Millions of taxpayers are finding out in letters the Canada Revenue Agency will no longer mail out the traditional income-tax package, a move that’s especially angered advocates for seniors.
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Taxpayers who want to file their returns the old-fashioned way can download forms from a website or pick up their package at Canada Post.
A phone-filing option is also being nixed.
“This is outrageous. How are we just hearing about it now?” said Susan Eng of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). “If you fail to file, you get a penalty. This is a pretty important change for people.”
Two groups for older Canadians contacted by The Free Press only found out about the changes from a reporter Tuesday.
“For a lot of older adults, access to information is an ongoing challenge and this is another example,” said Jean Knight, a board member on the Council for London Seniors..
“One would hope that there would be better communication of this new procedure,” Knight said.
The CRA says 35% of taxpayers still file their taxes using paper forms, but that in 2011 about 1.3 million of the printed tax and benefits packages went unused.
“It costs about four times more to process a paper return than an electronic return,” CRA spokesperson Philippe Brideau said an e-mail.
Also discontinued this year is the Telefile phone service, which about 10% of taxpayers used.
The letters from the CRA say it will no longer automatically mail out the T1 packages.
Knight said it’s wrong to assume all seniors will embrace the Internet to file their taxes.
“There’s an assumption that the Internet is a part of life, but for older adults it’s not the reality at all,” Knight said.
“This is going to pose a real problem.”
Eng called the move “manifestly unfair and, frankly, unnecessary,” saying it’s been “badly handled” and “follows a trend of pushing everyone online before they’re ready.”
While many seniors are online for e-mail and other communications, they don’t feel safe banking or doing other transactions on the Internet.
“The government has not exactly demonstrated the ability to keep our personal information private,” Eng said.
Both groups will put information about the changes in their next member newsletters.
CARP will write an official protest letter to the CRA, Eng said.