Tax return changes when you go from single to common-law

December 17, 2014

Moving in with your romantic partner? Find out what changes you need to make on your tax return when you stop ticking “single” and start ticking “living in common-law.”

Tax return changes when you go from single to common-law

There are benefits and drawbacks to filing your tax return as a person living in common-law.

  • What exactly does living in common-law mean?

If by December 31st you've lived with your loved one for 12 consecutive months, you are considered to be living in common-law and will need to check off that box on your tax return the following spring.

  • This includes entering your partner’s name and social insurance number on your return, as well as declaring their net income.

GST credit

The GST credit applies only to individuals and families with low incomes.

  • It’s meant to help offset the cost of GST or HST that they pay. When you live in common-law, both partners’ incomes are combined.
  • Often, this makes you ineligible for the credit.
  • It’s still possible to be eligible for it your combined incomes are low enough, but be forewarned that only one of the two partners will be able to claim the credit.

Public transit amounts, charitable amounts and medical expenses

The amounts each of you declares for public transit, charitable donations and medical expenses can be combined and transferred to one partner or the other.

  • This can be beneficial as some credits become greater after reaching certain thresholds.
  • If you’re not sure what these amounts are, check in the guide or ask your accountant.

Spousal amount

Every person has a basic tax-free amount, but if your partner’s income is less than that, you’ll be able to claim the leftover amount and potentially double your tax-free credit if your spouse has no income at all.


There are tax benefits for common-law partners with children.

  • These are usually based on your income level.
  • Look into the Canada Child Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit, which you may be eligible for depending on your financial situation.

Other things to consider

Whether you’re single, living in common-law or married, you must file your taxes individually.

  • If your partner doesn’t file their taxes right away, you’ll still need to enter basic information about their income such as their net income for the year.
  • Don’t let your tardy partner keep you from filing yours on time.

Also, from a tax perspective, living in common-law is like being married. So, if you do get hitched,  your relationship status will not complicate your tax return.

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