The Canada child benefit: how it helps your family and how to apply

The Canada child benefit (CCB) is a tax-free payment from the government to eligible families raising children under 18.

What is it?

The intent of the program is to assist families with the cost of raising their children. If you are the parent of a child with a severe and prolonged impairment,  the CCB can also include the child disability benefit and related provincial and territorial programs, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Who’s eligible?

In a two-parent or single-parent home, the person who is primarily in charge of caring for and raising the child is the person who should apply for the CCB. The government’s conditions for being this primary caregiver are:

  • You supervise the child’s daily activities and needs.
  • You make sure the child’s medical needs are met.
  • You arrange for child care when necessary.

To be eligible for the CCB, you have to meet all the following criteria, as stated by the Canada Revenue Agency:

  • You must live with the child, and the child must be under 18 years of age.
  • You must be primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of the child.
  • You must be a resident of Canada for tax purposes.
  • You or your spouse or common-law partner must be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, a protected person (often someone claiming refugee status), a temporary resident who has lived in Canada for the previous 18 months, and who has a valid permit in the 19th month, or an Indian within the meaning of the Indian Act.

In cases of divorced or separated parents who share custody of their child, the CRA will likely need you to prove that you’re sharing custody equally, meaning you’re both serving as the primary caregiver about 50 per cent of the time. This would result in both parents getting half of the CCB amount they would get if he/she were the sole caregiver. For more clarification on this matter, contact the CRA.

How much is the benefit for?

The CCB is calculated for each family based on how many children live with you, how old they are, your family net income, and whether your child is eligible for the child disability benefit. The basic CCB for July, 2016, to June, 2017, is $6,400 a year for each eligible child under the age of six, and $5,400 a year for each eligible child between the ages of six and 17. Depending on where you are in your family growth and financial planning, the money can be used for anything from saving for college, buying shoes and clothes or groceries. The CRA will reduce these amounts when your adjusted family net income is more than $30,000. Try the CRA’s online child and family benefits calculator to figure out what benefits you may be able to get.

How does it work?

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, to receive the CCB, you must file your tax return every year, even if you had no income, and your spouse or common-law partner must do the same. Only one parent can claim the benefit in a two-income household.

If you’re eligible, you’ll receive CCB benefits over 12 months, from July of one year to June of the following year. Every July, your benefit payments will be recalculated based on your information in the previous year’s income tax and benefit return. The payments can start as soon as the month after you become eligible, provided you are still eligible at the start of the current month.

How do I apply?

The CRA recommends applying for the CCB as soon as possible either after your child is born, a child begins living with you, or you or your spouse or common-law partner meet the eligibility criteria mentioned above.

You can apply for the CCB in three different ways:

  1. Through the Automated Benefits Application, easily done when you register the birth of your child. This is done through each participating province’s Vital Statistics Agency.
  2. If you already have signed up for an online account with the CRA, you can fill out the application through your CRA My Account.
  3. You can also fill out and sign Form RC66, Canada Child Benefits Application and mail it to your tax centre.
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