The benefit is in the form of a tax credit, meaning that it is a straight reduction of tax. Other key features and conditions (see CRA's page on tax matters for students) include:
- the credit is non-refundable, meaning that if the student has no tax to pay before applying the credit, the credit is not refunded and the credit goes to waste; in other words, apply for the credit only when there is tax to pay.
- the credit does not have to be used in the same year as the interest on the loan was paid, it can be carried forward and used up to five years later
- the credit is not transferable to another person, like a parent or spouse, only the student him or herself can use it, even if someone else actually paid the interest
- the credit is calculated at the lowest Federal tax rate (currently 15%) plus the lowest Provincial tax rate (e.g. Ontario is 6.05% so $100 interest would get the student $21.05 in tax credit/reduction); Québec as usual does its own thing and gives 20% flat credit; the credit does not change or increase if the student is in a higher tax bracket and since it is a tax credit not a deduction that reduces taxable income it cannot help to bring someone down into a lower tax bracket; in other words, there is no advantage in waiting - as soon as the student starts earning enough income to have tax to pay, he/she should claim the credit.
- the credit only applies to loans issued under the Canada Student Loans Act, the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, or similar provincial or territorial government laws for post-secondary education (to check if a loan qualifies, ask the national student loans service center or see the list of provincial student loan contacts here on Canlearn.ca); loans from banks or private lenders don't qualify, nor does a qualifying loan if it has been combined with or refinanced as a private loan
- the claim is made on line 319 of Schedule 1 Federal Tax of the T1 and on the corresponding line in the provincial tax form - e.g. line 5852 on ON428 Ontario Tax