Skateboard Optional:

Could you have been a student without knowing it?

So you broadened your mind last year by taking a couple of courses at a university or other qualified institution*. You present your tuition receipt to your tax preparer, who slots the amount into the appropriate line on your tax return, giving you a tax credit. Done and done, right? Maybe not.

You may also be eligible for the Education Amount, which is a tax credit for full-time or part-time students.

But I don’t even remember the frat parties

You don’t have to possess a skateboard and a permissive attitude toward recreational drug use in order qualify as a student. Just 12 hours of instruction spanning three consecutive weeks can be enough to make you a part-time student for tax purposes. The easiest way to find out for sure is to simply check the form T2202 or T2202A issued to you by your school.

Assuming they actually sent it to you.

Many schools (Ryerson University and Wilfred Laurier University are two examples) don’t actually send out the form. Instead, they only send it on request, or make it available for download on their website. If you don’t know to ask for it, you might never know that the course you took on Religious Underpinnings of Ceramic Art (or whatever) actually made you a part-time student for a few months. And that can be worth some money on your tax return.

Heather lives in Waterloo, Ontario. In 2005 she takes a French course at Wilfred Laurier University for which she pays $1,120 in tuition**.

Tax credit for tuition = $1,120 x (15% federal tax + 6% Ontario provincial tax)
= $1,120 x 21%
= $235.20

If she only claims her tuition fee, she’ll get a $235.20 tax refund. However, she’s also an avid reader of Two Minute Tax Tips. Heather therefore knows to check with the University to see if she’s got a T2202 or T2202A form coming to her.

She does, and finds that according to the form she was considered a part-time student for the duration of the course: four months. The Canada Revenue Agency allows an Education Amount of $120 for every month she was a part-time student.

Tax credit for Education Amount = (4 months x $120/month) x 21% tax
= $100.80

She gets an additional $100.80 refund just for asking for her form. Not bad for two minutes’ work.

* To be eligible for a tax credit, your tuition fees must be paid either to a post-secondary institution or (for individuals aged 16 or over at the end of the year) for a course that develops or improves skills in an occupation taken at an educational institution that has been certified by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC).

** Be aware that expenditures other than tuition — textbooks, student activity fees, or lodging — cannot be claimed for a tax credit.