Why Ottawa wants you online come tax time
Published Tuesday, February 26, 2013 10:30AM EST
Old habits may die hard, but the author of dozens of books on taxes says the federal government is doing Canadians a favour by discouraging the use of traditional paper income tax return forms.
Evelyn Jacks, who has written 50 books on tax and wealth management, acknowledges that many Canadians might be uncomfortable with the prospect of having to file their taxes online.
But, she told CTV’s Pat Foran, mistakes are more likely when filing the old fashion way.
And many Canadians apparently agree.
Last year, over 11 million Canadians used EFILE, an automated service used by those who prepare and file taxes; over 5.3 million used NETFILE, an electronic program for Canadians that file their own taxes; over 300,000 used TELEFILE, a phone option that has been discontinued by the Canada Revenue Agency.
But more than 10 million Canadians still filed their returns on paper forms.
Beginning this income tax season, the CRA will no longer mail out paper forms to Canadians unless requested.
According to Revenue Minister Gail Shea, the move is designed to save money and resources.
“Last year, more than 1.3 million packages were mailed out and never used,” Shea told the House of Commons earlier this month. “That’s 80 million pieces of paper that ends up in the garbage. We don’t think that’s the best, more efficient use of our resources.”
The decision has angered a national seniors group who say not all Canadians are comfortable filing online and some are concerned about the safety of their personal information. CARP adds that not all Canadians have Internet access and as result, the CRA’s decision puts them at a disadvantage.
“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 filling with little notice or time to prepare is provoking unnecessary anxiety,” explained CARP in a letter penned late last month to the minister of national revenue.
Forms should instead be mailed out to everyone who filed using paper last year and a paper option should also be available again next year, the group explained.
But Jacks said filing online is a relatively straight-forward process, once you give it a chance.
This year, income tax returns are due on April 30.
If a return is filed after that date, GST/HST credit, Canada child tax benefit payments and old age security benefit payments may be delayed, the CRA explains on its website.
Paper forms are still available on request online, by telephone at 1-800-959-8281, and at post offices and Service Canada locations.
Until April 30, 2013, the CRA will be offering new extended evening and weekend hours for its Individual Income Tax Enquiries telephone service.
With a report from CTV’s Pat Foran and files from The Canadian Press