Taxes shouldn’t be any harder to file

News from the House

Algoma Manitoulin Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes
Algoma Manitoulin Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes

Tax season is upon us and for people who aren’t connected to the internet or comfortable using it as a method of filing their forms the process has become increasingly difficult.  Even getting paper forms has become more of a chore.  This year, Revenue Canada only sent a small number of forms to outlets that people usually count on to provide them.  The result was predictable and the paper copies were snapped up from places like Service Canada and the Post office on the same day they arrived.

While it is understandable that Revenue Canada would prefer to streamline their approach to processing our taxes, the fact remains that their desire doesn’t match the circumstances of a great many Canadians.  This is especially true in rural and northern communities where the demand for paper forms will be greater than it might be in urban centres.  This is due, in part, to a larger elderly population who are less comfortable with online filing and also for technical reasons, such as the connectivity gap in some of these regions. 

Despite attempts to explain these facts to the Minister in charge, Revenue Canada remains focussed on e-filing and the outcomes that flow from that might not be fair.  For example, those who are able to do their taxes online get the quickest refund.  That means traditional filers are waiting longer for a refund only because of the method they use to comply with this mandatory process.  This is not just because electronic forms are easier to deal with, but also because they are processed before the paper forms.  This amounts to a penalty which affects many people who could use their refund the most and now find themselves at the end of the line.

There comes a point at which government departments chasing efficiencies outstrips the abilities and desires of the population they serve.  Revenue Canada seems to have reached that point.  There is no denying that electronic filing allows the department to process claims more efficiently.  The problem is they are trying to encourage more people to do this by cutting off the supply of forms which only creates problems for people who do not have computer access or may never feel comfortable trusting a computer for the job.  At the end of the day, they are forcing people to hunt down forms that until recently, were readily available and creating undue stress in a process that many people find stressful enough to begin with.

Even with these new challenges, the tax season has not changed. That means most Canadians are expected to file their taxes by April 30th. This date is especially important if someone has to pay money.  If someone exceeds this date and owes taxes they will face a fine for late filing and daily interest charges on their outstanding tax balance.  Self-employed individuals have a longer window to file.  That date is set at June 15th, but it is important to note that any money owed is still subject to the April 30th deadline.  Any self-employed individual looking to avoid extra charges needs to keep that in mind.

For individuals finding it difficult to track down tax forms, it is reminiscent of other ways that government services are becoming rare in the north. My office is attempting to fill the gap and has requested additional forms from Revenue Canada and can also download the online forms for individuals, or walk them through that process.