03/29/2016 03:54 EDT | Updated 03/30/2017 05:12 EDT

Filing Student Taxes For The First Time Is Simpler Than You Think

Whether you're a student or parent of a student in post-secondary studies, filing a student return for the first time may raise some questions -- but compared to studying for finals, writing research papers or adjusting to living on your own, filing taxes as a student is quite simple.

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Whether you're a student or parent of a student in post-secondary studies, filing a student return for the first time may raise some questions. Let's answer some common student tax FAQs.

What paperwork do I need to file my tax return as a student?

The biggest difference in filing a student return is claiming tuition and education/textbook amounts. The figures needed are listed on your T2202A (Tuition, Education and Textbooks Amounts Certificate).

Similar to other taxpayers, you'll need to gather your other information slips and receipts. This may include any of the following:

• T4 slips for employment.

• T4A for RESP payments, scholarships or bursaries.

• Medical receipts including insurance premiums paid to your university.

• Childcare receipts and/or UCCB slip RC62.

• Receipts for monthly public transit passes.

Where do I find my T2202A?

Most universities and colleges don't mail out these slips. Instead, the slip can be found in your online student account with your school. Look for the words "tax slip" or "tuition slip" once you've signed in.

What do these numbers on my T2202A mean?

Your T2202A records both the amount of tuition paid and the number of months you were a student last year. Box A lists the total of eligible tuition paid. If you are a part-time student, the number of months you were a student appears in box B. Full-time students can find their months in Box C.

I paid over $18,000 to my school last year. Why is only $7,000 listed as eligible tuition?

Not all of the money paid to your school is actually tuition. Residence fees, meal plans, parking passes and social fees are all examples of ineligible amounts. The amount listed on your T2202A is the actual cost of the tuition itself.

If I have $7,000 listed as eligible tuition, why do I have all these credits showing now?

Remember those Box B & C amounts? These translate to education and textbook credits. For example, if you attended school for 8 months last year as a full-time student, you're getting an extra $3,200 in education credits and $520 in textbook credits in addition to your eligible tuition amount. All three amounts (tuition, education credit, and textbook credit) form your total deduction amount.

It's important to note that the latest federal budget announced the elimination of both the education and textbook credits starting in 2017. If you have any leftover, unused credits that have been carried forward, you'll still be able to claim them in future years.

I entered my T2202A amounts and my refund went down. What happened? Can I just leave it out?

When you begin your return, you usually put in your income first. Because most students have fairly low incomes, a credit known as the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) is automatically assigned if you meet the requirements. One of the requirements of this credit is that you were not a student during the year. As soon as you enter in tuition amounts, that credit is removed because you no longer qualify.

As tempting as it may be to not enter in your T2202A amounts to keep the higher refund, you shouldn't -- for two very important reasons:

1. Compliance with CRA. If you were a student, you don't qualify for the WITB. Claiming the credit if you don't meet the requirements is considered non-compliance. Not only will CRA discover this when they begin their internal matching process and claw back that credit, you may also face interest penalties and fines. It's just not worth it.

2. You'd be shorting yourself in the long run. Even if you don't need those tuition credits this year, they are a big cushion in your favour when your education pays off and you start making the big bucks. It's just not worth it.

I'm not getting a refund. Should I even file a tax return?

Absolutely! Even if you don't expect a refund, there are benefits to filing a tax return. First, you're recording your tuition and education/textbook credits for future years. Once your education pays off and you're making the big bucks, you'll appreciate having these credits.

If you plan on transferring some of your credits to a parent this year, you need to file a return of your own. Certain line numbers from your return are needed on your parent's return to complete the transfer.

Finally, filing your return is necessary step in qualifying for benefit programs such as the CCTB, UCCB, GST/HST benefit and the Ontario Trillium Benefit. These benefit programs use numbers on your tax return to determine both your eligibility for payments as well as payment amounts.

Compared to studying for finals, writing research papers or adjusting to living on your own, filing taxes as a student is quite simple. And now with TurboTax Free, mobility is yours. Download the app on your phone or tablet and get your taxes to go!

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