The high cost of living can be harsh in Ontario, especially for low-income to medium-income families.
Half of the 10 most expensive Canadian cities to rent a one-bedroom apartment are in Ontario, according to CTV News.
If you live in Ontario, you may be eligible for the Ontario Trillium Benefit (OTB). The OTB is a combined payment of three credits that help you pay for energy costs, sales tax, and property tax.
To receive the OTB, you need to be eligible for at least one of these three credits. Let’s go over in more detail what the OTB is, if you qualify, how much you can receive, and when you’ll get paid below.
What Is the Ontario Trillium Benefit?
Ontario Trillium Benefit is a tax credit benefit paid out to Ontario citizens if they qualify for at least one of the following tax credits:
1. Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit (OEPTC)
The OEPTC is designed to pay back partial costs associated with the sales tax that low- to moderate-income Ontarians pay on their energy and some of their property taxes.
You might be eligible to receive the payment for OEPTC if you qualify for just one of the two components (i.e., property tax or energy sales tax).
2. Northern Ontario Energy Credit (NOEC)
Ontario has one of the highest energy costs in the country, which directly affects the cost of living and hits low- to moderate-income families the hardest. Northern Ontarians face even higher energy costs. So, the government offsets this expense to an extent, using the Northern Ontario Energy Credit (NOEC).
3. Ontario Sales Tax Credit (OSTC)
Ontarians pay a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) of 13% on all their purchases. Like any other province, 5% of this tax goes to the federal government, whereas the remaining 8% stays with the state.
No matter the income status, everyone pays the HST on almost everything they purchase, so the Ontario government returns a bit of it to low- to moderate-income families via the OSTC.
Together, the three tax credits aim to pay back some of the costs associated with energy expenses, property tax, and sales tax that Ontarians pay. The OTB, a combination of three tax credits, is named after the three-leaf Trillium flower.
Are you Eligible for the Ontario Trillium Benefit?
Not every Ontarian qualifies for all three tax credits (and, therefore, the OTB). But you can claim the OTB if you are eligible for just one of the components.
OTB Qualification: Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit Component
The qualification criteria for OEPTC tax credit are as follows:
- You are 18 years or older.
- You lived in Ontario on the last day of the year that you are applying on (not the year you are applying for)
- You or someone else was responsible for paying the rent or property tax of your principal residence.
- You or someone paid for your accommodation costs in a care facility.
- You or someone else paid for the energy costs for your principal residence.
The benefit is also available for students, provided they live in the designated financial institute on the last day of the year that the benefit kicks in. The eligibility criteria for OEPTC are quite broad and apply to many Ontarians.
OTB Qualification: Northern Ontario Energy Credit Component
The NOEC is a location-specific benefit. You will be eligible for it if:
- You live in Algoma, Cochrane, Kenora, Manitoulin, Nipissing, Parry Sound, Rainy River, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, or Timiskaming.
- You are 18 years or older.
- You lived in Ontario on the last day of the year you are applying, not applying for.
- You or someone else was responsible for paying the rent or property tax of your principal residence.
- You or someone responsible paid for your accommodation costs in a care facility.
- You or someone else paid for the costs of electricity and heat in your principal residence.
Marital status doesn’t impact one’s eligibility for NOEC, although this benefit isn’t for people living as students in a designated educational institution.
OTB Qualification: Ontario Sales Tax Credit Component
The eligibility requirements for OSTC are a bit vague. Every 19-year-old (or older) citizen is eligible, and the tax credit benefit is paid for each adult and child in the family. The main factor in determining eligibility for Ontario Sales Tax Credit is income.
For 2022, you would have received full benefits if your income is:
- $26,535 or under as a single individual, or
- $33,169 if you are a single parent, married, or living in a common-law relationship.
The tax credit amount you qualify for is reduced by 4% for incomes above this threshold.
Note that you do not need to apply for the OSTC. The CRA uses your income tax return to determine whether you will receive the OSTC.
Application and Payment Process
How to Apply
To apply for the Ontario Trillium Benefit (OTB), you must file your tax return every year. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will use the information from your tax return to determine if you are eligible for the OTB.
If you are eligible, you will automatically receive the benefit payments. You can also apply for the OTB retroactively for up to three years by filing a T1 adjustment request with the CRA.
There are two ways to receive your OTB payments: direct deposit or by mail. If you sign up for direct deposit, your payment will be deposited directly into your bank account.
This is the fastest and most secure way to receive your payment. To sign up for direct deposit, you can use the CRA’s My Account service or call the CRA’s automated phone service.
Payment Dates for OTB
The OTB is paid monthly, usually on the 10th of each month. If the 10th falls on a weekend or holiday, your payment will be sent on the next business day. You can check the payment dates for the current year on the CRA’s website.
It’s important to note that the OTB includes three different credits: the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit (OEPTC), the Northern Ontario Energy Credit (NOEC), and the Ontario Sales Tax Credit (OSTC).
Here are the Ontario Trillium Benefit payment dates for 2023:
- January 10, 2023
- February 10, 2023
- March 10, 2023
- April 6, 2023
- May 10, 2023
- June 9, 2023
- July 10, 2023
- August 10, 2023
- September 8, 2023
- October 10, 2023
- November 10, 2023
- December 8, 2023
How Is Ontario Trillium Benefit Calculated?
You can easily calculate the OTB you might be eligible for using this online calculator.
Each component of OTB is calculated differently.
For Ontario Property and Energy Tax Credit, the maximum amounts you can get based on the year 2021-2022 are:
- $1,095 for Ontarians aged between 18 and 64
- $1,247 for Ontarians above the age of 65
- $243 for reserve or long-term care residents
- $25 for time spent living in a designated educational institution
Based on different scenarios that I ran on the calculator, the two most important variables used to calculate the OPETC amount are income and the amount you pay towards rent or property tax. The lower the income or the higher the rent or property tax you pay, the higher your OPETC will be.
For Northern Ontario Energy Credit, you can get a maximum of:
- $158 if you are single
- $243 if you are married or living with a common-law partner
The amount you can get is calculated mainly based on your income. You get flat-out $158 for an income somewhere around $42,000 or less (based on different calculated scenarios). After that, you will start losing the NOEC amount as your income grows. The benchmark is higher for families.
The Ontario Sales Tax Credit is calculated based on your individual and family income. You get the maximum amount of $324 for each family member, provided your net adjusted income is below these thresholds:
- $24,916 if you are single with no children
- $31,144 if you are a single parent, married, or living with a common-law partner
How Much OTB Can You Get?
The total amount you can get in place of OTB depends on various factors, but most importantly, on these five considerations:
- Individual family income
- Marital status and children
- Whether or not you have rented property or pay property taxes and the amount you paid
- Region of residence
Northern Ontarian families with low income to moderate income will most likely be eligible for the maximum OTB amount you can get. It might be around $1,654 and more if you are married with kids.
What Is the Income Limit for Ontario Trillium Benefit?
There isn’t a clearly defined low-income threshold for the OTB. Since the benefit is made up of three tax credits, we could use the low-income threshold limit for that, but only the Ontario Sales Tax Credit has a clearly defined low-income threshold.
For the other two tax credits, the situation is a bit different. It’s safe to assume that an individual who is at or below the income limits defined for OSTC would be considered to have a low income for OTB.
However, that alone is not the deciding factor. The most sizeable component of the OTB, the OEPTC, is not just calculated based on your family income but what you pay towards your rent or property tax.
Is My OTB Payment Taxable?
Generally speaking, the CRA requires Canadian taxpayers to report all of their income on their annual tax returns. However, your OTB benefit payments are not taxable income, and therefore do not have to be reported on your taxes.
Tax-free money is always a good thing, and you should use it wisely. If you have any OTB money leftover after paying for your essentials, I recommend investing it, so that you can start putting your money to work for you.
If you’re new to investing, be sure to check out my beginner’s guide to investing first, though.
If you just started receiving OTB payments and believe that you were eligible during previous years, then you can request a reassessment from the CRA.
This often happens to individuals who failed to complete their tax returns from previous years or who completed them incorrectly. Even the best accountants can make errors that could affect your eligibility for the OTB benefit.
If your case is approved, then you can receive up to three years worth of OTB back pay for previous years.
The dates listed above are the CRA’s official payment dates for OTB beneficiaries. However, you probably won’t receive your OTB payment on the exact date that it’s issued by the CRA.
It may take up to 10 business days for your payment to process and be deposited into your account. If you’re receiving a mailed cheque, then it may take up to two weeks to receive your payment in the mail.
If it’s been over 10 business days since your OTB payment was issued and you still haven’t received it, then I recommend contacting a CRA agent to ensure that your payment was processed correctly.
How to Claim Ontario Trillium Benefit?
You can claim the Ontario Trillium Benefit by claiming the subsequent tax credits on your returns.
If you are eligible for the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit, you can claim it for the subsequent year (e.g., you can claim the tax credit for 2022 on your 2021 returns). It’s the same for the Northern Ontario Energy Credit. If you are eligible for both these tax credits, you can claim them by filling out the 5006-TG ON-BEN application.
You cannot apply for or claim the Ontario Sales Tax Credit. If you are eligible, the government will release the payment automatically based on the taxes you filed in the previous years.
Can You and Your Spouse Both Claim OTB?
The OTB payment is issued to only one of any couple, so if you or your spouse has already claimed OTB for the family, you don’t need to.
How and When Ontario Trillium Benefit Is Paid?
The payment frequency of the Ontario Trillium Benefit is based upon the amount you qualify for. If you qualify for $360 or more, you can choose the payment to be issued in either monthly installments or one lump-sum payment at the end of the period you are applying for.
This is one of the reasons why you might consider monthly payments instead. With monthly payments, you no longer have to wait for an entire year to receive your OTB payment.
If the amount is less than $360, then you will get one lump-sum payment at the beginning of the period you are applying for.
The payments are mostly issued on the 10th day of each month. However, based on certain exceptions, you might receive a payment on the 8th or 9th day of a month.
There is a payment amount threshold as well. If you qualify for an OTB amount between $2 and $10, you will be given $10 flat out. If you qualify for less than $2, you won’t get an OTB payment.
Ontario Trillium Benefit and Education
If you are a student in Ontario, you may be eligible for the OTB. You can use the OTB to help cover the costs of your education, including tuition fees, textbooks, and transportation.
If you are attending a university or college, you also may be eligible for the Ontario Tuition Grant, which provides up to $1,680 per year to help cover tuition fees. The grant is available to full-time and part-time students, and you do not need to apply separately for it.
Healthcare and the Ontario Trillium Benefit
One way the OTB can help with healthcare costs is through the Trillium Drug Program (TDP). The TDP is intended for low- to moderate-income Ontario residents who have high prescription drug costs in relation to their net household income.
The program provides coverage for prescription drug products (in the same manner as the Ontario Drug Benefit program) that are listed on the Formulary.
To be eligible for the TDP, you must meet certain criteria, including having high prescription drug costs in relation to your net household income and not having coverage for prescription drugs through a private insurance plan.
You must also be a resident of Ontario with a valid Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card and have a household income below a certain threshold.
Ontario Trillium Benefit – Other Important Facts
There are a few other things you need to know:
- If you are receiving OTB benefits for OEPTC and NOEC, your eligibility will change if your address changes. It’s triggered based on where you live on the first of each month.
- If you qualify for monthly payments but choose to get a lump-sum payment, you can change your mind midway through the year. You can contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to start releasing your OTB payments monthly. The department will first clear the accumulated payment you would have gotten till that month (if you were receiving monthly payments) then start issuing monthly payments.
- OTB is tax-free income.
If you live in Ontario and your income can be categorized as low to moderate, then it would be a good idea to look into Ontario Trillium Benefit.
You might not qualify for the maximum benefit, but even a small monthly sum can help you with some of your expenses. And since the benefit is tax-free, it won’t add to your financial obligation towards the CRA.