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

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 20, 2013
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.