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What the CRA Said

Canada Revenue Agency’s Disability Advisory Committee Submits 26 Recommendations in its fourth annual report

While the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) casts its Disability Tax Credit (DTC) efforts in a favorable light in its latest press release, the 2023 annual report by the CRA’s Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) unveils a more nuanced narrative. Beyond the surface-level updates on past initiatives, the DAC report identifies significant ongoing challenges within the CRA’s handling of the DTC. Highlighting 26 detailed recommendations, the report underscores the critical need for a deeper, more comprehensive overhaul of the CRA’s methodologies and practices in serving Canadians with disabilities. This call to action paints a picture of a system in need of significant refinement to truly meet the needs of its intended beneficiaries.

The Disability Advisory Committee’s (DAC) latest report throws a spotlight on the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) administration of the Disability Tax Credit (DTC), a pivotal tax measure aimed at supporting Canadians with disabilities. While the report outlines a variety of recommendations aimed at enhancing the DTC program, it also underscores a persistent issue: a significant gap between the CRA’s intentions and the real-world accessibility of the DTC for those it’s meant to serve.

According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, one in five Canadians aged 15 and older has a disability, translating to approximately 6.2 million individuals with diverse needs. Yet, an exploratory analysis reveals a concerning trend: only a fraction of those eligible for the DTC successfully navigate the application process. This discrepancy raises critical questions about the effectiveness of the CRA’s current approach and the agency’s commitment to genuinely supporting Canadians with disabilities.

The DAC’s call for a shift from the medical model to a biopsychosocial model of disability is a step in the right direction, aligning with international standards set by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This approach recognizes the multifaceted nature of disabilities, advocating for the removal of societal barriers rather than solely focusing on medical limitations. However, the real test lies in the CRA’s willingness and ability to implement such a holistic model effectively.

The report’s 26 recommendations cover a broad spectrum of issues, from redefining disability within the Income Tax Act to improving public education and making the DTC a refundable tax credit. These suggestions reflect a deep understanding of the barriers faced by individuals with disabilities and propose tangible solutions to address them. Yet, the overarching theme is clear: the CRA must do more to make the DTC accessible, equitable, and effective.

One glaring issue is the lack of comprehensive data to inform the design and implementation of the DTC program. Without a robust understanding of the demographics and needs of the disability community in Canada, any attempt at reform is akin to navigating in the dark. The DAC’s emphasis on collecting detailed data, including information on race, ethnicity, immigrant status, and type of disability, is crucial for developing targeted outreach strategies and ensuring the DTC reaches those who need it most.

The recommendation to co-design policies and services with underserved groups and individuals with lived experience is particularly poignant. It highlights a critical flaw in the CRA’s approach: a top-down methodology that often overlooks the nuanced realities of living with a disability in Canada. Co-designing with these communities ensures that policies are grounded in the lived experiences of those they aim to support, enhancing both relevance and effectiveness.

Furthermore, the DAC’s focus on improving healthcare provider support and expanding the range of professionals eligible to complete DTC applications acknowledges another significant barrier. Many individuals with disabilities and their caregivers find navigating the current process daunting, largely due to the complexity of the required documentation and the lack of clear guidance from the CRA.

In conclusion, while the DAC report offers a roadmap for improving the DTC, it also serves as a stark reminder of the challenges that remain. The gap between policy intention and practical accessibility is wide, and the CRA’s efforts thus far have fallen short of addressing the needs of Canada’s disability community effectively. The recommendations provided by the DAC not only offer hope for a more inclusive future but also demand action from the CRA to bridge this gap, ensuring that the DTC truly fulfills its promise to support Canadians with disabilities. As we move forward, it is imperative that the CRA takes these recommendations seriously, prioritizing the voices and needs of those it seeks to serve.

The Government of Canada is Helping Lower-Income Individuals More Easily Access the Benefits and Credit Payments They Are Entitled To

In a significant move aimed at democratizing access to crucial tax benefits and credits, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has announced a substantial expansion of its SimpleFile by Phone service. As tax season hits its peak, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of National Revenue, unveiled that over 1.5 million individuals, a number that doubles last year’s invitees, are now eligible to automatically complete and submit their tax returns through this service in 2024. This expansion represents a leap forward in simplifying the tax filing process, especially for lower-income individuals and those with straightforward tax situations.

The beauty of SimpleFile by Phone lies in its simplicity and accessibility. It’s a testament to the CRA’s commitment to removing barriers to important benefit and credit payments such as the Canada child benefit and the goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax credit, which play a pivotal role in making life more affordable for many Canadians. Moreover, this service ensures individuals’ eligibility for vital programs like the Canadian Dental Care Plan is confirmed and uninterrupted.

Since its inception in 2018, SimpleFile by Phone has stood out as a free, easy, and secure way for individuals with lower or fixed incomes to file their tax returns quickly—often in as little as 10 minutes. It leverages the information the CRA already has on file, combined with responses provided by the user, to effortlessly complete and file their tax return.

The upcoming Summer 2024 will see the CRA branching out with pilot SimpleFile digital and paper options across all provinces and territories. This initiative aims to reach out to lower-income individuals who have either not filed their tax returns or have inconsistencies in their filing history, thus missing out on potential benefits and credits.

Further enriching this initiative, the CRA plans to engage with stakeholders, community organizations, and tax professionals as it looks beyond 2025 to refine Canada’s automatic tax filing system. This collaborative approach underscores the importance of making tax filing more accessible and less daunting for every Canadian, particularly those who might benefit the most.

Echoing the sentiments of community leaders working to alleviate poverty, Minister Bibeau highlighted how simplifying the tax filing process can significantly reduce the dependency on community services by ensuring lower-income Canadians receive the government benefits and credits they are entitled to. This strategy not only empowers individuals but also strengthens the fabric of our communities by promoting financial independence and stability.

In conclusion, the CRA’s SimpleFile by Phone service and its forthcoming digital and paper options are more than just tax solutions—they’re a bridge to a more inclusive and equitable financial future for all Canadians. By making tax filing more straightforward, the CRA is ensuring that everyone, especially those with lower incomes and simpler tax filings, has easy access to the benefits and support they need. This initiative not only exemplifies the CRA’s commitment to service enhancement but also mirrors a broader societal move towards inclusivity and support for all citizens, laying the groundwork for a stronger, more resilient Canada.

The Canada Revenue Agency continues to invest in free tax clinics

In a heartening display of community spirit and financial empowerment, the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Free Tax Clinics have proven to be a beacon of support for Canadians with modest incomes. Last year, these clinics enabled over 649,000 individuals to file their taxes, unlocking more than $1.75 billion in benefits, credits, and refunds. This monumental achievement was made possible through the dedication of over 3,400 community organizations and 14,700 volunteers across the country.

To bolster this vital initiative, the CRA has committed $5.2 million in grants to organizations participating in the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) and the Income Tax Assistance – Volunteer Program (ITAVP) in Quebec for 2023. This funding, part of a three-year pilot project, aims to alleviate some of the financial burdens these organizations face in hosting free tax clinics. The success of this initiative has led to the extension of the grant pilot project for an additional year, with an increased funding pool of $5.9 million.

The essence of these free tax clinics lies in their mission to ensure that individuals with simple tax situations and modest incomes can access crucial benefits and credits. These financial aids are lifelines for many, helping cover essential living expenses such as rent, childcare, and groceries. Hosted by non-profit entities, charities, and community groups in collaboration with the CRA, these clinics embody the power of volunteerism and community partnership.

In recognition of the unique challenges faced by organizations serving Indigenous communities or operating in northern, rural, or remote areas, the CRA has also earmarked additional subsidies. This targeted support underscores the CRA’s commitment to inclusivity and ensuring that tax filing assistance reaches all corners of the country.

As the CRA seeks to expand this impactful program, it calls for more community organizations to join the fold. Participants in the program are equipped with free training and laptops, subject to availability, to aid in their mission. Organizations interested in contributing to their communities by hosting free tax clinics can find more information on the CRA’s website.

The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of National Revenue, expressed her gratitude towards the volunteers and organizations that have dedicated their time and resources to this cause. Their efforts have not only facilitated access to federal benefits for tens of thousands of Canadians but also exemplified the government’s support through training and resources for volunteers. The extension of the grant program is a testament to the government’s dedication to supporting organizations that provide this invaluable service.

In summary, the Free Tax Clinics represent more than just a tax filing service; they are a crucial support system that brings financial relief and empowerment to individuals and families across Canada. With the continued expansion and support from the CRA, these clinics are set to reach even more Canadians, ensuring that everyone has access to the benefits and credits they deserve. This initiative stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when communities come together to support one anothe


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Shajani CPA is a CPA Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer firm and provides Accountant, Bookkeeping, Tax Advice and Tax Planning service.

Nizam Shajani, Partner, LLM, CPA, CA, TEP, MBA

I enjoy formulating plans that help my clients meet their objectives. It's this sense of pride in service that facilitates client success which forms the culture of Shajani CPA.

Shajani Professional Accountants has offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. We’re here to support you in all of your personal and business tax and other accounting needs.