns, completed ITN application form, and certified supporting documents (passport and study permit) to the address below. Ask the front desk at International Services Centre for an envelope addressed to Ottawa Tax Services Office:

    International and Ottawa Tax Services Office
    Post Office Box 9769 Station T
    Ottawa, ON K1G 3Y4


    Email if you have questions about the Individual Taxation Number (ITN) application process.

    To certify your documents for the ITN Application, visit the Chaplains Centre and Offices at 169 HUB (Lower level of HUB, across the Multi-faith Prayer and Meditation Space). Bring a photocopy of your passport and study permit along with your original documents.

    STEP 3: Check that you have all of the appropriate tax slips and documents.

    Use the IMPORTANT TAX SLIPS CHECKLIST to determine which tax slips you need to bring with you to your Tax Clinic visit. If you plan to file your tax return for previous years (2015, 2014 2013, so on), please bring the tax slips for all corresponding years.

    STEP 4: File your tax return with online software or in-person at a paid service.

  • E. Goods and Services Tax (GST)

    Every purchase (excluding groceries and other essentials) you make in Canada is subject to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which means five percent is added to the purchase price of each item. Low-income wage earners are entitled to a GST credit by filing their tax return every year.

    If this is your first time filing your tax return(s), you will have to complete the Form RC151, GST/HST Credit Application for the year that you became a resident of Canada. If you’ve filed your previous year’s tax return but you did not receive GST/HST credit payment in the past, you should also complete the RC151 form. Once you completed the form, you have to mail it to the Winnipeg Tax Centre. Visit ISS Tax Clinic if you need help completing the form.

    If you’ve filed your tax return in previous years and have been receiving GST/HST credit payments, you do not need to complete the RC151 form. CRA will automatically calculate the credit when you file your next income tax return.

    Credits can either be mailed to you or directly deposited in your bank account quarterly. You are not eligible to receive GST credit cheques after you stop residing in Canada. For more information, see "RC4210 - Information on the GST/HST Credit."

  • F. Canada Child Benefit (previously Canada Child Tax Benefit)

    The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under 18 years old.

    Generally, to be eligible to receive the CCB, you have to live with the child and be a resident of Canada for income tax purposes. Other conditions may apply, CRA-Canada Child Benefit page for more information on how to apply to receive the benefit