It’s not the most exciting or interesting part of your Canadian working holiday but it’s got to be done! It could also be quite beneficial for you, in the form of a tax refund if you have overpaid tax. If you’re like me and used to the government in your home country automatically calculating tax (and refunds), the idea of filing your own taxes can be a bit intimidating. Since moving to Canada we’ve had to file our taxes a couple of times now and I can assure you that it’s not as complicated as it sounds, especially as there are a few options that can make the process easier.

west end vancouver bc

Canadian tax basics

The Canadian tax year runs January-December. Though you may have noticed tax being deducted from your payslip already, you need to file your own taxes after the end of the tax year to make sure that the correct amount of tax has been paid. Tax season usually starts in February for the preceding year i.e. in February 2017, tax returns for 2016 will be filed.

The deadline for filing taxes is the end of April. If you haven’t filed by then but do not owe any taxes, then it is no issue. If you do however owe any taxes in addition to what you have already paid, then there will be a penalty to pay.

Whether you are eligible for a refund or not depends on a variety of factors. Keep in mind though that you will never get 100% of the tax you have paid back. A certain amount of tax, as well as E.I (Employment Insurance) and CPP (Canadian Pension Plan) must still be paid out from your income, even if you’re in Canada on a working holiday and typically not eligible to receive either E.I or CPP.

T4s

A T4 is an information slip prepared by employers to summarise how much money you earned and how much income tax was deducted. To be able to file taxes in Canada, you will need a T4 from everyone you have worked for during that tax year. At the end of the tax year, any employer you have worked for during that year will provide you with a T4 by the end of February. In fact, they are legally obligated to do so.

Some of my employers have provided this by email, while others still prefer good old snail mail. If you leave Canada mid-way through a tax year, you will still have to wait until the end of the year to receive your T4. You cannot file your taxes without your T4(s). It is possible to apply for a refund not only on your income tax, but also certain other expenses such as medical, work-related or transportation costs.

t4-tax-return-canada

How to file

Once you have your T4(s) you will need to decide how to file your taxes.

Complete the process yourself

This method is free, except for postage. You can download, print, complete and send the tax forms direct to CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). Packages of forms are also available from Service Canada offices and Canada Post. If you decide to use this method, you will need to read up and decide whether to apply as a resident or non-resident.

Use tax software to help complete the forms

For around $15-20 you can buy or download software to enter your information into. The program will complete the calculations and then all you have to do is print off the forms and send to CRA. This method will require you to have some understanding of your residency status. The lowest priced software is usually limited to just one return (so you can’t share the program around) and one T4. Examples of tax software: SimpleTax

Hire an accountant or company to prepare your forms

This option involves paying an accountant or company to fill out the forms with information provided by you., with the starting price around $50. Be aware that not every tax preparation company will have lots of experience processing tax returns from people on working holidays. Some companies may even claim they do not do returns for non-Citizens/Permanent Residents.

Use a tax filing service for the whole process

These companies will effectively do everything for you from start to finish. It is estimated that over half of Canadians choose a company to file their taxes for them. This tax filing method is usually the most expensive ($70+). Examples: H&R Block, Liberty Tax Canada

International tax filing service

For the most straightforward and hassle-free option, consider using taxback.com for your tax return. They will offer you an estimate for the return for free and then charge a fee should you choose to proceed. Taxback.com specialises in filing taxes for working holiday participants and will work to make sure you receive the maximum refund available. Their average tax return from Canada is $900. Jean Robert used Taxback to apply for an Australian tax return in 2008 after he’d returned to his home in Canada. As well as making the process super easy, he received a substantial amount back which he was extremely happy with. The link above offers a special 5% discount.

Working out your residency status

The official ‘determining your residency status’ page on Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) website is actually not as helpful as it sounds. There are few hard and fast rules concerning residency status; a lot of it is open to interpretation. Some of the status definitions are based on ‘residential ties’ to Canada and/or your home country, so it depends on your personal situation. If you are attempting to file your own taxes independently, give CRA a call for advice on your residency status – they are surprisingly helpful over the phone.

Post updated 6th December 2016

Extended tax section with more information is available in my ‘Ultimate Working Holiday Guide to Canada’ eBook (no more email requests please, thank you!)

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Gemma
Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently living in Penticton, British Columbia. Gemma is happiest with a paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.

55 Comments

  1. Pingback: A working holiday in Canada | Off Track Travel

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  3. Hi Gemma

    I’m just getting around to this tax filling business now – I have been lucky in the past were the UK automatically does this for me!

    I think through reading a lot of blogs and websites I am familiar with most of the options I have to select……bar one!

    Because I am on a working holiday visa I am unsure if I am “deemed non-resident for tax purposes” or “deemed resident for tax purposes”.

    I have read that I must select “deemed non-resident for tax purposes” because I am on a working holiday visa?

    But, I have also read that I may be able to select “deemed resident for tax purposes” as I have spent more than 183 days in Canada in the tax year in question and I also have significant residential ties: I have Canadian bank accounts, I have health insurance/coverage in the state of Ontario and I have personal property in Canada.

    In addition, do you know if having more than one job during this period affects the returns I may be entitled to?

    I appreciate any feedback/advice you may have on this.

    Micheal.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Michael,

      Filing taxes is a tricky thing – there’s a lot of different opinions out there and people offering ‘tips’ to get the most money back. I’ll send you an email with some info.

      • Hi Gemma,

        If you could email me some info too that would be great. Trying to get organized for next year’s return! Thanks,

        Adam

      • Hi Gemma,

        Great article on a very confusing subject.

        Please could you send me the email with more info on tax deductions and how I should proceed?

        Thanks!

      • Hi We are in the same situation as well. We are from Europe on a working holiday visa and about to leave Canada. I don’t know if I need to pick resident or non-resident. We did not have any income in our respective countries during this year.

        Kind regards,
        Line

      • Hi Gemma,

        Would you be able to also send me the email?

        Thank you,

        Melody

    • Sarah Bloomer Reply

      Hey,

      I am here on a Working holiday visa and I wanted to know if you had to pay CPP? I’ve only been here for four months. I am self employed here and working as a contractor. Is it enough if i save around 25% of my earnings?

      Thanks,

      Sarah

  4. Lauren Bowden Reply

    Hi Gemma, I’m in a similar position to Michael and am under the assumption that having just come back from a working holiday visa that I’d be a deemed non-resident for tax purposes.
    If possible, could you send me your info email too? The whole process is extremely frustrating and I’d appreciate some impartial feedback from yourself.

    Many thanks, and keep up the great work! Your IEC guide has been great for me applying for my second visa!

    Lauren

      • Hi Gemma!

        Was also after an email regarding tax return filing! Similar situation to Michael too. Do you know if it is possible to do it yourself through websites such as Simpletax if you are not a Canadian resident and no longer in the country?

      • Hi Gemma,

        Your website has been very helpful! I was also wondering if you could possibly email me some info. I am also in a similar situation to Michael and Lauren where I am under a Youth Mobility Visa in the UK, but have a couple secondary residential ties to Canada. However, I have not been in Canada for 183 days. Thanks!

      • Joanna Jerka Reply

        Hello Gemma,

        I am in quite similar situation like couple of ppl here. I was on working holiday visa and I left Canada after half a year. As I was working would be nice to get my tex returned. Could you please e-mail me some info about tax deduction.

        Many thanks!

        Joanna

        • Gemma
          Gemma Reply

          Hi Joanna,

          As per the update notice at the end of the post, I no longer send emails with tax help. I do however have another tax post out soon that may help, so keep an eye out for that!

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      If you do not feel comfortable attempting the tax process yourself, Taxback.com offer a great service to working holiday makers – I indeed recommend them 🙂

  5. Hi Gemma,

    Could you please send me info on this. I have had 4 working visas ( originally from Australia ) and I’m looking for help to file my last two years. I filled previously through h n r block and it came back that I owed thousands. I am looking for someone who is experienced in filing for someone on a working holiday visa.

    Thanks

    Carla

  6. If you could also please email me too that would be great.
    I have a full-time role in Toronto at the moment, did some independent contracting for the same company first and also earn a remote income from back home in Australia – so mine might be complicated!

  7. I would love the e-mail with additional info. I am in Ottawa on a working holiday visa, I was only working for 2 weeks of last year so I didn;t file a tax return. But the Australian one is coming up and I am so confused as to where I am a resident and where I am not, and who wants to know my world income Oz or Canada?

  8. Has anyone had any experience of trying to get your CPP payments back once you leave to go home?

    Thanks!

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Emily,

      I’ve never heard of any IEC participants managing to get CPP payments back. As far as I understand it, you are eligible to get them back when you hit retirement age in your home country i.e. a long time away!

      • catherine welsby Reply

        Hi Emily and Gemma,

        Just an FYI I got CPP refunded to me a few months after left canada. MPP sent me out a termination selection statement which I completed and then they posted me out a cheque. It was really easy actually.

        Gemma, do you know if we send the tax return to “non- resident individual” address on the website or just the tax centre for you province?
        I am also going to send in form rc325 to change my address back to the Uk, will they then send the refund to the new address on the form rather than my stated mailing address in canada.

        thanks in advance for any info

  9. Barry houlihan Reply

    Hello

    I am leaving Canada after working here for 3 years on a working visa. Can I apply to get a refund on my CPP? Thanks

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Barry,

      As far as I understand, you can only claim back CPP after you become eligible for retirement in your home country. I’ve never heard of anyone being able to claim it back after leaving the country, as you do in Australia.

  10. Hi Gemma,

    I’d really appreciate some further info too, as I will need to do one for the end of this coming year.

    Thanks heaps, in advance!

  11. Hi Gemma,

    We are looking forward to starting our 2 years in Canada from next May and so I am just starting to look at logistics…one being tax and what to do with our property at home (which will create extra income for us). Do you know anything about non resident landlord tax on UK income (we are classed as non UK because we will be out of the country for over 6 months) and could you send me the email with extra information as I think that might be really useful too.

    Your website is so so useful 🙂

  12. Hi Gemma,

    I find your site really useful but I still have some concerns about tax refund.
    Currently I am in Canada on working holiday visa but I am going home within a month and would like to have more information.
    It’s going to be 9 months that I have spent in Canada and I wanna know how can I get tax refund from my home country.
    If I understood well I can use taxback.com, but I am curious how I can get my T4 if I am not residing anymore in Canada? And can I get my check to my home address or on my banking account which is not canadian?
    In adition, I’ve heard that I have to sign the tax form and send it by post, but this won’t be possible since I wont be in Canada anymore. My question is if this is really possible to do from a distance?

    You can see I am confused about those thing so I would appreciate your response and any information would be very helpful. Hope you understood me.

    Thanks in advance,

    Marko J.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Marko,

      In regards to your T4, speak to your employer before you leave and ask how they usually send T4s to staff. I’ve had T4s sent by email as well as mail before. If it is the latter, you can ask if they can send it to an address in your home country i.e. family/friends etc. It is best to organise this before you leave as otherwise it is likely that your T4 will be sent to your last known address in Canada.

      Sending the forms by international mail isn’t a problem. It is definitely possible to do it from a distance 🙂

  13. Hi Gemma,

    This is such a great article. I would love some more information about filing as well, particularly with whether or not to select resident or non-resident for tax purposes. Can you please send me some more information?

    Thanks!

  14. Tax can be complex but I think some tax companies take a large cut. I did my tax myself in Australia and got $4000 back. I was forced to do it myself because the agents took weeks to get back to me. This article would have been more helpful if you explained a bit more about the process.

  15. Hi Gemma,

    I’ve found your site really useful but I still have some concerns about tax refund.
    Currently I am in Canada on a working holiday visa but I am going home In April and I would like to have more information.

    thanks
    Martin.

  16. Hello Gemma,

    I worked and travelled for one year in Canada and
    I am also stuck at the question:
    am I am “deemed non-resident for tax purposes” or “deemed resident for tax purposes”.
    or must I select “deemed non-resident for tax purposes” because I am on a working holiday visa?
    or may I be able to select “deemed resident for tax purposes” as I have spent more than 183 days in Canada in the tax year in question and I also had significant residential ties: I had a Canadian bank account, I had health insurance.
    But I am filing for the tax year 2014. I am now back in the UK. Does that change anything.
    I am also still missing T4’s … do you think my past employers are still able to e-mail the T4’s, 2 years after?

    If I do use the services of taxback.com – do they cost a lot – as I have only worked 6 months out of 6?

    Thank you so much for all your answers,
    Daniela

  17. Hey Gemma,
    Your website is really helpful. I would just like to know if claiming tax back when outside of Canada, how do you get the money back in your home currency?
    Also would I be a resident or non-resident.

    Thanks,
    Sam

  18. Hi Gemma

    I am trying to determine if I am a resident or non resident for tax purposes, and whether I am eligible for the schedule 6 reduction. Would you be able to provide any information that may help?

    Thanks.

  19. My girlfriend is from France, on a working holiday visa since July 2015 and working since october 2015 inclusive until next year… can you send me any information?

  20. Hey all, just finished 2 year’s on IEC visa. Did both my years tax with simpletax.ca really easy and all online as we are now able to use netfile and can set up direct debit for first timers now too (just ring CRA to set up). They do all provs but Quebec. It’s free, they ask for donations but it’s up to you what you want to give. I have heard from CRA that there is apparently a way to get CPP back early but you need to file for it the year after you file you last return so you have no outstanding tax to sort. Yet to try it yet as I’ll have to wait for 2016. Hope this helps 😉

    • Hi Glen…did you declrare deemed resident, non resident or deemed non resident ? was it different for each year reported?

  21. Hi guys, I left Canada last year after doing a working holiday visa and I’m preparing my 2015 return now… I’m wondering is there an extra form for adding payment info not in Canada? The CRA have my Canadian bank account details on file from my 2014 return but the account is now closed so I’m not sure how to tell them this? Has anyone else received a refund to their home address / bank account after leaving Canada? Thanks!

  22. Hi Gemma,
    I am an Australian living in Canada, this year was my first tax return. I posted it into the CRA at the end of April and have still not had my refund or even heard anything back. Does it usually take this long? Is there a way I can find out what stage it is at? I phoned the CRA and they cannot see anything on my file yet so they cant tell me anything.

    Thanks!

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Brendan,

      That seems a long time – in my experience it has been much less than that but I also filed my taxes early. I hope you hear something soon

  23. Hey there,

    I was wondering how it works after I have left Canada. I know how to use SimpleTax and I assume I can use the same website from Germany. But will it possible to set up Direct Deposit into a German bank account? Or do they send cheques abroad?

    Many thanks for your help
    Sarina

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Sarina,

      I’m afraid I do not know – I’ve been living in Canada for 5 years now so haven’t had to file my taxes from abroad. My partner JR hasn’t either, he always managed to do it while visiting home.

  24. Hello Gemma, I’d love to get the email everyone is requesting 🙂 I have just started contemplating how I will do the tax return when the time comes so your post has been very helpful. One thing I haven’t successfully resolved is how I will receive the potential tax refund. I guess I will have to leave my bank account open beyond my stay in Canada and then close it when the WHV is done. If you have any suggestions about what else is possible in terms of refunds, I’d love to get your input. Thanks again for your help!

  25. Hi Gemma,
    Would love a copy of the email! I am an Australian that was on a working holiday visa in 2013 and 2014. I would like to complete my tax returns for these years however am having trouble finding any assistance to do this on my own from Australia.
    I don’t have a Canadian address or bank account.
    Also, for tax purposes was I a resident? Or am I a non resident?
    If you can solve this mystery for me I will be one happy (and slightly richer) girl.
    (I don’t want to use Taxback as I want as much of my return coming to me as possible!)
    Cheers,
    Bec

  26. Stefan Hoertz Reply

    For my tax return I used taxback.com but they were terrible. They take a percentage of your tax which is an absolute scam!! I couldn’t believe it when I found out a year later that another service (jackstaxback.com) charged a flat $40 fee. So I paid $40 that year compared to $150 before, what a joke. Really annoying that people continue to link to them when they provide an overpriced terrible service.

    Next year I am just going to do it myself, I think it is easy enough

  27. Avril Noonan Reply

    Hi Gemma,

    Can you send me some information. I am no longer living in Canada but need to file my 2016 taxes. I moved bank to Ireland in April, I still have a Canadian bank account and address that I can use. Do I file as a resident or must I file as a non resident, would this make a diferance to my returns owing?

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Avril,

      Yes, filing as a non-resident or resident would generally make a difference to whether you owe money (and how much) or have a return owning. Whether you file as a non-resident or resident entirely depends on your situation and interpretation of the definitions – consider contacting CRA for advice.

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