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

Key Deductions and Tax Credits for Persons Older Than 65-Years of Age

With the 2014 Tax Filing season rapidly approaching, I think it is important to keep track of key deductions and credits that Canadians older than 65-years-old should be thinking about when they file their Canadian tax returns this year and all years going forward.

The Canada Revenue Agency set up their own webpage dedicated just to this very topic: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/seniors/ which I recommend bookmarking, but I have summarized their points below for ease of access.

Common credits which may be claimed by seniors

  • Age amount
  • Pension income amount
  • Disability amount (for themselves)
  • Amounts transferred from a spouse or common-law partner
  • Medical expenses

Age amount

You can claim this amount if you were 65 years of age or older on December 31, 2013, and your net income (line 236 of your return) is less than $80,256. If your net income was:

It is important to remember to enter your date of birth in the “Information about you” area on page 1 of your tax return.

Remember to claim the corresponding provincial or territorial non-refundable tax credit to which you are entitled, on line 5808 of your provincial or territorial Form 428.

Tip: You may be able to transfer all or part of your age amount to your spouse or common-law partner or to claim all or part of his or her age amount. See line 326 – Amounts transferred from your spouse or common-law partner, for more information.

Pension income amount

You may be able to claim up to $2,000 if you reported eligible pension, superannuation, or annuity payments on line 115, line 116, and/or line 129 of your return.

Eligible pension income does not include the following income amounts:

  • any foreign source pension income that is tax-free in Canada because of a tax treaty that entitles you to claim a deduction at line 256;
  • income from a United States individual retirement account (IRA); or
  • amounts from a RRIF included on line 115 and transferred to an RRSP, another RRIF or an annuity.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP) income does not count as eligible income here.

Pension income splitting

If you qualify to claim the pension income amount, discussed above, then you are often able to report up to one-half of that pension income on your spouse or common law partner’s tax return, which will save you tax as a couple if your spouse is in a lower tax bracket.

Amounts transferred from your spouse or common-law partner

If your spouse or common-law partner does not need to claim some or all of certain non-refundable tax credits to reduce his or her federal tax to zero, you may be able to transfer those unused amounts to your return.

Split CPP income

If you and your spouse are at least 60 years of age, and one or both of you receive CPP benefits, each spouse may be able to apply to split their benefits with the other (i.e., report half on each other’s tax returns), which can save tax if one of you is in a lower tax bracket.

CPP contributions

If you are 60 to 70 years of age and employed or self-employed, you have to make CPP or Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) contributions, even if you’re receiving CPP or QPP benefits.

You can claim a tax credit for these contributions. However, if you’re at least 65 but under 70 years of age, you can elect to stop making contributions (use Form CPT30, the applicable part of Schedule 8 to your tax return, or Form RC381, whichever applies), but don’t just stop making the contributions without that election!

Medical expenses (for self, spouse or common-law partner, and your dependent children born in 1996 or later)

On line 330 of your personal tax return you can claim the total eligible medical expenses you or your spouse or common-law partner paid for:

  • yourself;
  • your spouse or common-law partner; and
  • your or your spouse’s or common-law partner’s children born in 1996 or later.

Medical expenses for other dependents must be claimed on line 331.

Tip:

You may be eligible to claim a variety of medical expenses, perhaps even previously unclaimed amounts, as long as the expenses were incurred in any 12-month period that ended in 2013. The list of eligible expenses has continued to expand slowly over the past few years.

It is wise tax-strategy to claim medical expenses on the lower-income spouse’s return to maximize your tax relief.

Disability amount (for self)

You can claim the disability amount of $7,697 on line 316 once you are eligible for the disability tax credit (DTC).

Tip:

If you were eligible for the DTC for previous years but did not claim the DTC when you filed your return, you can request adjustments for up to 10 years under the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief Provisions. To claim the disability amount for prior years, you will need to file Form T1-ADJ, T1 Adjustment Request, for each year you need to amend.

If you or anyone else paid for attendant care, or for care in an establishment, special rules may apply. For more information, see Attendant care or care in an establishment.

If you have a severe and prolonged physical or mental impairment, you may be eligible to claim $7,697 if a qualified practitioner certifies, on Form T2201 – Disability Tax Credit Certificate, that you meet certain conditions.

Public transit amount

You can claim the cost of monthly (or longer duration) public transit passes for travel on public transit within Canada for 2014. The cost of electronic payment cards can also be claimed when conditions are met.

Work force credits

If you’re still working, even part time, you may be eligible to claim the Canada employment amount (maximum $1,117) and the Working income tax benefit (see Schedule 6 of your return).

Registered plans

You’re entitled to make contributions to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) until the end of the year in which you turn 71-years-old.  Don’t forget to claim a deduction if you have made a contribution for 2014.

And if you’re eligible for the disability tax credit it is possible to make contributions to a registered disability savings plan (RDSP) to shelter income on those contributions from tax.

OAS clawbacks

Some seniors must pay back all or a portion of their Old Age Security (OAS) benefits if their income exceeds $70,954 (for 2013). If you’re in this boat, examine the types of income you’re earning to see if you can change the type of income earned to reduce the impact of these clawbacks going forward.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) also administers the Ontario Trillium Benefit (OTB) which is the combined payment of the Ontario energy and property tax credit, the Northern Ontario energy credit, and the Ontario sales tax credit. The annual OTB entitlement is usually divided by 12 and the payments issued monthly. Your 2015 OTB payments, which are based on your 2014 income tax and benefit return, will be issued on the 10th of each month, starting on in July 2015.

Exceptions:

Starting with your 2014 income tax and benefit return, you can elect to receive your 2015 OTB in one payment at the end of the benefit year. If your annual 2015 OTB entitlement is over $360 and you make this election, you will get it in one payment in June 2016 instead of receiving monthly payments from July 2015 to June 2016.

If your 2014 OTB annual entitlement is $360 or less, it will be issued in one lump-sum payment in the first payment month (usually July).

 

These items often changes and some situations may be applicable to you, while other’s may not.  Please speak to your accountant or tax professional to be sure they apply.  If you claim a credit you are not entitled to, the CRA will disallow the credit and charge you interest from the date the returns were due.

 

#inTAXicating