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Federal policy gives students tax breaks

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Two things in life are certain: death and taxes. And while we're all going to die, students can look forward to some breaks come tax time.

The federal government has announced several tax exemptions for things students use daily. Textbooks, bus passes and interest on student loans are all deductible this year.

"The biggest change is that scholarships are no longer taxable," said head coordinator for the Students' Union volunteer tax program Nikki Boschee. "Before the change, only the first $3,000 was tax-free. This means that students receiving scholarships will be saving approximately $150 federally and $100 provincially for every $1,000 worth of scholarships that were previously taxed."

Textbooks and bus passes will also lighten students' tax loads.

"There is now a federal credit for textbooks, providing students with approximately $500 in non-refundable credits to offset the taxes they owe," explained Boschee.

In addition, bus passes from the months of July to December can be claimed, but only if you have the receipts for purchasing them. For most student-based claims, simply having the T2202A form will suffice. Students can access them through my.ucalgary.ca.

Since many find filing taxes a confusing chore, the volunteer tax program will once again run in the months leading up to the deadline, providing free tax help for the university community.

"Basically, it's a partnership between the SU, the community income tax program and the Canadian Revenue Agency," said SU volunteer services manager Sue Wilmot. "The volunteers are all U of C undergraduates who have been trained by the CRA."

Any member of the university community who makes less than $35,000 annually is encouraged to use the free service. The program begins Thur., Mar. 1 and users will have their completed tax returns by Wed., Apr. 11.

While most applaud the federal government's move, others want to see it taken further.

"I'm happy for any money that goes back in students' pockets," said SU vice-president external Julie Labonte. "I admit they're not as much as we hoped for. We have to keep fighting for more."

To use the volunteer tax program, drop off your tax forms in MacEwan Student Centre 202 from Mar. 1 to Mar. 23.

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