Don’t be a Scrooge, you lazy duck

Before hitting adulthood, March is a time of joyous splendour, of Spring Break, and of freedom. But as you get older, the joy quickly transcends into a feeling of ominous dread and looming tasks. As an adult, the coming of March translates into the annually allotted time to do taxes... and, unlike Ebenezer Scrooge, it appears many of us don’t enjoy doing taxes.

The recently released budgets by both the provincial and federal governments were dry, but they contained several important changes in relation to what citizens would have to be paying taxes on, including the much speculated and highly controversial Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Most importantly, the new budgets hold much in store for taxpayers, negatively contributing to the aura surrounding tax season.

A Black Sheep
Russ Miller, a first year student at Capilano University, does not fit into the standard breed of tax-doers. Whereas many others find doing taxes to be a burden, sometimes employing the services of online programs like U-File or Studio Tax, or the services H&R Block, whose employees’ purpose is to do your taxes for you, Miller loves tax season. “I love taxes,” he says, “because I love affordable housing, providing sustenance to those who are out of work, helping individuals go to university when they can’t afford it, helping children in other countries get access to clean water, good food and good education, and feeling safe and secure from the threat of crime and military encroachments on Canada's sovereignty.” He equates taxes with helping to ensure these things remain a part of society in Canada. Taxes, he says, are needed in our society to continue living in a level of comfort that we all want to have.

Picking Your Weapon
While there are many mediums you can use to do your taxes, the actual deed itself can still be a burden. Madeleine Balfour, also a student at Capilano, prefers using the services of H&R Block instead of doing the taxes by hand. She says it is definitely better to go to H&R Block until “you’ve got the hang of taxes. I would definitely look into services like U-File once I know what I’m doing. The reason I use [H&R Block] is because it makes taxes a lot easier and a lot simpler. They also guarantee that you get the most out of your return,” she says. “They help you find the numbers and documents you need if you are missing any.” Balfour has been a customer of H&R Block since 2008.

D-ing I.Y.
Stephen Lyons, however, disagrees with the necessity of using services like H&R Block. He is a recent graduate from UBC and has been doing his taxes using an online program since 2006. “I don't think it's worth it for most people,” he says, “Unless they are running a small business or have something really complicated going on, it's not that difficult [to do taxes]. It's a good thing to learn how to do for yourself.”

He taught himself how to do taxes by doing them for a few years on paper. He began by using one of the books that PricewaterhouseCoopers or KPMG put out to answer basic questions about what can be deducted on taxes. PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG are two of the Big Four auditors, which is synonymous for being two of the four largest international accountancy and professional services firms.

Since learning how to do them by hand, Lyons has begun to use a program called StudioTax. He discovered StudioTax by browsing through a list of programs that the Canadian Revenue Agency certified for the year, and “found that StudioTax was the only one that was really free and covered most normal tax situations.”

Students with Benefits
As members of the Capilano Students’ Union and thus members of the Canadian Federation of Students, students can also use the online service U-File for free. U-File, which advertises itself as “Canada’s Favourite Online Tax Software”, allows users to input all their information online and then print a tax receipt.

Lyons warned that there are several things students should look out for when filing their taxes. “Don’t waste the educational tax credits, if you’re not making enough money this year for it to be worth it, you can carry them forward to a year you can really use it, or transfer them to your parents.”
Students are eligible for T2202As, which are receipts for tuition and other fees, and tell you how many months of study you have for educational credits. Lyons says that they used to send them out on paper, but now at many schools (including Capilano) the T2202As are just available online. “I think the colleges and universities should be able to release this information earlier than late February - if it's going to be online-only, it could be automatically generated from financial and registration records fairly quickly after the end of the year,” says Lyons, “Delaying it means that students can't file their tax returns early, even if they have their other tax receipts like T4s.”

Suck It Up, Princess
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, filing your taxes is something that probably ought to be done.
Other people should love taxes,” says Miller, who plans on doing his taxes by hand this year, “...We enter into an agreement when we live in a 'civilization' and in order to keep things moving smoothly, and at the level of comfort that we all want to have, taxes are needed.” 

1. Got GST? Students over the age of 19 are eligible for the annual GST/HST tax credit. You have to fill in a tax return and complete the GST/HST application on the form. If you will be 19 before April 1, 2011, make sure you fill out this form.

2. Got Scholarships? As of the 2008 tax year, scholarships and bursaries are tax exempt, as long as you are enrolled in an education program that qualifies for the education amount.

3. Got New Place? If you have moved in the last year in order to accommodate a summer job or to live closer to your college/university, you can deduct your moving expenses. These expenses even include the cost of the airplane ticket, or, if you moved using your car, the cost of gas mileage and any meals or hotels en route.

4. Got Student? You are also eligible to an education amount of $120 if you are enrolled part-time in college or university, or $400 if you are enrolled full-time. You can also get an additional $65 for full-time and $20 for part time as part of a textbook tax credit.

5. Got U-Pass? You can claim the cost of your U-Passes and other forms of transit passes as a tax credit.

//Samantha Thompson
Assistant news editor

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