Parliament Video: Raising concerns about CRA: CRB & CERB issues, need to tax extend filing deadline for seniors on GIS

On April 27, 2021, MP Jenny Kwan raised a number of concerns in the House related to CRA, raised by constituents: the need to extend the tax filing deadline for seniors receiving Guaranteed Income Supplement as was done in the earlier waves of the pandemic; as well as ongoing issues with CERB and taxation of CERB, and the case of one constituent, a busker, who finally received their Canada Recovery Benefit only after many months of advocacy on the issue.

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, my constituent, a busker, applied for the Canada recovery benefit. He submitted his annual income tax return for the last two years along with his City of Vancouver street vendor permit as proof of income and employment. CRA did not accept these and wanted to see receipts and bank statements indicating deposits made. It is, in my opinion, unreasonable to expect buskers and street musicians to provide receipts and regular bank deposit for their small amount of cash income.

That was almost six months ago and today, I am happy to report that after this intense advocacy, which included a letter to the minister, questions in question period and countless calls to CRA agents, the government finally accepted my constituent's original proof of income documents, which were his income tax returns and the City of Vancouver street vendor permit, as valid proof of employment and income to qualify for the CRB.

I am sharing this in the House of Commons today so that others can be aware of this important win for my constituent. If people are faced with a similar issue, I urge them to contact their member of Parliament to try to get the matter resolved.

As we are talking about CRA, related to CRA, I have written to the government to request an extension of the income tax filing deadline for older adults age 60-plus who receive their guaranteed income supplement. Last year, the federal government publicly announced that seniors receiving GIS would be able to keep their GIS payments, without interruption, if they filed their taxes by October 1, which helped many seniors. I hope the same measures can be taken again this year to support seniors during this ongoing pandemic where we are well into the third wave with new variants.

Many GIS recipients face multiple barriers, including language, mobility and technology. That made the navigating of the systems very difficult, if not impossible, without assistance. These seniors rely on community tax clinics and community non-profit groups to assist them in filing their income taxes accurately and in a timely manner. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the barriers to tax filing already experienced by low-income seniors. Many seniors serve in community organizations that rely on volunteers who are also seniors, such as the 411 Seniors' Centre Society in my riding.

With the third wave raging on, organizations providing tax filing services for seniors are shutting down their in-person services in accordance to public health guidelines. I have been informed by the organization that it has been serving over 160 seniors per week and has almost 400 more appointments booked for the upcoming weeks. However, due to the need to temporarily shutdown in-person clinics, it will take time for the organization to move its services to remote models.

Even prior to the public health guidelines, both seniors volunteering and clients in need of support have been voicing health and safety concerns over travelling to the clinic in person. Even with services moved to remote and virtual models, there will be many seniors with technology and other barriers who will not be able to access these services in time. Ontario has also announced a four-week, province-wide shutdown and Quebec has announced special lockdowns for select cities and regions, which will no doubt impact community tax clinics in those communities as well.

From that perspective, I am asking the government to extend the tax timeline for seniors and to ensure that their GIS is not interrupted, especially during this very difficult period. I hope the government can provide this support to seniors."

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