You may have heard from a friend, family member, or fellow student about filing an income tax return in Canada. We strongly encourage you to educate yourself about Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requirements and your responsibilities with respect to filing an income tax return.

"If you are an international student studying in Canada, you may have to file a Canadian income tax return. You must determine your residency status to know how you will be taxed in Canada" – Canada Revenue Agency

The CIE offers supportive programming to help along the way. Sign up for an info session or speak with an international transition advisor to learn what you initially need to know in order to file with the Canadian tax system. Please note the CIE does not offer one-on-one individual income tax filing support. 


Overview Canadian income tax overview
SIN A 9 digit Social Insurance Number (SIN)
Information sessions Income tax information sessions and webinars
Information sheet What documents do you need?
Filing on your own How to file income taxes by yourself
Support and resources Where to get more information and help
Tax professionals Finding a tax professional
Responsibility Who is responsible for income tax filing?

Canadian income tax overview

The Canadian government expects its residents to ensure they are in good standing when it comes to their income taxes. This expectation is administered through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which receives tax filing applications, administers tax laws for most provinces and territories, international trade legislation, and various social and economic benefit programs delivered via the tax system.

Residents of Canada determine how much they owe in income taxes based on calculations over the income earned in a calendar year, i.e. from January 1 to December 31. “Residency” for CRA purposes in income tax filing is not the same as for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).  Employers in Canada are required by law to deduct income taxes on behalf of their employed residents and then direct these deductions to the CRA. At the beginning of employment, the employee – or residents of Canada for tax purposes – completes a federal and provincial TD1 form. The employer also deducts Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) from each paycheck of the employee. This TD1 information, as well as how much a resident earned with the employer, is later compiled by the employer to produce a T4 slip sent to employees prior to the income tax deadline. Residents must ensure they are aware of this amount and pay it prior to April 30 for the previous calendar year. The CRA may accept late submissions, but there may be a penalty of interest charges on the balance owed.


For example, a student may receive their T4 slip(s) in February for the previous calendar year. A student who earned an income anytime from January to December of the previous year will file their income tax application using this T4 slip as well as other relevant tax documentation on or before April 30. For common basic income tax purposes of most international students who do not earn large amounts of income, many students do not have large balances of tax owed when they file taxes. In these simple cases, students may file taxes past April 30, but it is recommended to do so beforehand because of the many supports for filing that exist prior to the April 30 deadline – what is often referred to as “tax season”.

Even though some international students may not earn income or owe income tax, you may benefit from filing your application with the CRA because you may get a refund, a GST/HST credit, or receive child tax credits or subsidies. You may be eligible for the GST/HST credit after your arrival in Canada and can apply prior to filing your income tax return.  Another major benefit of filing an income tax return even if you did not earn any income is that you can carry forward your tuition credits to reduce your future income tax owed that can benefit you when you may earn more income later on (e.g. after graduation). 

For more information about this and other relevant information, consider attending a CIE Income Tax Information Session delivered in the winter academic term. The Canada Revenue Agency website provides an important overview of the Canadian tax system and residency status for international students.

Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a 9 digit number that you need in order to work in Canada or to have access to government programs and benefits. You will need a SIN if you want to file an income tax return in Canada. Starting in 2019, the University of Toronto will request your Social Insurance Number on ACORN to include it on the tax forms they issue. If you are not eligible for a SIN, you may apply for an Individual Tax Number (ITN).

Study permit holders:

To get a SIN using your study permit, it must include one of the following statements:

  • May accept employment on the campus of the institution at which registered in full-time studies.
  • May work 20 hrs per week off campus or full time during regular breaks if meeting criteria outlined in section 186(v) of IRPR.
  • May accept employment on or off campus if meeting eligibility criteria as per R186(f), (v) or (w). Must cease working if no longer meeting these criteria.

If your study permit does not have any of the above-mentioned statements, you need to apply for an amendment to your study permit before you can apply for a SIN.

If your study permit has the above-mentioned statements, you will need to take the following to Service Canada to apply for your SIN:

  • Passport
  • Study permit

Work permit holders:

If you hold a co-op or post-graduation work permit you can take the following documents to Service Canada to get your new SIN or update your current SIN:

  • Passport
  • Co-op/Post-graduation work permit

How to get your SIN

Apply for a SIN with your original documents in person at a Service Canada office. These Service Canada offices near campus process SIN applications:

  • 559 College Street, Suite 100, Toronto, Ontario
  • 100 Queen Street West, Floor 1, Toronto, Ontario

Additional offices and locations can be found on the Service Canada website.


There is no fee for getting your SIN and in most cases the SIN will be given to you when you apply for it. 

Your SIN will expire at the same time as your Study Permit or Work Permit. If you would like to renew your SIN, you will need the same documents as you did for the initial application.

Once you have your Social Insurance Number, you must update your profile on ACORN.

Income tax information sessions and webinars for international students

Learn about the Canadian income tax system, your responsibilities as an international student and how income taxes are filed in Canada.

Staff from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will discuss the process and answer general questions.

Scheduled information sessions and webinars have been postponed.

You can watch a recorded webinar from the CRA for international students at U of T right now. If you require an accessible version, please contact Taniya Valladares at

You may also contact an International Transition Advisor for general questions about the income tax system in Canada. 

Information sheet and documents checklist

You will need to have certain documents on-hand if you are filing taxes on your own, with the help of a tax preparer, or during consultation with a tax professional.

A basic information sheet and list of relevant documents is attached here. Always refer to the Canada Revenue Agency for the most up to date information.

Filing on your own

Many students may choose to file their income tax return electronically on their own, using software that is certified by the Canada Revenue Agency. You can learn more about who is eligible to file using Netfile and also about free and paid certified software products on the CRA website.

Where to get more information and help

Consult the CRA for more detailed information.

If you have questions or concerns, you can call the CRA’s International tax and non-resident toll free number: 1-800-959-8281. 

If you are seeking one-on-one support in filing your income taxes, you may wish to use the following free volunteer supports in filing taxes on or near campus:

These services usually serve students who have simple income tax situations: students who make less than $30,000 annually, have no or few dependents (e.g. spouse or children), modest income from a part-time job. They usually do this with students presenting their relevant tax and other documents using an electronic tax filing software.

If you are a graduate student, you can check out the University of Toronto Graduate Students' Union’s Tax Help page

If you are a parent or primary caregiver, the Family Care Office has an information Tipsheet, “Benefits, Tax Credits & Deductions,” about the benefits of filing an income tax return in Canada .

Finding a tax professional

International students with income tax filing situations that are more complex (e.g. large income earned, investments, multiple country taxation, dependents) are strongly advised to seek paid (non-volunteer) professional help from certified tax experts. These professionals often include accountants or tax lawyers. There are also income tax businesses who have trained tax preparers who do not have registered designations but usually have experience using tax software.

In your search for a professional tax expert, be sure to take the time to find someone who has experience with your financial history (e.g. being a student, international, holding part-time job, dependents). Many experts are reliable and qualified. However, it is important to do your research, ask questions about their service and determine if that person is the best for you.

As with any professional service you may seek out, you often get referrals from a friend, relative or someone you trust especially when filing an income tax return. It is also a good practice to do a background check of the person or company through the Better Business Bureau. Your situation may be unique so asking about their experience, knowledge and training is important. Be sure to request references or referrals from their previous clients.

You may wish to use these websites for advice about finding professional tax filing help.

Ask about fees for services in advance

If you believe your income tax situation is complex and cannot be handled by a volunteer, be aware that tax professionals are often more costly than attempting to file your own taxes using low cost online software. Be sure to understand their rates for charging and how their fees are broken down. Is it an hourly charge, or by the extent or complexity of your tax situation? If they give advice over the phone or email, do they charge you for these consultations?  

Before signing on to have them help you, be sure to ask for an estimate.

Also, determine if the tax professional guarantees accuracy of their work, and if there is a mistake in filing your income tax application to the CRA that they will resolve the error at no cost to you.

Who is responsible for income tax filing?

Above all—whether you get a volunteer or tax preparer or professional help—be sure you fully understand the tax filing forms because, even though someone else may have done the work of the calculations, you are ultimately responsible for your own tax return. Residents of Canada are responsible for knowing their income tax status and how much they owe.

If you have questions or concerns, you can call the CRA’s International tax and non-resident toll free number: 1-800-959-8281. 

Be sure to visit the CRA website that has specific information for international students.