Tax credits and benefits for students

By Staff | February 21, 2018 | Last updated on September 15, 2023
3 min read

Post-secondary students with little or no income can still take advantage of tax credits and deductions. Make sure clients with children at university and college get their kids to file their taxes and claim the benefit payments they’re entitled to.

Read: Coach clients with a newly empty nest

Courtesy of CRA, here are the top credits and deductions often overlooked by students:

  • Tuition tax credit. Students may be able to claim the tuition tax credit if they attended certain post‑secondary educational institutions. Under certain conditions, students can now include fees paid to a post-secondary educational institution for occupational skills courses that aren’t at the post-secondary level.

Depending on how much tax is owed, students may need to use all the credit or just some of it. If not all the credit is needed, they can either transfer it or carry it forward.

Unused amounts can be transferred to a spouse or common-law partner, parent, grandparent, or parent or grandparent of a spouse or common-law partner to reduce taxable income.

Students can also carry forward and claim in a future year the part of their 2017 tuition amounts they can’t use (and that they don’t transfer) for the year, and unused tuition, education and textbook amounts from 2016 and previous years. However, if they carry forward an amount, they won’t be able to transfer it to anyone.

Qualifying students may be able to claim the scholarship exemption for scholarship, fellowship and bursary income.

  • Education and textbook amounts. Even though these amounts can no longer be claimed, students can still carry forward any amounts not claimed in previous years.
  • Interest paid on student loans. Students may be able to claim an amount for the interest paid in 2017 on a student loan for post-secondary education. They can also claim interest paid over the past five years if not already claimed. The interest paid must be on a loan received under the Canada Student Loans Act, the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, the Canada Apprentice Loans Act or a similar provincial or territorial law.
  • Public transit amount. After June 30, 2017, the public transit amount is no longer available. However, students may be able to claim the public transit amount on their 2017 returns for the cost of eligible transit passes used for public transit services for the period Jan. 1 to June 30, 2017.
  • Eligible moving expenses. If students moved for post-secondary studies and are full-time students, they may be able to claim moving expenses. Students can deduct these expenses only from the part of their scholarships, fellowships, bursaries, certain prizes, research grants and artists’ project grants that they’ve included in income.

If students moved to work, including for a summer job or to run a business, they may also be able to claim moving expenses. However, they can deduct these expenses only from income earned at the new work location. To be eligible, the new place of residence must be at least 40 km closer to the student’s new school or work. Students can’t claim these expenses if they were paid by their employers.

Read: How to keep splitting income with family members in 2018 and beyond

  • Childcare expenses. If students pay someone to look after their children while they attend school, earn income or conduct research, they may be able to deduct childcare expenses.
  • Goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit. Students turning 19 before April 1, 2019, may be eligible for the GST/HST credit and any related provincial payments. CRA will ascertain if they’re eligible when they file their taxes and will send a notice confirming eligibility.
  • Canada child benefit (CCB). If students have children, they may be eligible for CCB, a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under the age of 18. To get this benefit, students need only apply once and file taxes every year to keep receiving CCB payments.
  • Working income tax benefit (WITB). Students with dependants and modest working incomes may be eligible for the working income tax benefit, and they may be able to apply for advance payments.

For further information, CRA has a video series created specifically for students. Also see Guide P105, Students and Income Tax.

Also read:

Common tax benefits and credits for seniors

What’s new or changed for 2017 tax-filing season staff


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