As Canadians miss out on benefits, Ottawa promises automatic tax filing is on the way
The Canada Revenue Agency will pilot a new automatic system next year to help vulnerable Canadians who don’t file their taxes get their benefits.
This week’s federal budget says the Canada Revenue Agency will also present a plan in 2024 to expand the service, following consultations with stakeholders and community organizations.
The move toward automatic tax filing, first promised in the 2020 speech from the throne, is one of several budget measures the Liberals say are meant to help Canadians with the cost of living.
Experts and advocates have called for automatic filing, noting many vulnerable Canadians miss out on benefits to which they are entitled.
Canadians are generally not required to file tax returns every year unless they owe money, but the federal government is increasingly relying on the Canada Revenue Agency to deliver income-tested benefits to individuals.
That includes Canada Child Benefit, as well as the recent top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit and the temporary doubling of the GST tax credit.
A 2020 report co-authored by Jennifer Robson, an associate professor in political management at Carleton University, estimates 10 to 12 per cent of Canadians don’t file their taxes.
Although there were non-filers across all income groups, they were most heavily concentrated in lower income brackets.
The report estimated the value of benefits lost to working-age non-filers was $1.7 billion in 2015.
The federal budget also said the Canada Revenue Agency will expand access to a service set up in 2018 that allows some Canadians with lower or fixed incomes to auto-file simple returns over the telephone.
The budget says that two million Canadians will be eligible for that service, called “File My Return,” by 2025, which is nearly three times the number of people who can use it now.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2023.
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