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Your Comprehensive Guide to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) and How It Affects Your Family

3 min read

child tax benefits guide

Written By

Clay Shiffman

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Ever heard of the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) but found yourself scratching your head about what it really is or how it can help your family? You’re not alone. Think of the CCB as a monthly boost from the government to help families with the cost of raising kids. It’s like receiving a helpful financial hug each month, ensuring your little ones have what they need to grow up happy and healthy.

But, like most things related to money, the details can get a bit tricky. How do you know if you qualify? What do you need to do to apply? And once you’re getting it, how can you ensure you’re using it in the best way possible for your family?

Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find our comprehensive guide to all things CCB. We’ll break down the jargon into easy-to-understand information, guide you through the application process, and even share some tips on making the most of this benefit.

What is the Canada Child Benefit?

Imagine every month, the government sends you money just because you have kids. That’s the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), or the Canada Child Tax Benefit, in a nutshell. It’s a program designed to help families by providing them with a monthly payment to cover some of the costs of raising children. Whether it’s for food, clothes, or saving for their education, this money is there to make your life a bit easier.

Why does this program exist? The main goal is to help reduce financial pressure on parents and guardians across Canada. It’s like the Canadian government’s way of saying, “We’ve got your back,” ensuring every child has a great start in life. The extra money can help with everything from buying school supplies to paying for those never-ending growth spurts in clothes and shoes to assisting with therising costs of childcare in Canada. Families all over the country have found that the CCB makes a big difference in their monthly budget, helping them to breathe a little easier.

Understanding who qualifies for the Canada Child Benefit

Parents can apply for the CCB once their child is born, a child starts to live with then, they begin a new shared custody arrangement, or when they meet the qualifications. Qualifying parents must meet the following:

  • You must be the main person caring for the child(ren).

  • You have to live in Canada.

  • At least one parent or guardian must be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, a protected person, or a temporary resident who’s been living in Canada for the past 18 months.

What if you have shared custody of a child?

Shared custody means a child spends some time living with you and some time living with someone else, like the other parent, at a different home. This usually means the child’s time is split fairly evenly between the two homes.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) states that shared custody is when a child spends about 40% to 60% of their time with each parent. For example, the child might stay with you for one week and then with the other parent for the next week, or they might be with you for 4 days and the other parent for 3 days in a week.

In situations like this, both you and the other person are considered the main caregivers when the child is living with you. So, both parents can apply, and you will receive half of the money you would have gotten if the child lived with you full-time.

How your family composition affects your Canada Child Benefit

The amount of money you get from this benefit can change based on a few things. Think of it as a helpful boost that adjusts to your family’s unique situation, ensuring the help goes where it’s needed most. Here are the main things that can affect your CCB:

How many kids you have

More kids usually mean more money because, well, more kids = more expenses.

The ages of your kids

Having children under the age of six means receiving a bit more money because diapers and daycare can be pricey.

Your family’s income

This includes your income plus the income of your spouse or common-law partner. If alone or combined, your family makes less money, you might get more from the CCB because the idea is to help eligible families who need it the most.

The amount you receive depends on your adjusted family net income on your annual income tax return. There’s no fixed amount of money for each child every month or year; instead, how much you get can vary. Every July, the government reassesses things again to decide how much money you’ll get for the year. The CCB may also include an additional amount for the child disability benefit if your child qualifies.

Because it’s based on your family’s net income, the more income you earn, the smaller the benefit amount you receive. This means it’s very beneficial for low-income families. But, even if you think you make too much money to get the CCB, you should still apply, as the rules about how much money you can make and still qualify for CCB have changed a lot since it started.

Applying for the Canada Child Benefit

Applying for the CCB is a straightforward process. But before you apply, here’s what items need to make sure you have ready:

  • Your and your child’s social insurance numbers (SINs).

  • Your child’s birth certificate or adoption papers.

  • Your family’s tax information.

Now that we’ve covered what you need to have on hand, here’s how you can apply for the CCB step by step:

1. Gather your documents

As we said, before you start, ensure you have everything you need. This includes your and your child’s SINs, your child’s birth certificate or adoption papers, and your latest tax return.

2. Fill out the application

You can find the online Canada child benefits application form under “Apply for child benefits” in My Account on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website. The form asks for information about you, your child, and your family’s income. You can also apply by mailing in Form RC66, Canada Child Benefits Application.

3. Submit your application

You can submit your application online through the CRA website or by mailing it in. Online is faster, but both ways work.

After you submit your application, the CRA will review it. They’ll check to make sure you qualify for the CCB based on your information. If your application is approved, you’ll start getting CCB payments. Your tax-free monthly payment is usually made directly to your bank account via direct deposit each month. It can take about eight weeks from when you apply to when you receive your first payment.

Calculating your Canada Child Benefit amount

The amount of money you get from the CCB depends on how much money your family made last year. Every year, from July to the next June, the payments you get are based on your income from the year before. How much money you get from the CCB is figured out by looking at a few things:

  • How many children you can get the benefit for, and how old they are.

  • Your adjusted family net income for the previous year.

  • Whether your child can get the disability tax credit because of a disability.

Every year, the CRA will send you a letter to let you know how much you’ll be getting. To keep getting the CCB, both you and your spouse or common-law partner need to fill out and send in your tax forms every year, even if you didn’t earn an income that year.

What is the child disability benefit?

The child disability benefit (CDB) is extra money given each month through the CCB to help families who take care of children with long-term disabilities, either physical or mental. If your child is under 18 and qualifies for the disability tax credit (DTC), you can get the CDB.

The maximum annual benefit for Canada Child Benefit

The maximum benefit for the CCB for July 2023 to June 2024 is calculated for families with an adjusted family net income of $34,863 or less as follows.

  • $7,437 per year ($619.75 per month) for each eligible child under the age of 6.

  • $6,275 per year ($522.91 per month) for each eligible child aged 6 to 17.

How changes in your circumstances can affect your Canada Child Benefit

Life is full of changes, and some of these changes can affect how much money you get from the CCB. Keeping your information updated helps make sure you’re getting the right amount of money to help with raising your kids. It’s all about making sure the support matches your family’s needs. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your CCB up to date.

When your income changes

The CCB is like a helping hand from the government that adjusts to how much your family earns. If you start making more money, this hand doesn’t reach out as much because it thinks you need less help. But if you make less money, it reaches out more, offering extra support because it sees you might need more help.

Marriage and separation

If you get married, the government wants to know about you and your spouse’s total income to figure out your CCB. On the other hand, if you separate, you’d want to tell the government to look at just your income, which could change the amount of CCB you get.

Your family size changes

Adding a new member to your family, like having a baby, usually means you’ll get more CCB money. But if one of your kids grows up and moves out or turns 18, you might get less because there’s one less person to take care of.

How to report changes

Telling the CRA about these changes is really important. If your situation changes and you don’t report it, you might end up getting too much and owing it back or not enough money. Reporting lets the government know exactly how to help you. You can report changes:

  • Online: fast and easy, just log into your CRA account.

  • By phone: if you like talking to someone, you can call the CRA.

  • By mail: some people prefer sending documents; you can do this too.

Understanding Taxes and the Canada Child Benefit

The CCB is a bit of help from the government to make raising children a little easier on your wallet. But when it comes to taxes, how does the CCB fit in? Here’s what you need to know:

The CCB is tax-free

First off, the good news is that you don’t have to pay any taxes on the CCB money you receive. That means every dollar you get from the CCB is yours to use for your family without worrying about giving a portion of it back to the government in taxes.

Reporting your CCB on your tax return

Even though you don’t pay taxes on CCB payments, the amount you receive is based on your tax information. Each year, you and, if applicable, your spouse or common-law partner need to file a tax return. This helps the CRA figure out how much money your family should get for the CCB. If you don’t file your taxes, you might miss out on receiving your benefit.

Why it matters

Filing your taxes and reporting your income accurately is crucial because it determines how much CCB you get. The CRA uses the adjusted family net income information from your tax return to decide how much help your family needs. Lower-income families receive more CCB because the program is designed to give more support to those who need it most.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Canada Child Benefit

Using your Canada Child Benefit wisely can help improve your family’s financial health and ensure your kids have what they need as they grow. It’s all about planning and making smart choices with the extra support you get. If you’re receiving the CCB, here are some strategies to make the most out of this financial support:

1. Budget wisely

Use your CCB payment to budget for important things your kids need, like food, clothes, and school supplies. Making a monthly budget that counts the CCB money can help you figure out how to spend it best so your kids have what they need without cutting into other family costs.

2. Save for education

One great idea is to put some of your CCB money into a savings account for your child’s future education. This could be through a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). This not only helps in saving for their post-secondary education but also allows you to take advantage of government grants that match a percentage of your contributions, maximizing the savings for your child’s future.

3. Help with day-to-day expenses

Use the CCB to ease daily expenses, like buying food or clothes or paying for your kids’ hobbies and activities, like art classes or sports. This can help relieve some financial pressure and ensure your children have what they need every day.

4. Create an emergency fund

It’s always a good idea to have some money saved up for unexpected situations, like if your car breaks down or you need home repairs. Putting some CCB money into an emergency fund can give you peace of mind.

5. Pay off debt

If your family is dealing with high-interest debt, consider using some of the CCB to pay it down. Less debt means less stress and more money available for your family’s needs and long-term goals.

6. Plan for special occasions or big purchases

Setting aside a portion of the CCB for holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions can help you plan these events without stressing about the costs. This way, you can create memorable experiences or make bigger purchases for your family without dipping into other savings.

7. Review Your Benefit Regularly

Ensure you’re receiving the correct amount of CCB by reviewing your family income and situation annually. If there have been changes in your income, family size, or marital status, updating your information with the CRA can ensure you receive the right amount for your family.

Other child benefits in Canada

In addition to the CCB, Canadian families may be eligible for other child-related benefits, depending on their circumstances, their province or territory of residence, and specific needs. Here are a few:

Child disability benefit (CDB)

A tax-free benefit for families caring for a child under 18 with a severe and prolonged physical or mental impairment. It’s paid monthly to eligible families and is supplemental to the CCB for those who qualify.

Provincial and territorial child benefits

Canada’s provinces and territories offer their own child benefits and programs to support families further, such as the Alberta Child and Family Benefit or the Ontario Child Benefit. These can include top-ups to the CCB, childcare subsidies, and other financial assistance programs to reduce poverty and support children’s welfare. The names and specifics of these benefits vary by location.

Canada Learning Bond (CLB)

Available for children from low-income families, the CLB is designed to help parents start saving for their child’s education after high school. It provides an initial deposit and additional contributions to a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) without the need for parents to contribute their own money.

FAQs for Canada Child Benefit (CCB)

Do I need to reapply for CCB every year?

You don’t need to reapply every year if you’ve already been receiving the CCB, but you do need to file your taxes annually so the CRA can calculate your payment based on your current income.

What if I think my payment is wrong?

If you believe there’s been a mistake with your CCB payment, you’ll first want to check the details on your latest notice of assessment from the CRA to understand how your payment was calculated. If you still think there’s a mistake, you can contact the CRA directly to discuss your case. Be ready with your personal information, your child’s information, and details about your income so they can help you.

Can I get CCB if I’m not a Canadian citizen?

Yes, you don’t have to be a Canadian citizen to receive the CCB. However, you do need to meet certain residency requirements. You or your spouse or common-law partner must be a permanent resident, protected person, or temporary resident who has lived in Canada for the past 18 months and has a valid permit for the 19th month.

How does my marital status affect my CCB?

Your marital status can change how much CCB you get because it’s based on your family income. If you get married or start living with a partner, you’ll need to report both of your incomes to figure out your CCB amount. If you separate or divorce, you’ll report just your income after a certain period, which could change your CCB or allow you to qualify if you didn’t before.

Does the Canada child benefit end at 18?

Yes, the CCB stops the month after your child turns 18. The benefit is only for kids under 18.

How much is child benefit in Canada per month?

The amount varies depending on your family income, how many kids you have, and their ages. For current information on how much you could receive for the CCB, visit the government of Canada’s website and search for Canada Child Benefit.

Does everyone qualify for Canada Child Benefit?

Not everyone qualifies for the Canada Child Benefit. It’s mainly for families with children under 18. To qualify, you must be the main person caring for the child and living with them in Canada. Also, you or your spouse or partner must be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, a protected person, or a temporary resident who has lived in Canada for the past 18 months with a valid permit. The amount of money you can get also depends on how much your family earns.

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