people-walkingBetween November, 2015 and February 29, 2016, Canada welcomed 35,147 Syrian refugees to live and work and make their lives here.

Immigrants from many other countries also arrived through traditional processes and made their way to new homes in a cold but friendly country.

The year 2017 for many of them will mark their first experience with filing their income tax. It seems that they have so much to learn, a new language, a new way of life, a new culture, and a new way to work.

But they will also have to figure out what many long-time Canadians still seek help to understand, and that is the process of filing personal income tax.

If you weren’t in Canada for the entire year of 2016, you will be considered a part-year resident and you must declare all your income for the time that you became a permanent resident in Canada. If you had income before you arrived here, you also have to state that.

Many of Canada’s newcomers have investment income abroad and they must make their payers aware that they are now living permanently in Canada.

If you left behind your wealth, you have to seriously go through the process of figuring out the fair market value of it on the day you entered Canada. This includes everything from property to gold, art and stocks and bonds. The reason you have to declare its fair market value is that if you decide to sell it at some point in the future, you will have to pay Canadian taxes on the capital gains you acquired.

If you came to Canada as a student to study in university here, you can deduct your moving expenses against any taxable part of bursaries or scholarship or research grants that you might have received.

If you arrived as a refugee or regular immigrant, you cannot claim your moving expenses.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to apply now for a Social Insurance Number. You will need it to claim such legitimate expenses as GST credits and Canada Child Benefits.
Canada’s tax system is based on the 12-month calendar year so the taxes you file in 2017 will cover the period from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2016. All taxes must be filed by April 30 unless you are self-employed, in which case you don’t have to file until June 31, 2017.

Most Canadians get professional help to file their tax returns so that they do them properly and do not miss out on any benefits they could claim. You can use an accountant within your community or outsource to a company like ours. We have experience in helping you file your first tax return and can help you get off to a good start.

Additionally, we will help you set up a system for tax planning for the next year to ensure that you make the most of all appropriate benefits and deductions.

Certified professional bookkeeper and certified tax specialist Elena Ivanova is managing director of Piligrim Accounting Inc., a national accounting and tax preparation service based in Richmond Hill, Ont. You can reach her at