Do I have to file a tax return?

You have to file a return if you are a resident of Canada for tax purposes and you owe tax or want to receive a refund.

Residency for Tax Purposes

Canadian residency for tax purposes is not the same as residency for immigration purposes.

People who may be considered residents for tax purposes include:

  • Canadian citizens and permanent residents
  • Refugees (protected persons)
  • People who have received approval-in-principle from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, to stay in Canada
  • Temporary residents, such as foreign students and foreign workers

You become a resident of Canada for tax purposes when you establish significant residential ties in Canada, usually on the date you arrive in Canada.

Residential ties include:

  • A home in Canada
  • A spouse or common-law partner and dependents who move to Canada to live with you
  • Personal property in Canada, such as a car or furniture
  • Social ties in Canada

Other ties that may be relevant include:

  • A Canadian driver's licence
  • Canadian bank accounts or credit cards
  • Health insurance with a Canadian province or territory

Find out more about residential ties on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.

What if I am outside of Canada?

According to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the most important factor in determining your residency in Canada for tax purposes is whether or not you maintain residential ties with Canada while you are abroad.

If you maintain residential ties in Canada, you may still be considered a Canadian resident for tax purposes. In this case, you have to pay Canadian income tax on your worldwide income.

If you break your Canadian residential ties and leave Canada, you can become a Canadian resident for tax purposes again when you move back to Canada and re-establish your residential ties.

Generally, your residency status and tax obligations can only be determined on a case-by-case basis after taking into consideration all of the relevant facts. You can find information about determining your residency status in these guides:

This can be a confusing process. If you need more information or help, contact the CRA or a settlement agency. To find help, go to Services Near Me and search for "settlement services" in your area.

For More Information

  • Newcomers to Canada - This guide is for first time tax filers in Canada. It will help you determine if you are a resident for tax purposes, which is not the same as residency for immigration purposes. From the CRA.
  • Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) - The federal agency responsible for administering tax, benefits and related programs across the country. Their website provides detailed information about tax-related issues.
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Individual Taxation - Information and answers about tax rates and how to file your return. From the CRA.
  • General Income Tax and Benefit Package - A collection of forms and information sheets which you need to file your income tax return. From the CRA.
  • Ontario Tax Credits and Benefits - Learn about the different tax credits and benefits you can get to help you with living costs when you file your income tax return. From the Ministry of Finance.
Last updated: July 14, 2016 4001373