Tax filing changes tough on seniors: P.E.I. Senior Citizens Federation

Jim Day
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The Canada Revenue Agency is not mailing out tax forms for 2012 income taxes. Instead, those who want to file paper returns must pick them up at the post office or download the relevant forms from the CRA website.

Many P.E.I. seniors are rattled by the Canada Revenue Agency's decision to cease mailing paper income tax forms, says the executive director of the P.E.I. Senior Citizens' Federation.

This year, the Canada Revenue Agency is asking those who want to fill out a paper form to pick one up from the post office or download it from the CRA website.

Linda Jean Nicholson says the federation has been receiving telephone calls from seniors who are having difficulty locating forms, in particular specialized forms.

"It can be a challenge for seniors who are not computer literate to access paper forms, especially if they have mobility issues," said Nicholson.

Federation president John Kenny adds that the federal government should have given warning to seniors about the change in distribution.

"We understand the government needs to tighten its belt, but preparing people for change is important, especially in the case of seniors,'' he said.

"And we would like our seniors — and all taxpayers — to be given a choice to have forms mailed directly to them."

In an open letter to Revenue Minister Gail Shea, the Canadian seniors advocacy group, CARP asks the agency to reverse what it terms inadequately announced changes to income-tax filing policy by now mailing tax returns to the taxpayers who used paper forms last year and giving them a clear option to choose a mailed form for the next year.

CARP adds that accommodation is also needed for those who used Telefile, which has been cancelled.

CARP, a Canadian organization advocating for the rights of those 50 years of age or older, has received many complaints about the Canada Revenue Agency's decision to cease mailing paper income-tax forms.

In a recent CARP poll, members said that the unexpected changes to tax-filing policy would seriously disadvantage those Canadians, including seniors, who do not have Internet access or are unable or uncomfortable filing taxes online. CARP members are concerned that the lack of sufficient advance warning may cause many Canadians to miss filing their tax returns, leading to costly penalties and lost tax credits and benefits. CARP members are also concerned that Canadians who live in remote or rural areas will also be most affected by these changes, as access to rural post offices to pick up paper forms is often limited.

Canadians of all ages, notes CARP, have legitimate concerns about private digital data being lost, as was demonstrated in November 2012 when HRSDC lost the personal information of 600,000 Canadians.

"There is a growing acceptance of internet use for personal and financial matters by all Canadians, including seniors, but the wholesale changeover to online tax filing with little notice or time to prepare is provoking unnecessary anxiety,'' CARP said in a statement.

Almost 10 million Canadians used paper tax returns in 2012, according to the CRA which also said that 1.3 million paper forms were not used. But that still leaves more than eight million Canadians — many of whom are not seniors — faced with searching out the paper forms if they still want them. 

Organizations: Canada Revenue Agency, P.E.I. Senior Citizens Federation, Senior Citizens

Geographic location: P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • A Young Computer Savvy Senior who uses Telefile
    February 21, 2013 - 18:00

    I have been doing the taxes for my family for years and years. I do them timely and pay anything owing immediately. I personalty not only appreciated but have enjoyed using Telefile for many of those years. I am disappointed and very discouraged that I am now forced to either go back to submitting a paper claim or somehow figure out how to now use the on-line submission option. I also do not think it fair and just that based on my tax situation I may be forced to put out over $40 to pay for a tax program in order to submit my taxes...should I choose to do it on-line. Seems like a huge step backwards to force me to go the paper route. Was it such a big cost to have Mr. Telefile receive and record my claim? It was a much cheaper option for me. It was very unfair to "assume" that I would just automatically jump to do my taxes on line... and how safe is that anyway. I hope they will consider reinstating the Telefile option.

  • i see you
    February 21, 2013 - 10:45

    This government seems hellbent on making changes to 'paper' work. I suspect it has to do with their war on unions, in this case the post office. God, in this case Harper, forbid anyone makes a wage they can live on.

  • MOE
    February 21, 2013 - 10:16

    I ALWAYS WE SHOULD HAVE THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE , I TRULY BELIEVE WE NOW LIVE WITH A DICTATOR- SHIP . WITH NO CHOICE I 'M ONE OF MANY WHO FEEL I SHOULD HAVE THAT RIGHT . SEND OUT OR MAKE INCOME TAX PAPER AVAILABLE .

  • Belfast Guy
    February 21, 2013 - 10:09

    As I was reading this foolish article, I clicked on the CCRA webside and "voila" there were all the forms available just fot the printing. How easy can it get, these so called senoir citizens are only up in years , they are not retarded. I am 70 and find it a piece of cake. Incidentally, none of the tax preparation firms have stopped doing tax returns either. It's about time the government put a stop to the waste.

  • Marie
    February 21, 2013 - 08:30

    Why should people have to go from free forms and filing themselves to paying someone to efile their return??? I WANT a paper return and I DON'T want my personal information on the "lose your info" highway as I'm sure many others feel. Read the story again Gail Shea...10 million people used paper returns in 2012...surely you can't say there's not a demand!

  • Anne
    February 20, 2013 - 18:14

    I have always done my own tax return. My father always did his. My understanding is the system is set up so people CAN complete their own returns if they wish to do so. After years of using the paper format, I did try an e-file format and found it was not particularly user friendly. The instructions were not clear. Numbers were popping up in weird places. I wasn't really sure what I was doing. Since I wanted a paper copy, I ended up having to print off pages and pages of paper. I have to mail in all my medical receipts anyway so it's just as easy for me to mail in a paper return as well. Also, there is a fee if you earn one penny over $30,000 regardless of your net income after deductions. I think there should be a more user friendly, FREE, e-filing infrastructure in place if CRA wants online returns. There needs to be more time given for people to learn and adjust to a new system and free workshops should be offered for people who want learn how to file their own returns online.

  • Gail Shea's True Colours
    February 20, 2013 - 16:50

    This is another indication that Gail Shea does not care about the Canadian people and is only concerned about keeping her boss happy. She closed access to Canada Revenue Agency offices last fall so people cannot stop in and pay their taxes, get forms or speak to a person. She refused to vote on the EI reform bill introduced by the NDP. The only people that Gail Shea cares about are her fellow Conservative MPs. See the big picture next election people and vote her out.

  • peiman
    February 20, 2013 - 15:50

    Oh Man!!! this is crap....please stop trying to make seniors look like a bunch of stupid idiots!!! Most seniors are well ahead of younger generation when it comes to paying taxes and those that arn't are likely in a seniors home and never do their own taxes anyway!!!

  • Twiggy
    February 20, 2013 - 15:36

    When she is not standing bye for Harper to cut off her constituents from EI she is actively trying to keep seniors from getting their tax refunds. How does it feel Gail?

  • Rose Hicken
    February 20, 2013 - 15:16

    Although I do our taxes using computer software I still like to keep a paper copy on file just in case. I have been to at least 3 post offices and they are all out of english forms. I feel sorry for all the seniors looking for paper forms. The government is doing this to save money on paper without any regard for seniors or for those that do not file using computer software.

  • Resident
    February 20, 2013 - 14:52

    This decision to hinder seniors and add excessive stress to them is outragous. Where in hell are the MLA'S and Senators on this issue. Government is so overstaffed and miscommunication between agencies its laughable. People should start just not filing and than you will see the so call smarts ones wake up quickly on this issue. Disgusting.

  • Ann
    February 20, 2013 - 14:39

    From experience in prevous years it is VERY hard to obtain even a basic tax form from the local Canada Post outlet that is in English. This year the demand for these paper copies will be through the roof and I know that the Summerside Post Office ran out of their first batch in less than a week. Of course, you also have the restriction of your local post office hours. Most people do their taxes on the weekend or in the evening; these are not hours most postal outlets are open. By making more and more government services accessable only electronically, and the remainder as inconvenient as possible to chose non-electronic methods, the government is reinforcing the notion that the only Canadians they are concerned about are those with money (to afford a computer/internet), above average literacy skills, and technological know-how. We need to rely more and more on technology and take increasing risks with out private information (data) to comply with a government making demands yet doing little to protect us in return.

  • Gerry
    February 20, 2013 - 14:08

    There are numerous seniors who do not own a computer, therefore, rely on the "old pen and paper" days. It never ceases to amaze me how the federal government thinks it's doing hell and all when streamlining "their" business yet forgets their clients just may have accessibility issues, regardless of circumstances. Recently corresponded with a government agency (on-line) and tediously went through all the hoops and loops in terms of seeking and providing everything but the number of rings around my trunk, yet "they" responded via post (so much for saving trees) vs. e-mailing or calling me??? Rather ironic!

  • Ungrateful People
    February 20, 2013 - 14:02

    Why do we have to complain at everything. We grumble about higher taxes and all we have to pay, but we are unwilling to accept any kind of change. Surely these seniors, if they have diminished mobility, must have somebody bringing them their basic necessities such as food so surely they could go to the Post Office for them or if they are in a facility someone could go and bring a supply back for everyone. Better still, it would be a way for someone to volunteer to help and in so doing feel good for doing something for someone else.