Asked and Answered: CRA Changes – Why is This Important?

CARP chapters have been telling the National Office that their members are very upset about the way the Canada Revenue Agency handled the tax form changes.  CARP Mississauga Chapter Chair Murray Etherington says:

“We’re hearing from a lot of people who are very upset about this here.  A MILD example came to us from “Barry” who says that is mother is 96, has a hearing aid and that she no longer drives.  ‘My mother has never used a computer! I have always filed her taxes by phone as it is a simple option and it’s done within two weeks.  This sudden change is ridiculous – even reading the CRA’s letter has frustrated by mother and of course, myself as well… One more confusing change to deal with.   If I wasn’t around to care for my mother, she would have missed the information (no understanding it) and would likely have missed the filing deadline.  That would have resulted in her suffering penalties, like failure to quality for GAINS and other credits. I’m also retired and on fixed income and it seems like the government is just deferring more and more costs to me!

On January 23rd, 2013 – Susan Eng, CARP VP of Advocacy was invited to provide commentary about this issue on AM920 CKNX’s “The Talk Show”.  One listener took issue with CARP’s hardline stance on the CRA change.  She wrote to Ms. Eng to let her know that:

Before you burst a blood vessel, calm down and listen!  I am a senior in my seventies, have always filed a paper tax return and will continue to do so!!  If you had bothered to read the letter from Rev. Canada, you would see that individuals are still able to file by paper if they wish. THERE IS NO RESTRICTION ON FILING PAPER TAX RETURNS.

I have for some years picked up the paperwork (General Income Tax Guide and T1 General) from my local post office since I prefer the larger full sized instruction pages etc. etc.  and will do so this year too.

We are not helpless individuals so please don’t treat us as if we are – it is still a matter of choice and I will choose to continue to file a paper return.  Please see the 4th paragraph of the letter from Canada Revenue Agency dated January 11, 2013.

Get the facts first before you start spreading inaccurate information!”

Below are the contents of Ms. Eng’s response explaining that while most of our members are more than capable of looking after themselves and procurring their own paper tax returns if they wish to file that way, we need to speak out for the people are not so lucky:

“Thank you for taking the time to write. You would be right to be outraged if I had said that people could no longer use paper returns. In fact, I was talking about the disruption for people who would no longer have paper forms mailed to them and would now have to individually go out and get them or call the 1-800 number to ask for one to be mailed.

It is great that you have no difficulty picking up your paper return every year; this is not so simple for many people who have complained to our chapters across the country. Some are in rural communities where postal outlets are few and far between and others are not as mobile. Still others were relying on the Telefile option which is available to people of very modest means with only OAS and CPP income. A short form paper return was mailed to them. That option has also been cancelled with little notice.

CARP members, by and large, have their own affairs under control and many are already filing online. However, in all of their feedback to us, they demonstrate a strong concern for those who are not as well off or who would find this change made on so little notice to be a serious disruption in their lives.

Finally, you are right to say that seniors should not all be treated as helpless – it is a message CARP sends as often as possible. However, it is also true that they are entitled to fair notice of major changes in such an important aspect of their relationship with government.”