Tax Return Do’s and Don’ts


tax return do's and don'ts

I know for most students tax season can be pretty rewarding, especially when you get that direct deposit or cheque in the mail with your tax return. Personally I look forward to getting my tax return as well, especially since I work 4-8 months of the year because of co-op and I get a pretty decent return. Now I know when you receive your return it’s pretty tempting to spend the majority of it, if not all of it, but I’ve decided to throw together a list of things to do with your tax return and what not to do.

What you should do with your tax return.

1. Pay off some or all of your credit card debt

Yes I know this isn’t the most exciting thing to do ever, but it’s also not so fun to run up huge amounts of debt. If you have immediate expenses that you need to pay ie. rent, utilities or food to prevent starvation then pay for those. But your next best option is to pay off your high interest debts. What do I mean by that? Those pesky 19-20% interest rate credit card balances you owe.

2. Pay off a portion of your student loans

Also not super exciting, but the same can be said for this as the previous tip. Some people don’t have credit card debt and pay it off in full each month. For those people, you may still have student loans through your provincial or federal government or have a line of credit open with your bank. If you have some money from your tax return  you can put that towards paying off some of the balance on those debts. When it comes to provincial/federal loans..yes I am aware you aren’t paying interest yet. But when the time comes you will have a smaller amount owing therefor you won’t pay as much interest over time.

Did you know? The interest you pay on student loans can be claimed when you file your taxes. You can find out more about the topic on the Canada Revenue website

3. Invest or Save

For those who are less risk averse you can choose to invest your tax return in ETF’s, stocks and riskier stock options if you so wish. One thing I have to say, is if you head down this road you need to make sure you know what you’re doing and have read up and educated yourself on the investment process. Make use of Tax Free Savings Accounts to shelter your capital gains from taxation.

If you don’t even want to touch the stock market, you can take advantage of online banks like PC Financial, Ally and ING and put your money in a high interest savings account. Currently PC Financial has a 2.6% interest rate on savings & chequings accounts with no risk to you. OR you can put money into a GIC which are much longer term compared to just putting your money in a savings account.

4. Use for Essential Expenses

By putting your tax return into a high interest savings account you can hold onto your money, gain interest income and then use the money to pay for tuition in the coming fall, or for a trip or something important. Or you may have rent due or other essential expenses, these are needs not wants and this will require that you spend your tax return when you get it.

Did you know? Students can carry forward university/college tuition and textbook costs for future years. Make sure you still file taxes even if you don’t have an income, those carried forward deductions can help you receive a larger tax return back in the future (post-graduation).

What you should’t do with your tax return.

1. Buy a ticket to everyone concert in Toronto this summer

Yes I know its tempting, and I have managed to purchase a few concert tickets for this summer, but for a discount.

2. Go to the bar and buy everyone drinks..on you

Don’t be a fool, you’re going to wake up the next morning and feel really bad about this one.

3. Spend Spend Spend

Overall my point for most of these is that you shouldn’t go out and spend your whole tax return or more. Don’t get into more debt or make yourself worse off then before you got your return. You really don’t need a brand new wardrobe, or a flat screen tv (that means you will have to pay for cable for it too, oh and that new playstation you wanted).

So after the beating I just gave you, I hope that you think about how to best make use of your tax return. You may not feel the immediate gains but in the long run you will be patting yourself on the back for a job well done. Student debt is surrounding all of us (yes I know that sounds bad) but it’s the truth. Do your best to reduce your debts, because they can start adding up.

What do you plan on doing with your tax return?

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