Paper holdouts reluctant to embrace electronic tax returns

Cindy Nicholson has seen how angry the 16 per centers can get when she cant give them what they want ; the old-fashioned federal income tax package.

Now, the manger of the Cherrhill Village Mall postal outlet in London has stocked up with the printed tax guides and forms, keeping them behind the counter because she was running out so fast.

I had some angry, angry customers, she said Thursday, recalling the last time she ran short and faced the upset demographic to which the mall caters.

Nearly 4.5 million Canadians filed paper returns in 2013 ; the same year the Canada Revenue Agency stopped mailing out tax packages. Paper returns accounted for 16% of the 27.8 million returns submitted by Canadians last year.

An association that speaks for Canadas retirees empathizes with seniors seeking hard copy returns and with postal clerks like Nicholson who are put in such a spot.

This article was written by Chip Martin and published by the London Free Press on March 13th, 2014. To see this article and other related articles on their website, click here.

Its perfectly legitimate for people not to want to file online, Susan Eng, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), told The Free Press.

Come March and April your postal outlet is going to have to put on some body armour because people are going to be angry, if they don’t have printed forms.

They refuse to acknowledge the demand, she said of the Canada Revenue Agency.

Eng said concerns about the security of online filing and the reality that many Canadians don’t have computers or Internet service keeps up demand for printed forms.

In London, Nicholson said she wont get caught short again. And she only hands out forms one at a time to prevent customers from taking multiple copies.

As of Thursday, she had supplied 1,100 forms and says demand has reached 100 copies on some days.

The Canada Revenue Agency says current figures show only 16% of the nearly 28 million who file returns, do so on paper. By comparison, those who file personally by NETFILE total 33% and 51% use EFILE through authorized service providers.

The CRA encourages taxpayers to file and pay electronically, says spokesperson Mylene Croteau.

No wonder. Paper returns cost the agency four times as much to process compared with electronic returns.

Londoner Ron Hill picked up a printed form from Nicholson Thursday and said he has been using such forms for 50 years.

I don’t have a computer, he said. I will keep picking these things up as long as I have the mobility to get around.

CARP spokesperson Eng rejected any suggestion taxpayers who still like paper forms are Luddites or not modern.

She said a poll of CARPs 300,000 members ; conducted online ; showed many indicated they didn’t feel comfortable filing online with this lack of security.

Eng said CARP has written the federal government to complain about trying to phase out paper, but the CRA isn’t listening.

They think they will weather it, she said. She said she hopes seniors, who tend to have a strong voter turnout, will make their views known through the ballot box.

Meanwhile, seniors earning $30,000 or less can have their returns filed electronically for free at places such as the Kiwanis Seniors Centre, Hamilton Road community centre and at about a dozen other places and churches in the city such as White Oaks United Church.

At the latter venue, volunteer preparer John McLean said he and four other volunteers filed about 500 returns last year, using software provided for free by the CRA and are doing the same this year.

© The London Free Press