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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Royal Roads University president Philip Steenkamp said they are aware of hateful graffiti spray-painted in an area of the forest surrounding the campus. The graffiti in question includes anti-Semitic content and a racial slur towards Black people. (Facebook/Royal Roads University)
Anti-Semitic, hateful graffiti spotted in forest near Royal Roads University

Royal Roads working with West Shore RCMP to remove graffiti “as soon as possible”

A cougar was spotted at Royal Roads University on Sunday, Jan. 24. The sighting was reported on the western edge of the campus. (File photo)
Cougar spotted at Royal Roads University Sunday afternoon

Animal reported on western side of campus near Colwood Fire Department

Saanich-based St. Luke’s Players community theatre company has been making the most of their opportunities to keep busy during the pandemic, including staging a Christmastime panto of Alice in Wonderland on Zoom. (Courtesy St. Luke’s Players)
Saanich’s St. Luke’s Players: Bringing the stage to the people

Community theatre company holding online auditions Jan. 23-24 for March production

Frank Bourree was awarded the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s first Governors’ Award of Distinction for his leadership in the business community. (Courtesy of Frank Bourree)
Frank Bourree receives award of distinction from Victoria chamber

Award recognizes positive role model in business community

The Habitat for Humanity Meaning of Home contest is open to students in Grades 5 to 6. (Screenshot/Habitat for Humanity video)
Habitat for Humanity launches national writing contest

Entries accepted from students in Grades 4 to 6 until Feb. 19

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

Most Read