Is it necessary to submit tax returns in Canada if no employment was held last year?

Is it necessary to submit tax returns in Canada if no employment was held last year?

Completing tax returns can often appear daunting, particularly when there’s uncertainty about the obligation to file, especially if one was not employed during the tax year. In Canada, the tax legislation stipulates that individuals must declare their income and submit tax returns annually, regardless of whether they earned income (Canada Revenue Agency [CRA], n.d.). Consequently, the general rule is that individuals must submit their tax returns in Canada even if they did not work the preceding year. However, there are certain exemptions and complexities to consider. 


Reasons for Submitting Tax Returns Despite Unemployment

Tax Credits and Benefits: Filing tax returns, even without any income, ensures eligibility for specific tax credits and benefits. For instance, income-tested benefits such as the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) credit and the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) utilize tax returns to determine eligibility (CRA, n.d.).

RRSP Contribution Room: Submitting tax returns allows the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to monitor an individual’s Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contribution room. Even if no employment was held the previous year, there may be accumulated contribution room that can be carried forward to subsequent years (CRA, n.d.).

Verification of Income for Loans or Grants: Tax returns serve as evidence of income for various purposes, such as applying for loans, mortgages, or government grants, even if there was no income during the tax year (CRA, n.d.).


Exceptions and Considerations

Low-Income Individuals: Individuals with very low-income levels and ineligible for any tax credits or benefits may not be obligated to file tax returns. However, it is advisable to verify filing obligations with the CRA or a tax professional (CRA, n.d.).

Students and Dependents: Even without employment, students or dependents may have received scholarships, grants, or other forms of income that require declaration on tax returns. Moreover, filing tax returns permits the carry-forward of tuition and education credits to future years (CRA, n.d.).

Future Financial Planning: Filing tax returns, despite no income, can be advantageous for future financial planning. It establishes a tax history with the CRA, which may prove beneficial if financial circumstances change (CRA, n.d.).


Methods for Submitting Tax Returns with No Income

Online Filing: The CRA offers online tools and software for electronic tax filing, including for individuals with no income. This process is relatively straightforward and can be completed remotely (CRA, n.d.).

Paper Filing: Alternatively, individuals can opt for paper filing by obtaining the necessary forms from the CRA website or through mail request. Accuracy in completing forms is essential, ensuring declaration of any income received during the tax year (CRA, n.d.).

Seeking Guidance: For individuals uncertain about the process or with specific tax-related inquiries, seeking assistance from a tax professional or accountant is advisable. They can offer tailored guidance based on individual circumstances.



In Canada, the obligation to submit tax returns extends beyond income earned through employment. Even in the absence of employment the previous year, filing tax returns remains crucial for various reasons, including eligibility for tax credits and benefits, tracking RRSP contribution room, and providing proof of income for other purposes. While exemptions exist for low-income individuals, it is generally recommended to file tax returns to adhere to tax regulations and plan for future financial endeavors. Seeking advice from tax professionals can provide clarity and assurance.



Canada Revenue Agency. (n.d.). Do you have to file a return? Retrieved from


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