Local organizations struggle to provide tax services in wake of CRA cuts

VICTORIA – Conservatives said that budget cuts would have no effect on frontline services for Canadians, but massive service cuts and sweeping changes at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) have left local organizations scrambling to provide tax help to Victorians in need. 

“Payment and enquiry counter services are closing, face to face outreach sessions have been discontinued, and every service counter in Canada is set to close by October 1, 2013,” said NDP National Revenue Critic Murray Rankin (Victoria). “The CRA is effectively closing its doors to anyone looking for assistance with filing their taxes and downloading services to community groups that are struggling to keep pace with the growing number of people needing help to file their taxes.”

Community groups, like Together Against Poverty Society Victoria (TAPS) that offer free tax filing assistance through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) have seen a significant increase in people accessing tax services this year. 

“The resources offered to us by CRA are minimal. So we must now spend hundreds of staff and volunteer hours administering the program and acquiring the necessary supplies,” said Kelly Newhook, Executive Director at Together Against Poverty Society. “While we are grateful for the opportunity to assist those needing help with filing their taxes, we must now dedicate substantial resources in order to run these tax clinics, at the expense of the other programs we operate.” 

Earlier this year, without warning, the CRA announced that it will no longer be mailing the T1 general tax package. The Telefile service used by hundreds of thousands of Canadians has also been cancelled. Currently the CRA is projected to be cut by approximately $100 million, and over 3000 full time equivalent jobs will cut from the agency over a three-year roll out period.

“The government has a responsibility to provide Canadians with the services they need to do their taxes,” said Rankin. “Cutting services and then asking volunteer organizations to fill the gap with inadequate resources is unacceptable.”