The sunnier side of tax season

March 13, 2017

By: Elizabeth DiEmanuele

Originally published in the McMaster Daily News

Filing taxes is often viewed as an expensive and time-consuming process that can feel daunting for students; but, this is an important year for students to file returns. The 2016 tax year will be the last year that students can claim education and textbook credits. This new federal tax measure will be put towards supporting tuition costs for post-secondary students from low income families (gross incomes of less than $50,000 per year).

Current students are still eligible to file for their education and textbook credits this year, a decision that will provide future tax savings when students are working. For a full time student, these credits amount to $465 a month and total $3,720. With future tax savings calculated at 15%, students can receive a return of $558. Starting in 2018, only the tuition credit will remain available.

Mac’s Money Centre encourages students who have not filed their taxes to learn more and stay on top of their taxes, as the savings could be used towards paying student loans and cost of living. Students who are not yet working can apply their tuition credit to their taxes owed later on; they also have the option to transfer up to $5,000 of their tuition, education, and textbook credits to their parents’ income taxes.

“For students, tax season means getting money back and accumulating future tax savings. I think that’s really exciting,” says Gina Robinson, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Director of the Student Success Centre. “Through Mac’s Money Centre, I want to empower students – it feels good to know how it all works and to take charge.”

Mac’s Money Centre is a collaborative initiative between the Student Success Centre, McMaster Students Union, Financial Aid and Scholarships, and Student Accounts that works towards nurturing the financial wellness of McMaster students and alumni. In addition to an informational website that provides resources and tools to help with taxes, budgeting, and financial decision making, Mac’s Money Centre also holds workshops and one-on-one money coaching every Wednesday.

This year, Mac’s Money Centre will be introducing D.I.Y. Tax Labs, a free session for students and recent alumni to file their own taxes. Those who attend will bring in their laptops and work with CPA professionals to ensure that they file their taxes correctly and maximize their tax benefits. By the end of the session, students will be able to submit their tax returns online through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.

As Gina shares, “There’s this myth that taxes are complicated and that you need to be making an income to file; but, students have a lot to look forward to when it comes to tax season. Claiming the GST/HST rebate and the Ontario Trillium Grant, alone, could help students get almost $1000 back immediately. That’s a lot of money and doesn’t include what they can later claim when they’re working full time. It’s just about being aware and starting early.”

D.I.Y. Tax Labs will take place on March 28 and March 30 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. There will also be shorter information workshops about filing student taxes on March 22 and March 29 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. To register for any of these sessions, visit OSCARplus (listed under events).

For those who cannot attend sessions in March, Mac’s Money Centre will hold tax clinics in April. Mac’s Money Centre also recommends that students and alumni register for an online account on the CRA website so that they come to sessions prepared and ready to get to work.