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Published January 3, 2024
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3 Essential Tax Tips for International Students in Canada

Know your residency status, apply for a tax number and determine the tax benefits for which you might be eligible for less stress this tax season.

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Filing taxes for the first time in an unfamiliar country is a stressful prospect for anyone. But if you’re also preoccupied with classes and making new friends, you might be extra worried about missing a step.

Here are three things international students can do in advance to make the annual tax process a little easier.

1. Know your residency status

The way income tax works for you will depend on your residency status, so before filing a return it’s important to know where you stand. 

Residency is determined on a case-by-case basis and depends on your residential ties to Canada as well as the length of time, intent, and purpose of your stay.

For tax purposes, international students who are studying in Canada tend to fall under one of four possible categories:

  • Resident.
  • Non-resident.
  • Deemed resident.
  • Deemed non-resident.

Nerdy Tip: The Canada Revenue Agency has an online guide to determining your residency status. If you’re still confused after reading the definitions, you can fill out a digital form to get the CRA’s opinion of your status.

2. Make sure you have a SIN, ITN or TTN

To file taxes and get any potential tax benefits, you’ll need a social insurance number (SIN) or an individual tax number (ITN). 

A SIN is for citizens and residents, while an ITN is for non-residents who do not meet the qualifications for a SIN.

As an international student, you may fall into either of category, largely depending on whether you also have a work permit. If you have a work permit, you’ll likely qualify for a SIN. If you do not have a work permit, you’ll need an ITN. 

In some cases, you may need a temporary tax number (TTN), which is typically issued as a placeholder for individuals who qualify as residents but have not yet received their SIN. 

You can apply for both a SIN or ITN online.

If you are unsure of which one you should have, the CRA can help. Call the agency at 1-866-223-4404 if you’re within Canada, or, call collect at 705-669-5130 from outside Canada.

3. Know which tax benefits you can claim

Many Canadian tax benefits depend on your residency status but there are also some that are applicable to all newcomers. As an international student, you may qualify for one or more of the following: 

  • Tuition tax credit: A credit based on your tuition that is meant to help students reduce their income tax bills. 
  • GST/HST tax credit: A quarterly payment that helps offset the tax paid on things you buy while in Canada.
  • Climate action incentive payment (CAIP): Sometimes called the carbon tax rebate, this payment helps offset the cost of federal pollution pricing in certain provinces. 
  • Canada child benefit (CBB): If you have at least one child under the age of 18 you may qualify for this tax-free monthly payment that is meant to assist in covering the costs of raising a family in Canada.

An accountant or tax preparation professional can help you discover the benefits, deductions and credits that are applicable to your situation. You may also be able to get help with your tax return at one of Canada’s many free tax clinics. Likewise, many DIY tax programs, such as TurboTax, have walkthrough guides that can help determine the benefits for which you may qualify. 


What Is a Tax Return?

What Is a Tax Return?

A tax return is a form or forms through which annual income, and any tax deductions and credits, is reported to the Canadian Revenue Agency.

Tax Credits in Canada: What They Are and How to Use Them

Tax Credits in Canada: What They Are and How to Use Them

If you’re able to claim them, tax credits can reduce your overall tax bill. Find out which tax credits might apply to your personal and financial situation.

How Tax Refunds Work in Canada

How Tax Refunds Work in Canada

A tax refund is issued by the Canada Revenue Agency if you overpay your taxes throughout the course of a year.

What are Tax Deductions?

What are Tax Deductions?

Tax deductions are a way to reduce your taxable income and, consequently, your tax bill. You must meet eligibility criteria to claim a tax deduction.

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