Accountants, politicians call on Canada Revenue Agency to delay income tax deadline
TORONTO -- With the income tax deadline just days away, taxpayers, accountants and politicians are calling on the federal government to delay the date because of renewed pandemic shutdowns.
Earlier this month, the Conservatives pushed the Liberals to give until the end of June for Canadians to file their taxes, while Quebec announced it would extend the provincial tax deadline until the end of May. In 2020, during the first COVID-19 wave, Canada Revenue Agency pushed the 2019 income tax deadline to June 1.
“We are busting our tails to get everything done, but just relieve us of the penalties. Quebec did it,” Tiffany Stewart, a chartered professional accountant, told CTV News.
She said that some Canadians didn’t know they would have to pay taxes on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and that some people can’t afford to pay them, let alone a penalty on filing late.
“Some of them are struggling not just financially but emotionally," she added.
For those who earned $75,000 or less and accessed COVID-19 benefits, the CRA won’t charge interest on tax amounts owing until 2022.
But, if they miss the April 30 deadline, taxpayers will be hit with a 5 per cent penalty on the balance owing and an additional 1 per cent each month after.
This tax season has an added challenge for nearly one million Canadians who were locked out of their CRA accounts due to concerns about cybersecurity breaches.
Some weren’t notified that they had been locked out and only found out when they tried to log in to file their taxes, leading to more calls to accountants and tax professionals, said Stewart.
“We can get access much easier than they can get,” she said.
Some clients don’t have access to a reliable internet connection or a computer, making things even more difficult and requiring them to deliver documents to accountants in person.
“They’re not able to get the documents to us in a technical manner...So then we’re asking them to go against stay-at-home orders,” she said.
And wait times to speak with someone at the CRA can be up to four hours.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” said Stewart.
And her clients are worried they won’t be able to receive pandemic-related benefits if they don’t get their taxes filed on time.
“Clients are absolutely panicking,” she said.
Not to mention that this year’s income tax form is more complicated than previous forms, with additional boxes for specific periods throughout the pandemic.
“We have a more complex income tax form and we are simply not having the resources available so that people can get their questions answered,” NDP finance critic Peter Julian told CTV News in a video interview.
Agencies and non-profit organizations are also struggling to get through to someone at the CRA.
“They simply haven’t put the resources into CRA, people are not able to get through at all,” said Julian.
Canadians are struggling through the third wave of the pandemic as record COVID-19 infection numbers grip many provinces across the country.
“So many Canadians are struggling. There needs to be flexibility when it comes to CRA and deadlines,” said Julian.
Stewart said that the CRA should create a dedicated line for tax professionals who have more complicated and in-depth questions than the average citizen, but that delaying the deadline should be a priority.
“Just relieve us from penalty. Relieve us from penalty. Waive the penalties, give us until May 31,” she said.
Otherwise, she said, it will just create more work for CRA employees as accountants and tax professionals file incomplete returns and follow up with adjustments.
The CRA says there's an important reason for Canadians to file on time -- to prove they're still eligible for future pandemic-relief benefits.
In a post on its “Tax tips - 2021” page, the CRA acknowledges the challenges that some Canadians may face meeting their filing obligations this year, but points out that it needs 2020 tax information to determine eligibility for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) or the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB).
With a file from CTVNews.ca's Cameron French