Eligibility for the Tuition Credit

Volume No. 06-13

“Do you need a physical presence to be eligible for the tuition credit?.”

Paragraph 118.5(1)(b) states that where an individual was during the year a student in full-time attendance at a university outside of Canada in a course leading to a degree…,he is eligible for the tuition credit.

The issue of whether an individual is in “full-time attendance” has become unclear due to the availability of Internet university courses.  Linda Valente (2006 TCC 145) enrolled at Open University in England in a program leading to a Masters of Science.This program was not available in Canada and the online format suited her because she was raising a young family in Vancouver and she did not have to move. She was required to buy books and software materials as outlined in the course requirements. She was also required to submit assignments. There were no lectures as the demonstrations and other visual presentations were provided in CD format. Students were given access to a “chat-room” to discuss the various issues and correspond with tutors. The exams were supervised at the University of British Columbia.

There have been many cases dealing with the term “full-time.” This was not in dispute for this appeal. The concern was whether “attendance” included a distance education program. Moreover, did full-time attendance require physical presence at a university campus?

The Tax Court judge decided that the expression “full-time attendance” is ambiguous and should be interpreted liberally to include programs that require the “attention” of the student on a full-time basis. The taxpayer won the case.

This case acknowledges the fact that full-time attendance at a foreign university no longer requires the individual to be physically present.


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