The Federal Government 2023 budget plans to expand the File My Return Program.
Per Government of Canada website, “The File my Return service allows you to auto-file your income tax and benefit return over the phone. It is free, secure, and easy to use. There are no forms to fill out or calculations to do.”
- a lower income or a fixed income; and
- a simple tax situation that remains unchanged from year to year
It is necessary for the Government to expand or improve this program because Notice of Assessment of the most recent tax return is required for housing assistance and many other social security benefits. Many social workers one homeless cases are frantically trying to help their clients filing tax returns or they are at risk losing their house assistance. Since many social assistance programs are based on income, tax return because essential to receive them.
Here is how it works now. The eligible taxpayer will receive an invitation letter from CRA to use this free service. CRA has all the tax slips on employment income, social assistance payments and financial institutions tax statements stored electronically. Many tax applications let users to automatically retrieve this information from CRA My Account online to populate the tax return already.
I think phone service makes sense, because many low-income people don’t have access to a computer or internet. Users respond to voice prompt using phone keypad to enter information. I heard some people tried it and went back to free tax clinic where volunteers help them file their tax returns. I guessed this new service might not be easy to use. It is still good that the Government is trying to help.
Perhaps the CRA can developed a functionality inside CRA My Account Online to auto-populate the tax return with all the personal identification info and tax slips that CRA received from employers, banks, other government departments, etc. This functionality can be open to everyone not just the low-income as a basic start. For many low-income people, that is all they need to enter anyway. Some might just need to enter the rent amount to claim the Ontario Trillium Benefits which is based on income. This doesn’t apply to most homeless people anyway. The basic version is good for most the low-income people.
Case workers or volunteers can help low-income people to register CRA My Account and how them how to update mailing addresses or enter rent amount. In the future, most low-income people can just visit a local library to use a computer or use their own mobile phone with data plan to file their own tax returns. If they need assistance, this is more efficient for case workers or volunteers to help them too.