Provincial and Federal Student Loans: Resources and Information to help you Navigate the System

You have taken out a student loan to assist you while you go to school. Keep in mind that whether you complete school, or drop out, you still have to pay back that loan, and not doing so can have considerable consequences.

In my early 20’s, I had taken a part-time job working for Equifax who at that time collected student loans. I recall a conversation with a girl in Kanata, Ontario who owed $40,000 on her loan and was paying $10/month.

Rather than yelling and her and demanding payment, I asked her what she intended on doing with the loan. She was quite sincere when she said that she was making the $10/month payments to appease the collection agency and that she felt she didn’t actually owe the loan.

I felt bad.

When I asked her why she didn’t owe it, she said simply because she didn’t go to school, thus didn’t need the loan for school.

“So, what did you do with the money you got from the government?”, I asked.

“Oh, I bought a car, a huge TV, and some new clothes… But I didn’t use it for school.”

“Oh”, was all I could think of… “but you took out a loan, and still need to pay the money back.” I spent the next 15-20 minutes answering questions and providing information.

2 days later she filed for bankruptcy.

She should have used that money and gone to school!

Regardless, there is a lot of information regarding student loans and how to get out of them. Rather than looking at it solely from that way, let’s look at them right from the begging through to the completion of the loan.

Beginning with, once you get a loan:

Make a plan to repay your student debt

1. Who you need to repay

You may have loans or lines of credit that you need to repay to the government and/or your financial institution. In some provinces and territories, Canada Student Loans are issued separately by the federal and provincial or territorial governments, which means, you could have more than one loan to pay back.

Verify your contracts to determine where your debt comes from and where you need to repay it.

2. How much you need to repay

Verify your loan or line of credit contract to figure out the following:

  • Total amount owing
  • Interest rate applied to the debt
  • How to repay the debt
  • How much to pay
  • How long it will take to pay back the debt

Contact the organization that provided your student loan or line of credit if you don’t have the information listed above.

3. When you need to start paying

Different repayment rules may apply depending on your type of student loan.

Canada Student Loans (CSL)

CSL’s have a 6-month non-repayment period after graduation and during that period, payments do not have to be made and interest will not be charged on the loan. This period begins after one of the following;

  • Finish your final school term
  • Transfer from full-time to part-time studies
  • Leave school or
  • Take time off school

Before the 6-month period ends, you’ll have to log in to your National Student Loan Service Centre account to find out your repayment schedule.

Note: You can and should still make payments at any time after receiving your loan. You don’t have to wait until after the 6-month period ends to start repaying. Paying it early and often reduces the amount of principle owing which reduces the amount of interest charged.

Find out more about the repayment schedule and options for your Canada Student Loan.

Click here to: Log in to your National Student Loan Service Centre account

Provincial student loans

The repayment rules of provincial student loans vary depending on the province or territory where you applied for your loan.

Find out about repayment rules and schedule for student loan programs in your province.

Student Lines of Credit (SLOC)

If you have a SLOC through your financial institution, you’ll have to pay the interest on the amount of money you borrow while you’re still in school.

After graduation, many financial institutions provide a 4 to 12-month grace period during which only interest payments are required to be made. This benefits the institution because they’re getting your interest payments and you are not reducing the amount of principle owing. Once the grace period ends, you’re back to paying the debt through a repayment schedule agreed upon with that institution.

Contact your financial institution to get information about paying back your student line of credit.

Having trouble paying

If you need help with repaying your CSL, you may qualify for the Repayment Assistance Plan (RAP).

Find out more about the Repayment Assistance Plan for your Canada Student Loan.

If you’re having trouble repaying a provincial student loan, contact your student aid office. For repayment assistance with a loan or LOC provided by your financial institution, contact your branch to determine what your options are.

Understand that by making your payments smaller, it will take you longer to pay back your loan. You’ll end up paying more interest on your loan.

Find the student aid office in your province or territory.

How student debt affects your credit score

Student loans and lines of credit form part of your credit history which means if you miss, or are late with, your payments, it can affect your credit score.

Your credit score shows future lenders how risky it can be for them to lend you money. A poor credit score makes it difficult to borrow money from a bank, get a credit card, and can impact your ability to get a job, or rent an apartment.

Bankruptcy

Understand that if you file for bankruptcy within seven years of finishing your studies, your Canada Student Loan won’t be discharged. You’ll have to continue paying back your loan.

Learn how bankruptcy affects your CSL debts.

Tips to repay your student debt faster

1. Make lump-sum payments

Making lump-sum payments at any time will help you pay down your loan faster. Lump-sum payments will go toward interest first and then to the principal of your loan. Paying down the principal reduces the total amount you owe, which means you pay less interest.

If you make lump-sum payments while you’re in school or during the 6-month non-repayment period, the payments go towards the principal of your loan.

Find out about making lump-sum payments on your Canada Student Loan.

2. Increase the amount of your payments

The amount you pay over and above your minimum payment goes toward the principal of your loan, which decreases the total amount you owe, and the amount of interest you have to pay.

3. Budget your payments

Build your student debt payments into your budget and make payments that are larger than the minimum payments. You can also speak with your financial institution about setting up automatic payments.

When planning your budget and automatic payments, make sure you know when your payments are due. Remember that if you have more than one loan or line of credit, you may have more than one payment due date.

Loans in Default

Rehabilitate Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans in Default

As of January 1st, 2020, borrowers will have a new option to rehabilitate Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans in default. The option is to add interest to the principal of your loan (capitalize the interest) and make two payments to rehabilitate your loan.

Repayment assistance

Missed loan payments? Can’t make payments? The Government of Canada has repayment assistance options that may be able to help. Contact the National Student Loans Service Centre (NSLSC) and your provincial or territorial student financial aid office to discuss repayment options.

Canada Student Loans

If you have a Canada Student Loan, one of the following measures may be right for you:

Repayment assistance

Getting your loan out of collection

If you have missed 9 months of payments, your federal student loan will be sent to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for collection.

Once in collection, you are no longer able to get student aid. To be able to get student aid again, you must bring your loan up to date.

  • Contact the CRA to make a payment arrangement and bring your loan up to date.

For the provincial or territorial part of your student loan, you will need to contact your province of permanent residence.

For borrowers from Saskatchewan you may contact the CRA for both federal and provincial parts of your student loan.

Rehabilitate your Canada Student Loan

If your loan is in collection, you may be eligible to bring your Canada Student Loan up to date. To do so, contact the CRA to see if you are eligible to rehabilitate your federal student loan. Make payments equal to two regular monthly payments and choose one of the following options:

  1. Pay off all outstanding interest on your loan, or
  2. Add all unpaid interest to the balance of your loan. You will receive a new payment schedule for the new balance.

Note: The option to add the unpaid interest to the balance of your loan can only be done once.

Once you make your payments, call the NSLSC and ask to speak with a Canada Student Loans Program agent. You should receive a new repayment plan within one month.

Bankruptcy doesn’t erase student loans during the first 7 years

Be aware: if you file for bankruptcy within seven years of finishing your studies, your Canada Student Loan won’t be cancelled. You will have to continue paying back your Canada Student Loan.

Industry Canada provides a helpful resource to learn how Bankruptcy affects your Canada Student Loan debts

CRA Snitch Line Accepting Tips on COVID Fraud

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) have announced that they are opening up their Informant Leads (snitch) line to information regarding COVID-19 benefit program fraud.

Amid reports that people are double dipping or taking the benefits when there are not entitled to, the CRA are intent on not waiting for 2021 when people file their tax returns, but are asking for Canadians to come forward and provide information regarding the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

The Snitch Line accepts information of tax cheating such as not declaring all income, accepting “under the table” cash payments or setting up a fake business to claim losses and thus reduce taxes. The information reported goes right to an audit group, who compare the information they receive with the information the CRA already has on that individual and business, and if the amount to recover is significant, will act to seek recovery.

The CRA said it is looking for information regarding people who are receiving either CERB or CESB who were ineligible, or businesses or charities who are “misusing” the wage subsidy program.

The decision to go after cheaters marks a significant turning point in the Trudeau government’s desire to take on fraud of COVID-19 emergency aid programs. In mid-April, a CRA spokesperson dissuaded Canadians from snitching on potentially ineligible CERB recipients because, at that time, the CRA said their focus was on “getting crucial (CERB) payments to those who urgently need it now.”

The CRA stated that those who received a payment to which they weren’t entitled will be required to repay the amount in due course.

Due course meant with the filing of the 2021 personal income tax return for many who applied for and received the credit, only to learn that their income did not dip below the amounts making them eligible to receive the funds. With so many Canadians providing direct deposit information to the CRA, means that with direct access to your bank account, the CRA can take those funds when they want. It also means if there are not sufficient funds in your bank account that the CRA can freeze you bank account and send a garnishment to your employer, if warranted.

With this significant change in direction, it should be noted that any business or individual who are caught receiving money they we not entitled to, will be ordered to reimburse it and it could be quite costly. In the case of the wage subsidy, a business which falsified documents, in order to claim the benefit can face penalties up to 225% of the amount received through the program.

The CRA and Service Canada have records of all individuals who’ve received payments for the CERB and CESB. What has changed is that the CRA have brought in their audit staff – presently not working on audits due to COVID – to verify payments were correctly allocated.

How to Snitch

In order to successfully provide information to the CRA through their Informant Leads line, there is information that the CRA requires.  Remember, all information provided to the CRA is anonymous.

Depending on the program they may have falsely claimed, the CRA would require details on the suspect’s work situation (CERB and CESB), their schooling situation (CESB) or their employer’s number of employees and total payroll (CEWS).

In many cases, people brag to their friends and neighbours about how stupid the government is, by providing them with benefit payments when they are not entitled, and that information is usually enough for the CRA to investigate.

The link to the CRA’s Informant Leads Program information, is here.

Filed your 2019 Personal Income Tax Return: Now what?

What an absolute crazy year 2020 has been thus far!

The tax filing deadline for individuals to file their 2019 personal income tax returns (T1) in Canada was June 1st, by 11:59pm. For Canadians who have earned self-employment income, their returns are due by June 15th, 2020. Payments for balances owing are due to the CRA by September 1st, 2020, and the CRA is currently not charging interest on exsting balances owing the them, nor interest or penalties for any late payments or filings for the time being.

New and enhanced services

Check CRA processing times – Want to find out quickly how long it will take for the CRA to process your return, or your refund? Use the Check CRA Processing Times tool on canada.ca to get a targeted completion date. The new tool uses published service standards and information you select from drop-down menus to calculate targeted completion times for various programs.

Dedicated telephone service for tax service providers – If you are still working on a tax return(s), the CRA have been offering this service to small and medium income tax service providers across Canada for the 2020 tax filing season. By using this service, income tax service providers can connect with experienced CRA officers who assist with complex tax questions.

Representative authorizations – Thank goodness, the CRA has created a new e-authorization process for online access to individual tax accounts which permits representatives to request access to individual tax accounts using a web form through Represent a Client. As a result, the existing T1013 form will be discontinued for access to individual tax accounts.

The T1013, RC59, and NR95 will be combined into one form called the AUT-01 Authorize a Representative for Access by Phone and Mail. This form will only be used to request offline access to individual and business tax accounts.

Owing Money to CRA

If you have filed, or are about to file and you owe money to the CRA, there are a couple of critically important facts you should keep in mind.

  1. If you have applied for any of the COVID-prompted benefit programs, and have done so through Direct Deposit, you may, unfortunately, be at risk.
  2. The CRA is delaying the payment of balances owing until September 1st, while not charging interest on all accounts except payroll accounts. This shouldn’t mean its okay to forget it until the fall, but rather, with no interest being charged on existing balances, its the best time to figure out ways to catch up, set aside funds, or find / earn funds to pay off the CRA
  3. Before we all know it, it will be September, and a few things will be certainties. Our year-end will be fast approaching for the 2020 tax filing season, any balances owing to the CRA will be due, and the Canadian debt and deficit will be through the roof. The Federal government will need those funds ASAP, and aside from raising taxes, they will likely begin aggressive collections of taxes owing. The quickest way the CRA can recover funds, is by issuing a Notice of Assessment (which has legal warning in it) and then taking those funds from your bank account.
  4. You have options outside of bankruptcy, consumer proposals, high-interest loans, or high-rate mortgages. Preparing in advance for this situation and working with the CRA can prevent unwanted or unexpected surprises.

 

The CRA’s collections staff have already been advised where to locate direct deposit information and how ensure it is accessible when full collections are permitted.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

inTAXicating can assist with anything CRA-related. With over 10-years experience working in the CRA’s Collections department, we know things the CRA will never tell you.