by Zoey Duncan
You can spend $30 to let someone do your taxes, or input your valuable numbers into a digital tax program, or even do your own tax return, painstakingly reading the lines on pale blue pages sent by the government. However you do your taxes, knowing what you can claim, deduct and get away with is an important part of legally completing your tax return.
Rafik Kurji, an associate professor in the Bissett school of business, said that students should be aware of all possible deductions and investment strategies, even if they’re not doing their own tax return.
“If you don’t submit it, the tax preparer is going to assume you don’t have it,” Kurji said.
A few years ago, students could have their taxes prepared for free on campus thanks to the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, a program that Kurji headed for seven years. This year marks the second in a row the program has not happened, as the faculty no longer has the resources to prepare students’ returns.
Kurji noted that students who have a relatively simple tax return, and who earn less than $25,000 annually could get their returns prepared for free downtown at the Harry Hays Building.
Students who work as servers should, ideally, always keep track of their tips.
“Tips and gratuities is something that Canada Revenue Agency is very, very forceful on right now in terms of legislation,” Kurji said. “Always keep track of your gratuities. That is the exact way to do that, but in the absence of information, a reasonable amount should at least be reported.”
Kurji said the Canada Revenue Agency has been known to visit restaurants and bars to determine typical gratuity levels in order to assess the reasonableness of reported income.
Regardless of a student’s income level, everybody should file taxes regularly in order to claim the quarterly GST credit.
Even parents and spouses can benefit from a student’s tax return. An education deduction is calculated based on full- or part-time status and the number of months spent in school. This amount can be deducted from the taxpayer’s amount owing, carried forward to a year when the student makes enough income to pay taxes, or passed onto his or her spouse or parents.
“They can actually probably make a deal with the parents and say, ‘Well, I know you probably paid for my education, but this is the way I’m going to pay you back,’” Kurji said.
For some, tax time can be overwhelming. Andrew Corley is a Mount Royal student who filed his taxes this year using QuickTax software. While he’s reasonably comfortable with the process, he said he’d like to know more.
“I’m just worried about not claiming everything sometimes,” Corley said. “There’s a lot of stuff you can claim and a lot of stuff probably I don’t claim.”
Kurji advised students to be responsible with any refund they receive.
“If you really are disciplined with your refund, as soon as you get that refund, put it away so you can earmark it for the next academic year,” he said. “Or for rent, anything like that. Don’t waste it.”