April 7, 2020
Sent to: Hon. Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister, Chair of Cabinet Committee on COVID-19
Hon. Deb Schulte, Minister of Seniors
Hon. Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
OPEN LETTER - RE: TAX FILLING DEADLINE FOR THE GUARANTEED INCOME SUPPLEMENT
Minister Schulte and Minister Hussen,
I am writing with regard to concerns expressed by seniors who receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and will not be able to file their taxes by the end of April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As you know, seniors across Canada rely on the GIS to supplement their income. As GIS is assessed on income, seniors who receive their benefit must file income taxes on time to avoid having their benefit cut-off. The GIS cut-off generally takes place in July for seniors who have not filed their income taxes.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline for filling taxes has been extended to June 1, 2020 for all Canadians. When the question of how this extension will pertain to seniors who receive GIS, I was informed that the ministry has committed to ensuring that no one’s GIS will be interrupted and that mechanisms to make that happen are being worked on.
While that information was reassuring, I was surprised and alarmed to hear from a seniors serving non-profit in my riding that they received an email from a Community Outreach Specialist at Service Canada who said it is advisable that seniors file their income tax before the end of April to ensure they get their GIS.
As you know, many low-income seniors face many barriers and rely on community tax clinics to help them file taxes. With the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the community tax clinics have been shut down. In addition, elderly people are especially advised to stay home and practice social distancing to protect themselves from the virus, which could be deadly to seniors and others with compromised immune systems. As such, many seniors will not be able to file their taxes by the end of April.
The B.C. Minister of Health have remarked that it is unlikely that social distancing measures will be relaxed by the end of April. As such, the barriers for seniors to file their taxes on time remain. Low-income seniors are already struggling with increased cost of living associated with the pandemic and it is of utmost importance that their income does not face interruptions.
In addition, with the capacity of Service Canada already being overextended during the crisis, it is also important that measures are in place so that seniors being cut off from GIS will not add to the burden of Service Canada agents.
I hope that I will have your assurance that the GIS benefit for seniors who are not able to file their taxes by the end of April will not experience interruptions of their benefits. As the end of April is quickly approaching and seniors and the organization that serve them need time to plan accordingly, I am looking forward to your prompt response.
Thank you for your attention into this important matter.
Jenny Kwan, Member of Parliament for Vancouver East