September 18, 2018 2:13 pm
Updated: September 18, 2018 2:25 pm

Keep your receipts! And other back-to-school tax tips for parents

ABOVE: Schedule, shop, save, smart – the four s’s parents need to know as kids head back to school.

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As your kids head back to school, the Canada Revenue Agency is reminding parents that there are ways to save money – in the form of tax rebates.

The most important part of back-to-school time is making sure parents keep the receipts for child care, tutoring and other activities, Lisa Gittens, senior tax professional with H&R Block, told Global News.

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“People are claiming the credit but not keeping the receipts or the documents required,” Gittens explained. “And so you might be entitled to the credit but not having the document means the credit is now removed from your return.”

READ MORE: 6 tax credits and deductions that can save university students (and their parents) a bundle

Here’s what you can and can’t claim around to back-to-school time:

Child care

First off, you can claim up to $8,000 of child-care costs for those who are paying for child care so they can go back to school or work.

That includes paying for nursery schools or daycare, as well as day camps or sports school.

It can also include paying a single person – like a nanny or babysitter, Gittens explained.

READ MORE: Parents could be missing out on thousands of dollars in tax refunds — here’s how to claim it

“Whether it’s the nanny, the babysitter or a friend or relative, they have to have a record of the social insurance number of that individual and they have to have a signed receipt for that care,” Gittens explained.

While parents don’t have to submit the receipt, Gittens says they should save it in case CRA asks.

Parents can claim up to $8,000 for children under seven, and up to $5,000 for older kids up to age 16.

If your child qualifies for the disability tax credit, that amount jumps to $11,000.

Overnight boarding schools can also be included in the child care credit; Gittens said most boarding schools will issue a receipt outlining the different costs in tuition (which isn’t included) and boarding (which is included).

READ MORE: This Ontario dad hasn’t been able to claim the child tax credit in years — and he’s not alone

Tutoring and school for children with learning disabilities  

Tutoring used to be available for all children under the arts credit, but not anymore.

“In 2017 that arts credit which allowed you to pay for tutoring for things like math for science and claim a credit. That arts credit has been eliminated,” Gittens said.

Gittens explained that to be eligible for school or tutoring tax breaks, a doctor must declare it necessary.

“To deduct the cost of school for your child, a medical practitioner must certify, in writing, that the equipment, facilities or personnel specially provided by that school are needed because of your child’s physical or mental impairment,” officials at the CRA noted.

READ MORE: The CRA makes it so hard to get the disability tax credit, many don’t even try

Named disabilities include things like ADHD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, Gittens said.

Again, both the CRA and Gittens highlighted the need to keep receipts for school or tutoring expenses, in case the CRA requests them after filing.

“We want to emphasize [this tax credit] because we know a lot of school boards are cutting back on providing, so a lot of parents are having to pay a lot more out of pocket,” she explained.

WATCH: 1 in 3 families going into debt for children’s extracurricular activities: Ipsos poll

No more fitness and arts tax credits

While after-school activities used to be claimable as part of the so-called fitness and arts credits, the Liberals have since phased them out.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean all after-school activities are off limits.

“Some fitness and arts programs may still yield a tax break at tax time if they also provide a child care component,” Gennaro de Luca, certified financial planner and managing director of WealthPlan Canada, told Global News earlier this month.

READ MORE: Hockey? Swimming? Here’s how much parents spend on extracurricular activities: Ipsos

As long as the program meets the criteria as a child care expense deduction (which means the program is paid so a parent can earn income, go to school, or carry on grant research) then it’s claimable.

But most organized sports won’t qualify, the CRA warns, adding “an institution offering a sports study program is not a sports school.”

“Those recreational programs are no longer eligible,” Gittens explained. “It has to be an activity that is actually required for child care purposes.”

For day camps and summer camps, that also depends on whether or not the camp is primarily for child care purposes as well.

Teachers have benefits too

Gittens also reminded teachers that they are entitled to claim up to $1,000 in expenses that they’re paying out of their pocket for supplies.

She also said teachers should keep their receipts too.

— With files from Erica Alini

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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