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Did you lose your job? Are you on maternity or paternity leave? Are you in between jobs? Have you gone back to school to further your career? Or have you decided to take an extended sabbatical to refresh and take a breather from the everyday hustle and bustle of work life?

Whatever your reason for not working, you may be wondering whether or not it’s still necessary to file a tax return. You might think there’s no reason to do so, especially since you did not make any money and therefore have nothing to pay income taxes on.

In a sense, you may be right. You technically don’t have to file your income taxes if you have no income to claim, but only if other circumstances don’t apply.

Do You Have To File Taxes In Canada If You Have No Income?

Even if you haven’t earned any income, there are still many reasons why you may need to file your taxes.

Here are some scenarios that would require you to file your taxes even if you didn’t earn any income from employment. 

  • You have taxes owing
  • You received a request to file a tax return from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
  • You received Canada’s Worker Benefit (CWB) payments
  • You sold off real estate or investment shares, particularly if you made a profit from such sales
  • Your old age security or employment insurance benefits had to be sold off
  • You still have some amount of your RRSPs to repay if you used it for things such as the Home Buyers’ Plan
  • You made contributions to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
  • You paid employment insurance premiums on self-employment earnings
  • You and your spouse/partner are splitting your pension income

As you can see, there are many scenarios where you would still be responsible for filing a tax return, even if you are not currently working and bringing in a typical income.

How To File Zero Income Tax Return In Canada?

Whether you’ve earned income or not, the rules to file your tax return are the same. You can file your taxes online or via paper application. Just be sure to submit it by the tax filing deadline of April 30th. 

The exact steps to file your taxes may slightly vary depending on the tax software you choose to file your taxes. However, the content entered will be the same. 

For example, if you choose to file your your taxes with Turbotax, follow these steps:

  1. Once you’ve created an account and signed in, click the “Get Started” option under the “Income” heading in the menu bar.
  2.  Click the “Continue without Income” to file your taxes with no income. 
  3. Fill out the remaining sections. TurboTax will automatically help you complete all other sections required when you have no income to report. This includes benefits and tax credits you qualify for. 

At the end, you’ll get a summary of all your benefits and credits, as well as your expected tax refund. 


File your taxes with TurboTax

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If I Make Less Than $5,000 A Year Do I Have To File Taxes?

Yes, even if you make less than $5,000 a year, you’ll need to file your income tax return. However, you won’t have to pay much in taxes due to the basic personal amount (BPA). This is a non-refundable tax credit that lowers your federal tax obligations. 

Those with an income below $15,000 will get a full reduction in federal income taxes. Moreover, you may qualify for other tax credits like the GST/HST tax credit and the Canada’s Worker Benefit (CWB).

Can You Get A Tax Refund If You Have No Income?

If you’re an adult Canadian you should file a tax return every year. Even if you have no income. You could get money back (a tax return)  from the CRA because of the large list of tax credits available. The Canadian government has built a Benefits Finder to help citizens determine what benefits and credits they are entitled to. 

Benefits & Credits You Can Receive Even If You Have No Income

Filing your tax return will make you eligible for certain tax credits that you wouldn’t be able to get unless you file. Here are some of the tax benefits that you can get if you file your tax return.

Canada Child Benefit (CCB)

It’s no secret that raising a child can be expensive. But if you file your taxes, you may be eligible for the CCB benefit. This benefit is a tax-free credit that is paid out each month. You could receive up to $619.75 per month for each child you have who is under 6 years old and $522.91 per month for each child between 6 and 17.

Check out these tax tips for low-income earners.

GST/HST Credit

The Goods and Services Tax or Harmonized Sales Tax Credit (GST/HST) is a tax-free payment for individuals and families with a low income. Individuals can receive up to $496, while families and couples can receive up to $650. If you have a child under 19, you can receive an additional $171 per child. 

Ontario Trillium Benefit 

Depending on your province, you may be eligible for other provincial tax credits such as the Ontario Trillium Benefit. This benefit includes 3 types of tax-free payments which are meant to help low-to-medium income families with energy costs as well as property and sales tax. The three benefits included are:

  • Northern Ontario Energy Credit  
  • Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit
  • Ontario Sales Tax Credit

Additional Benefits You May Miss Out On

There are many other reasons you should file your taxes with no income, including: 

Renewing Your GIS Eligibility – In order to continue receiving your GIS payments, you need to file your income tax return to confirm your eligibility. 

Reporting Non-Capital Loss – If you’ve incurred a capital loss, it’s important to report it on your income tax return so that you may use it on future tax return.

Claiming The Canada Workers Benefit (CWB) – If you’re earning a low income, you claim the CWB and get up to $1,428 as a single individual and up to $2,461 as a family. 

Bottom Line

Several scenarios require you to file a tax return even if you’re not working. However, there are even more cases where you would stand to benefit from filing even if you are not necessarily obligated to file.

If you want to take advantage of any one of the above benefits, filing a tax return will need to be done, regardless of whether or not you are working and bringing in an income. As a general rule of thumb, consider filing your taxes, no matter what your employment status may be.

Faqs On Filing Your Taxes With No Income

Where can I file my taxes in Canada?

There are many ways you can file your tax return in Canada. You can use Wealthsimple Tax, TurboTax, or any other recognized tax software company available to Canadians. You could also work with an accountant or a community volunteer tax clinic to help you file your tax return. Lastly, you could go old school and complete your tax return by paper or by phone. 

When do I need to file my taxes in Canada?

In Canada, the earliest you can file your taxes is late February (for the 2023 tax season, the date is February 19th). The latest you can file your taxes without penalty is April 30th or June 15th if you’re self-employed. 

How will I receive my tax refund or credits?

If you haven’t signed up for direct deposit, you should receive your refund via a cheque in the mail. However, certain benefits require you to sign up for direct deposit to receive payment. If you believe you’re missing out, log into your CRA MyAccount to see if you have any uncashed cheques
Lisa Rennie avatar on Loans Canada
Lisa Rennie

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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