31st January 2018

Finding time to file taxes can be difficult for people anywhere. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is finally deciding to make the process easier. Canadians will soon enjoy a more convenient tax filing system.

Facing widespread criticism over their service, the CRA will implement a system where low-income Canadians can file their taxes by phone. Citizens who file using paper tax forms will also enjoy added convenience, as paper tax packages will now be sent directly to their mailboxes.

Criticism of the CRA

2017 was a year of criticism for the CRA. Last November, Auditor General Michael Ferguson noted issues occuring at the CRA’s call centres. Canadian citizens were either receiving erroneous information or they weren’t able to access call centre services. Ombudsman for taxpayers Sherra Profit also acknowledged problems with the CRA’s service issues. There were close to 1,500 complaints reported to her office in 2017.

A new and improved phone filing system

In early January of this year, the National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier announced the new automated service ‘File My Return’. As part of this service, approximately 950,000 Canadians will be able to file returns by answering a number of questions on the phone. To qualify for this service, Canadians must have reported a predictable fixed or low income over the span of several years. This demographic of people represents two to five percent of all Canadian tax filers.

This, however, is not the first time the CRA has tried to introduce a Telefile system. The former system, which enabled Canadians to file basic returns, was cancelled in 2013 in an attempt to get more people to file online.

Unlike the previous Telefile service, which required taxpayers to complete their income tax return and perform their own calculations beforehand, this new system will no longer involve these now unnecessary steps. How does the system accomplish this? Using a combination of information given on the call, and information in the CRA’s records, it automatically figures out the benefits, deductions and credits a person is eligible for. This technology enables the taxpayer to complete and file their return more conveniently than ever before.

Paper tax packages will be mailed directly to homes

For the two million Canadians who file their tax returns via paper, there is also some good news. In addition to the convenience of the new Telefile system, Canadians who file paper tax returns will now receive their tax package directly to their mailbox. In the past few years, paper tax filers had to pick up their tax package at a Canada Post, Caisse populaire Desjardins outlet, or Service Canada. This can be difficult for some Canadians, and Diane Lebouthillier acknowledged this.

"We know that Canadians lead busy lives and doing taxes can sometimes be a challenge. This is especially the case for people with reduced mobility, people who live far from service locations and people without internet access. The CRA is working to make it easier and simpler to find, complete and file a return,” stated the Minister.