02/09/2018 16:19 EST | Updated 02/08/2019 09:17 EST

Tax Claims and Credits 101

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Deep breath: It's tax season. Are you the kind of person who works out your return on January 1? Or the one who's rummaging through a heap of receipts come the final hours of April? No matter how you go about it, odds are you're missing out on some clutch credits that could maximize your tax refund. From online software tips for those who prefer to crunch their own numbers from home, to face-to-face appointments at offices across the country, H&R Block has solutions for a stress-free tax season. Exhale.

As you consider your approach ahead of April 30, here are five top tips to maximize your tax return.

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1. Students, hold your T2202As up high

A diploma is the most important piece of paperwork a post-secondary student will receive, but consider your T2202A form a close second. Without this official document, which outlines all the tuition you paid in a calendar year, you can't claim your tuition amount. The good news is it's mandatory for post-secondary institutions to send you your information.

Claiming your tuition fees can lead to personal refunds, but did you know up to $5,000 can also be transferred to parents or partners? 2017 was the first year Canadian students weren't able to claim non-refundable textbook and education credits to offset their taxes, so referring to your T2202A is still a must.

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2. Brush up on tax law changes

With tax laws changing as quickly as fashion trends, it's easy to make mistakes that can cost you in the end. Working with a tax expert will keep you on top of all the amendments for the upcoming season. Here are a few to be aware of this year:

The Children's Fitness and Arts Tax Credit was eliminated in 2017 and subsequent years however the Canada Child Benefit will increase 1.5 per cent for July 2018 and 2019 benefits. The government also announced a new tax break for those who have used assisted reproductive technologies over the past year.

This year is the final year low-income workers may be eligible for the Working Income Tax Benefit when filing their 2018 tax returns. Starting 2019, the WITB will be enhanced and renamed as the Canada Workers Benefit (CWB).

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3. Don't forget your medical expenses

Staying healthy can be costly, but there are many ways to see savings come tax time. A common expense you could list on your return is any form of prescription medication. If you traveled to another country and purchased medical insurance for the trip, it's also considered a medical expense. Over-the-counter cold cures or vitamins won't be covered, even if they're recommended by your doctor.

Some other write-offs you may have missed out on? Food and veterinary costs for certified service animals, or home and vehicle modifications to accommodate those with physical disabilities.

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4. Even if you have little to no income, file a return

Whether you're focusing on school, or come across hard times and lose your job, there may be a period when you aren't making money. Nevertheless, you don't need a steady income to qualify for certain benefits. Filing a return can make you eligible for a GST/HST credit based on your previous tax return. The Canadian Revenue Agency will also use your tax return to determine Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payments. Canadian residents can claim the basic personal amount, which in 2018 was $11,809. That means you can earn at least this amount before you need to start paying federal income taxes to the government.

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5. Separate work from play

Small business owners should be keeping tabs on gas receipts, but that doesn't mean you can write off every single time you get behind the wheel. Keep detailed travelogues separating joy rides from business trips so you can prove just how many kilometres were clocked on your company's dime. You should also get in the habit of logging the time you spend online answering business emails, as you can write off a percentage of your internet bill. More good news for small business owners: The government recently lowered the small business tax rate to 10 per cent, and another 9 per cent affective January 1, 2019.

Enjoy an easy, fast and stress-free tax season, while maximizing your refund. Stop in and chat with an H&R Block Tax Expert at an office near you. Ready to file? Do it yourself with H&R Block Online Software.