Canadian Taxes - Basics FAQ

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Canadian Taxes - FAQ

Frequently asked basic questions for the situation of an IEC participant

The information on this website is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This website contains information tailored specifically to the tax situation of a temporary worker under the International Experience Canada Program (Working Holiday, Young Professionals, International Co-op Internship)

The Canadian tax year is the same as the calendar year and runs from January 1st – December 31st.

The Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a personal 9-digit number that is used for tax purposes and which you need to work and get paid.

You apply for the SIN number at the Service Canada office as soon as you arrive in Canada and after you activated the work permit.

All temporary SIN numbers start with a “9”. It will be valid as long as the work permit. If you apply for another work permit after the last one expired, you must extend the SIN number by visiting the Service Canada location again.

To file a Canadian tax return you need all T4 from your employers.

The T4 Statement of Remuneration is a summary of the tax year where all earnings and deductions are reported to the CRA. The T4 will be sent to you automatically by your employers by the end of February of the following year. A copy also goes to the CRA.

The employers are required by law to issue you a T4 by the end of February, even if you only worked there for a few days. In most cases, the T4 are sent by post. You can also ask the employer to send this to you by email.

If you don’t receive the T4 by the end of March (including post time), send the employer a reminder.

If you have access to your MyCRA account, you can print out the T4 from there.

Be aware, you can only register for the MyCRA account after you filed a tax return in Canada.


If you received government benefits like employment insurance benefits or any Covid benefits, then a T4 slip will be issued as well around March.

From Service Canada is will be a T4E.

From the Canada Revenue Agency it will be a T4A.

You need those T slips to file a tax return.

Employers in Canada are responsible for deducting CPP and EI and remit them to the CRA. Those contributions are automatically deducted from your wages. Since these are mandatory contributions, you will not get them refunded on your tax return. Only a possible overpayment if the employer has deducted too much.

CPP = Canada Pension Plan

All Canadian employees over the age of 18 who are earning at least $ 3,500 per year are required to pay into CPP. It does not matter whether you are a Canadian citizen or you only work in Canada with a temporary work permit.

You can find the CPP deductions in your T4 in box 16.

  • 2022 = 5.70% of the gross income, to a max. of $3,499.80
  • 2023 = 5.95% of the gross income, to a max. of $3,754.45
  • 2024 = 5.95% of the gross income, to a max. of $3,867.50

EI = Employment Insurance

Mandatory contributions to help you in case you lose your job to no fault of your own. If you accumulated a certain amount of hours you can claim employment insurance benefits until you find another job. More info on the EI benefits >> here <<.

You can find the EI deductions in your T4 in box 18.

  • 2022 = 1.58% of the gross income, to a max. of $952.74
  • 2023 = 1.63% of the gross income, to a max. of $1,002.45
  • 2024 = 1.66% of the gross income, to a max. of $1,049.12

You have to file taxes if any of the following applies to you.

  • You have to pay tax for the year
  • You want to claim a refund
  • You want to claim the Canada workers benefit (CWB) or you received CWB advance payments in the year
  • You want to claim the GST⁄HST credit
  • The CRA sent you a request to file a return
  • You were self employed and your total income for the tax year was over $3,500

The entire list >> here << on the official government homepage

The official deadline for the tax return is

  • April 30th for employees (personal tax returns)
  • June 15 for self employed (business tax returns)

There are no penalties if you file your taxes after the deadline if you expect a tax refund. That means if you expect a tax refund, you have up to 10 years to get your money back from the CRA. So it’s never too late to file your tax return. The CRA accepts past year tax returns throughout the year.

But if you file late and owe taxes, the CRA will start charging you compound daily interest as of May 1.

The late-filing penalty is 5% of your balance owing, plus an additional 1% for each full month you file after the due date, to a maximum of 12 months.

No. If you didn’t earn any form of income in Canada in the tax year, you don’t have to file a Canadian tax return. For example you arrived in Canada in December but started working in the next tax year. 

  • The Working Holiday is an open work permit, so you are allowed to work for any employer in any relationship no matter as employee or self-employed (except, of course, in the jobs excluded on the work permit).
  • With the Young Professional, you are tied to a specific employer in Canada and you are not allowed to work for another employer or have a part-time job, even if it is a freelancer job.

A few more important info pieces  >> here <<

For past years: The CRA accepts tax returns for past tax years at any time during the year.

If you are expecting a tax refund, you have up to 10 years to file your tax return and get your money back. The CRA is in no rush to pay you the money they owe you.

For the current year: You have to wait until February of the following year for the current tax year. E.g. the software for the tax year 2021 will not be activated until mid-February 2022. By this time you will also receive the T4 from every employer. You can only submit your tax return with this T4.

You mean, if you want to come back to Canada to visit? It depends. There will be no problems at all if you haven’t filed a tax return.

But if you filed a tax return and decided not to pay the amount owing, you can read >> here << what the CRA can do.

This question can not be answered on a general basis. Every tax situation is different. Depending on how long you have been in Canada, how much you have earned and how much tax you have paid, a partial or even all of the tax may be refunded.

The three most important deciding factors in the tax return are:

  • time spent in Canada
  • filing the tax return as a ‘resident’ or ‘non-resident’
  • foreign income before or after Canada

This means that whether or not you get a tax refund depends on a few factors, such as length of stay and ties to Canada. Another big factor in the amount of tax refund is your income BEFORE or AFTER staying in Canada.

Important! The foreign income before / after the stay in Canada is not taxed in Canada, it is only used to calculate the amount of non-refundable tax credits in the tax return.

No, the CRA does not issue tax refund payments to bank accounts outside of Canada. They will only issue tax refunds as a cheque. 

If you owe taxes because not enough were deducted from the pay cheques, then there are a few options to pay amounts owing.

The options >> here <<

Yes, as a regular employee you can claim certain expenses towards the taxes. More to this topic in an extra post >> here << on this same homepage. 

Determining tax residency is not an easy task. If you want to knock yourself out with the “Income Tax Folio” >> here you go <<. I will try to explain it as simple as possible on this info page

The following facts have a positive effect on the classification as “resident”, the more you have, the better the chances are.

  • Family (spouse and children) joins you in Canada,
  • Own/rent a home with a rental agreement (no flat share or roommate),
  • Length of stay (longer than 183 days in Canada in the tax year),
  • Canadian health insurance from a province,
  • Car,
  • Canadian driver’s license,
  • Canadian bank account,
  • Canadian SIM card or mobile phone contract

The two strongest ties to Canada, and therefore also the most important ones (“significant residential ties”), are family members (spouse and children) and owning/renting a home in Canada. All other items in the list are “secondary residential ties” and you need to have many of them to qualify as “resident”.

Another stronger tie, in my opinion, is a health care card from a province. Canadian health insurance is hard to get because you must meet certain residency requirements. Therefore it will have a very positive effect on the residency determination.

Here are a few examples of “non-resident”:

  • If you have none of the above ties to Canada at all.
  • If the family members (spouse and / or children) stayed in your home country.
  • If you still have a home in your home country. You are automatically non-resident in Canada because home ownership is the most important factor and negates all other factors.
  • If you were in Canada for less than 183 days in the tax year and only stayed in hostels or camped in a car.
  • If you were in Canada for more than 183 days in the tax year, but only worked briefly in several provinces and slept in hostels, staff accommodation or in the car. So a typical backpacker on a road trip.
  • If you just do a paid internship in Canada for a few months.
  • If you only come to work on a farm for a few months.
  • If you only come for a few months to work as an Au pair with a family.
  • If you have entered and left the country in the same tax year, e.g. entry in April 2023 and exited in August 2023.

Important! In order to file the tax return as a non-resident, you have to use other tax packages/forms and you cannot submit the tax return online or via a software.

The 90% rule is always used for tax returns as a non-resident and has an impact on whether taxes are refunded or whether taxes have to be paid back.

Short explanation without much confusion:

As a taxpayer you have non-refundable credits that you can claim against taxes. The majority (actually pretty much all) Canadian employers always consider the full annual non-refundable tax credits in their pay slips because they are not familiar with the tax rules of non-residents. That means they deduct less taxes.

The 90% rule states: In order to be able to claim those non-refundable tax credits as a non-resident, the Canadian income must be more than 90% of the total world income in the tax year. World Income = All Canada earnings + all overseas earnings.

  • If the ratio is over 90%, the full non-refundable tax credits can be claimed. The result is usually a tax refund.
  • If the ratio is below 90%, the non-refundable tax credits cannot be claimed, and usually you owe taxes because too little taxes have been deducted.

It depends on how you file your tax return.

  • Online tax returns take about 8-10 days.
  • By post as resident: Up to 8 weeks
  • By post as non-resident: Up to 16 weeks
While still in Canada and with a Canadian address, it is easy to file the taxes yourself with a free tax software like Wealthsimple if you have a simple tax situation (only employment income). 
Around February/March you will receive your T4 from your employer and you need it for the tax return. The T4 is a summary of your earnings and deductions.
You do not need access to the online CRA account to file your taxes for the first time. You can only register for the online CRA account after you filed your first tax return and after it was processed.
The Canadian tax year is from January 1 – December 31.
How do I know I am a resident?
There are many factors to take into consideration that determine your tax residency. The 180 day factor is one of them, but not the only one that needs to be looked at. Also it is in no way connected to the immigration status. The CRA has a guidance on tax residency determination >> here <<.
In short:
  • Did your spouse/common-law partner and/or children accompany you to Canada?
  • Did you rent a home (not as roommate or in staff accommodation)?
  • Did you buy a car?
  • Did you exchange your driver’s licence in the tax year?
  • Did you get provincial health insurance?
If yes, you have established residential ties and are considered a tax resident from the date of entry to Canada.

From this date you are tax liable for the entire worldwide income (meaning, all earnings from inside and outside of Canada must be taxed in Canada).
If you have residential ties to Canada, and entered Canada during the tax year, you can file as a part year resident

If online filing is not possible (which happens often as a first-time filer), you can just print out the tax return, sign it and send it via mail.
In the tax software, just make sure you answer all the questions correctly, like the question
  • if you were a resident for all of 2023, answer ‘no’, then another question opens up,
  • if you became a resident for tax purposes in the taxation year, answer “yes”
  • Enter the entry date…..
  • Then it asks you to report your income from the time before you entered Canada. Enter the income if it applies to you.
You need to enter the amount in Canadian Dollars, so you need to convert foreign income to Canadian Dollars by taking the yearly average exchange rate from the Bank of Canada (here).
This income from BEFORE you entered Canada will NOT be taxed in Canada, the software will just use it for a formula to calculate your allowance on the amount of tax credits…
I know a lot of people do not do this step and end up creating false tax returns and claim tax credits they are not entitled to. And then end up having to repay the received money.
The purpose of this step is a very important one. If you omit this step, the software calculates the taxes and considers you a “full year tax resident” as if you spent the entire tax year in Canada. Then calculates the full amount of non-refundable tax credits which is wrong.
If you had income before you came to Canada, the non-refundable tax credits need to be prorated for the time you spent in Canada. That’s why the software asks for your entry date. The software will pro rate automatically, you do not have to do anything.
For simplicity reasons, here an example:
The federal non-refundable tax credit for the tax year 2023 is $15,000
If you entered Canada on October 1, 2023, this credit will be prorated: ($15,000 : 365 days) x 92 days spent in Canada = $3,780.82 as non-refundable tax credit only.
Do you see the difference to the full tax credit of $15,000?

Depending on the taxes you already paid from the wages, you might get a refund or owe taxes back.
The same applies to the provincial tax credits. They will be pro-rated by the software as well.
If you had foreign income WHILE in Canada for example with remote work for the employer in your home country, it is a bit more complicated because that income must be reported as taxable income in the Canadian tax return and you can claim already paid taxes as a foreign tax credit.
Talk to a tax professional as you could be filing incorrectly due to the tax treaty rules of each country (double taxation rules).
The same applies to situations with self employment income. That is even more complicated because of all the deductions you can claim.
If you were a “non-resident for tax purposes”, or if you left Canada permanently during the tax year, you cannot file the tax return online because there is no online software for this tax situation. You must file on paper. 

If you are a ‘non resident’ or have already left Canada, you cannot use an online software, you have to send the tax return by post.

You can use taxback services which charge a fee. This way you can be sure the tax return is filed properly.

Canadataxback can help you with the tax return. I use a special commercial tax software that is only programmed for tax preparers. This software can capture all possible tax situations. Entry dates, exit dates, non residents and foreign addresses.

I have been helping German Work and Travellers with their tax returns since 2014. Starting 2022 I will expand the taxback service to all IEC participants who left Canada and need help with the Canadian tax return. 

My fee is 5% of the calculated refund, min. $20, max. $60 per tax return. No other Internet taxback service can beat this price.

There are a few steps you can take in order to have a smooth sailing for the last tax return in Canada (departure tax return). >> More info here << 

The most affordable taxback service on the Internet
Canadian tax returns starting from $20