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Understanding How Your Income Tax is Calculated: A Financial Literacy Guide

Paying income tax is a fundamental aspect of civic responsibility, yet many people find the process complex and confusing. This blog aims to break down how your income tax is calculated in simple terms, making it easier to understand and manage your finances effectively.

Step 1: Determining Your Total Income

The first step in calculating your income tax is determining your total income, which includes all sources of income such as:

  • Employment income
  • Business income
  • Investment income
  • Rental income

Your total income is reported on line 15000 of your tax return.

Step 2: Calculating Your Net Income

Next, you need to calculate your net income by subtracting specific deductions from your total income. These deductions can include:

  • RRSP contributions
  • Union or professional dues
  • Child care expenses

Your net income is reported on line 23600 of your tax return. This figure is crucial because it determines your eligibility for various federal and provincial/territorial tax credits and benefits.

Step 3: Determining Your Taxable Income

To find your taxable income, you further reduce your net income by additional deductions such as:

  • Carrying charges and interest expenses
  • Losses from other years

The resulting amount is your taxable income, reported on line 26000 of your tax return. This is the amount the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) uses to calculate how much tax you owe.

Step 4: Calculating Federal Tax Owed

Your taxable income is then multiplied by the applicable federal tax bracket rates to determine the federal tax owed. Canada has a progressive tax system, which means different portions of your income are taxed at different rates. For example:

  • 15% on the first $53,359 of taxable income
  • 5% on the next $53,359, and so on

This calculation gives you the federal tax amount before credits are applied.

Step 5: Applying Non-Refundable Tax Credits

You can reduce your federal tax owed by applying non-refundable tax credits. Common non-refundable tax credits include:

  • Basic personal amount
  • Age amount
  • Pension income amount

These credits are subtracted from the federal tax owed, but they cannot result in a refund if they exceed the tax amount. The remaining tax after these credits is the amount you owe federally.

Step 6: Adding Provincial or Territorial Tax

In addition to federal tax, you also owe provincial or territorial tax based on your province or territory of residence. This tax is calculated on provincial forms included in your tax package. Each province has its own tax rates and brackets. Quebec residents file a separate provincial tax return.

Step 7: Total Payable

The sum of your federal tax and provincial/territorial tax gives you the total payable amount, reported on line 43500 of your tax return.

Step 8: Determining Your Final Tax Position

In the final step, your total payable amount is reduced by any:

  • Income tax deducted at source (e.g., from your paycheck)
  • Refundable tax credits (e.g., GST/HST credit)

The result is either:

  • A refund (line 48400)
  • A balance owing (line 48500)
  • A nil balance, meaning you have no further amount to pay or receive


Understanding how your income tax is calculated is essential for effective financial management. By following these steps, you can better understand your tax obligations and ensure that you are paying the correct amount. Remember, staying informed and organized can help you make the most of your finances and avoid unnecessary penalties.

For more detailed information and personalized advice, feel free to reach out to us at Shajani CPA. We are here to guide you through your tax responsibilities and help you achieve your financial ambitions.


This information is for discussion purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. There is no guarantee or warrant of information on this site and it should be noted that rules and laws change regularly. You should consult a professional before considering implementing or taking any action based on information on this site. Call our team for a consultation before taking any action. ©2024 Shajani CPA.

Shajani CPA is a CPA Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer firm and provides Accountant, Bookkeeping, Tax Advice and Tax Planning service.

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Nizam Shajani, Partner, LLM, CPA, CA, TEP, MBA

I enjoy formulating plans that help my clients meet their objectives. It's this sense of pride in service that facilitates client success which forms the culture of Shajani CPA.

Shajani Professional Accountants has offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. We’re here to support you in all of your personal and business tax and other accounting needs.