COLUMN: Tax time illustrates cuts at CRA

Evaporation of services may leave some Canadians adrift at tax time

By Murray Rankin, guest columnist

Ottawa is in the midst of a long, slow thaw from a cold winter, but Victoria has all the telltale signs of spring.

The change in seasons is visible everywhere, with the requisite umbrellas and budding trees. Usually at this time of year we also receive paper tax packages in the mail, but this year, without warning, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced it will no longer be mailing the T1 general tax package.

Service cuts and sweeping changes at the CRA have left Canadians confused about how to access the basic information they need to file their taxes.

The Telefile service used by hundreds of thousands of Canadians was cancelled earlier this year and changes to NETFILE have triggered major privacy concerns.

Payment and enquiry counter services are closing, face-to-face outreach sessions have been discontinued and every service counter in Canada is set to close by Oct. 1.

The CRA is effectively closing its doors to the public; meanwhile, seniors, persons living with disabilities and persons living in remote or rural areas are concerned about access to basic tax forms and other information.

In the government’s 2013-2014 estimates, the CRA is projected to be cut by approximately $100 million. This is on top of last year’s Economic Action Plan, under which more than 3,000 full-time equivalent jobs have or will be cut from the agency over a three-year roll out period.

As official opposition critic for national revenue, I have opposed the CRA service cuts and been seeking answers to constituents’ questions to ensure you have the information you need to file your taxes with ease and on time.

The federal privacy commissioner has sought further information from the CRA and is investigating the new NETFILE requirements to use a social insurance number and a birth date to file online.

Previously, NETFILE required a personal code and pin number to file tax returns.

The New Democratic Party’s privacy and National Revenue critics have been in contact with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner regarding this matter and are awaiting the results of that investigation.

Canadians not using the NETFILE option have been encouraged to download tax forms from the CRA website or pick up tax packages at local Canada Post or Service Canada locations.

Canadians are entitled to receive tax documents by mail, but the CRA will only send a package to those who specifically request it. If you would like a tax package mailed, call 1-800-959-7383 (French) or 1-800-959-8281 (English) as soon as possible.

To assist you, my community office has compiled a list of tax clinics in Victoria where volunteers are available to help you complete your taxes. Please visit murrayrankin.ca for more information.

Please contact my office at 250-363-3600 should you have any further questions or concerns about the CRA or other federal government agencies.

Murray Rankin is the Official Opposition Critic for National Revenue and the NDP Member of Parliament for Victoria.

Just Posted

More Peninsula councillors declare their 2018 intentions

Carl Jensen and Chris Graham, both of Central Saanich, have said they will run again.

Woodwynn Farms to be shut down and sold

The rehabilitation program at Woodwynn Farms is being shut down. According to… Continue reading

Final key components for Johnson Street Bridge installed this weekend in Victoria

Dynamic Beast crane barge arrives back in town on Friday

Wind warning in effect for Greater Victoria

Strong winds could reach up to 80 km/hr along coastal areas

Heavy snowfall closes Mount Washington for the day

Road to ski resort deemed unsafe, “high avalanche danger”

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Butchart Gardens is hiring now and paying more

Wages start at $15, job fair Feb. 20

Philadelphia Eagles headed to Super Bowl

After routing the Minnesota Vikings 38-7, they will face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

Cash still needed for Stelly’s Cross Path

MLA Olsen wants more specifics first

VIDEO: Dramatic video shows return of rescued B.C. snowboarders

Two snowboarders were rescued near Rossland, B.C. on Sunday after being lost overnight.

Tom Brady leads Patriots back to Super Bowl, top Jaguars 24-20

New England to face winner of Sunday night’s game between Minnesota and Philadelphia on Feb. 4

Vessel washed ashore in Campbell River during last night’s storm

A vessel appears to have gotten loose and washed to shore on… Continue reading

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Most Read