WHITEHORSE, Aug. 24, 2018 /CNW Telbec/ - The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, have access to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) services.
Today, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, announced that the Agency will open three new Northern Service Centres in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit to better support Indigenous communities and Canadians living in the North. In addition to maintaining a physical presence throughout the year, the Agency will expand the activities of the outreach program, the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP), and the Liaison Officer service offered to businesses and self-employed individuals. The Agency will also set up dedicated telephone lines to make it easier for territorial residents to contact officers with specialized training to address their needs. Between now and the start of the next tax season, the Agency will dedicate up to 12 full-time employees to the territorial capitals to deliver these services, representing an investment of up to $6 million.
This new approach is based on recommendations from the Serving You Better consultations in the North as well as comments gathered from Indigenous communities, northern residents and businesses that participated in roundtables with the Minister. These discussions highlighted that Canadians who live in the North must sometimes overcome additional obstacles to meet their tax obligations. In particular, the CRA heard that it needs to provide more assistance to northern residents so they can file their tax returns. It was also emphasized that it is difficult for them to comply with the rules governing the lowest return airfare in order to claim the northern residents deductions. Moreover, to make life easier for Canadians who claim this deduction and to reduce the frequency of reviews, Minister Lebouthillier also announced that she will be recommending regulatory amendments. In the coming months, Canadians will be consulted on the proposed regulatory changes.
"All Canadians, regardless of where they live, deserve to receive quality services from the CRA. Today, our government is following through on its promise to better serve Indigenous communities and Canadians who live in the North. In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to become more aware of the issues that specifically affect Northern communities. Northern residents face unique challenges when the time comes to file an income tax return to receive benefits such as the Canada Child Benefit and the northern residents deductions. The opening of these three service centres will bring the CRA closer to people year-round."
-The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue
"Our government is committed to improving the lives of all Canadians, including ensuring access to important services for northerners. As Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, I will continue to work with northerners to find innovative solutions that address ongoing challenges and explore emerging opportunities in the Canadian and circumpolar Arctic."
-The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P. Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade
"We are thrilled that our ongoing working relationship with this federal government has resulted in improved services for Yukoners. Our government believes in a people-centred approach and that means providing supports for Yukoners closer to home. We know that navigating federal systems such as the Canada Revenue Agency can cause frustration. A Northern Service Centre in Whitehorse means Yukoners will now have the chance to physically speak to someone from the Canada Revenue Agency and receive direct support from an individual based in the territory."
- The Honourable Sandy Silver, Premier of Yukon, Minister of the Executive Council Office, Minister of Finance
"The North has unique needs and priorities that sometimes require innovative solutions developed in consultation with the people who live here. The Government of the Northwest Territories welcomes today's announcement and the ongoing efforts of the Government of Canada to understand and respond to Northern needs and priorities. Our government looks forward to continued collaboration with the Government of Canada to help ensure that Northerners get the services and support they need, and continue to have a meaningful say in decisions about the North and its future."
- The Honourable Robert R. McLeod, Premier of Northwest Territories, Minister of Executive and Indigenous Affairs
"I'm pleased that Nunavummiut will have access to permanent services with the Canada Revenue Agency right here in the territory. This is a much needed service in Nunavut, and will certainly provide relief and aide all year round, but especially during tax season. Thank you to our partners within the Government of Canada for filling this void and bringing service delivery closer to home for northerners."
- The Honourable Joe Savikataaq, Premier of Nunavut
The new strategy for improving services in remote regions will allow the Agency to:
- have a physical presence in all territorial capitals through Northern Service Centres that will be open Monday to Friday during regular business hours;
- expand the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, in which volunteers file income tax returns free of charge for individuals with a modest income and other vulnerable populations;
- expand outreach activities and offer in-person information sessions to raise awareness of the benefits, credits and deductions that individuals may be entitled to;
- expand Liaison Officer capacity to conduct on-site business visits and seminars adapted to include specific issues related to carrying-on business in the North and territorial taxes;
- conduct educational activities before the start of the next tax-filing season on the northern residents deductions, to help more Canadians successfully claim the deductions without error;
- set up dedicated telephone lines for residents in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut for the 2018 tax season.
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Northern service improvement strategy
Canada Revenue Agency
The Minister of National Revenue and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) have consulted territorial residents and businesses, and have heard about the challenges they face in meeting their tax obligations and receiving benefits. Territorial residents face unique realities that can include a higher cost of living, environmental hardships, and limited access to services. To this end, the Government of Canada is strengthening CRA support for territorial residents through the Northern Service Improvement Strategy that will include the opening of three new CRA Northern Service Centres and enhanced services in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Listening to territorial residents
In the fall of 2016, the CRA travelled to northern Canada as part of the Serving You Better consultations in the North. Senior officials met with small and medium businesses and accountants in sessions hosted by local chambers of commerce and accounting organizations in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit.
As indicated in the Report on the Canada Revenue Agency's consultations with northern residents, the CRA heard about the challenges they face when attempting to meet their tax obligations. In particular, the CRA heard that it needs to provide more assistance to territorial residents so they can file tax returns and receive the benefits to which they are entitled and that it is difficult to comply with the lowest return airfare element of the northern residents deductions.
In addition to the Serving You Better consultations and roundtables with the Minister, the CRA also conducted public opinion research (POR) to improve its understanding of tax-filing barriers faced by Canadians. For example, CRA research entitled The Experiences of Indigenous Communities with Tax Filing and Barriers Associated with Tax Filing in Vulnerable Populations gave the Agency insight into the challenges faced by many Indigenous communities and those living in the North. This study noted that some of the most effective ways for the CRA to interact with these populations was through face-to-face communications and outreach.
Northern Service Improvement Strategy
The Serving You Better consultations, research and feedback from northern residents have helped to give a more complete picture of the challenges that northern residents face every single day. The CRA has taken this information and has been working to improve its tax-filing services for Canadians.
In September 2017, the CRA launched the Yukon pilot project. Operating out of the Elijah Smith Building in Whitehorse, this project offered tax services tailored to residents of the area. We knew, however, that offering these services only in Yukon would not be enough, and that many other communities throughout the Territories would also benefit from service improvements.
With the Northern Service Improvement Strategy, the CRA is using recommendations from the Serving You Better consultations in the North as well as comments gathered from northern residents who participated in roundtables with the Minister to build on its initial efforts in Yukon. With this strategy, the CRA is further enhancing service in Whitehorse, and extending that enhanced service to Yellowknife and Iqaluit. Positive feedback has been received from the Yukon pilot project and lessons were learned. This is informing the Northern Service Improvement Strategy.
The Northern Service Improvement Strategy will include:
- New Northern Service Centres from which CRA employees will provide a year-round physical presence to support individuals and businesses in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Up to 12 employees will be working in the Territorial capitals, representing an investment of up to $6 million.
- Dedicated phone lines that connect individuals in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut directly to CRA employees familiar with northern tax matters will be made available.
- Up to six of the 12 employees working in the Territorial capitals will support increased outreach and Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) activities in the territories.
- Up to six of the 12 employees will focus on extending Liaison Officer capacity with on-site business visits and seminars adapted to include specific issues related to living in the territories.
The CRA is also taking steps to reduce the administrative burden associated with the lowest return airfare element of the northern residents deductions. In the coming months, Canadians will be consulted on potential regulatory amendments to reduce the administrative burden associated with the lowest return airfare element of the deductions.
Altogether, the Northern Service Improvement Strategy provides a comprehensive response to many of the concerns the CRA has heard from territorial residents. The strategy will help to improve territorial residents' access to benefits, credits and deductions, including the northern residents deductions.
Northern residents deductions
One specific area where the CRA needs to provide more help to individuals is when they claim the northern residents deductions. Almost 60% of the filing population in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut claims these deductions.
The Minister of National Revenue heard about high levels of reassessments of northern Canadians during her trips to Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. The CRA undertook a review of the northern residents deductions verification activities and determined that the complex nature of the credit makes it difficult for individuals to claim them correctly. This often results in errors and, ultimately, more reassessments.
To that end, the CRA has taken steps to improve the available guidance given to those claiming the northern residents deductions. For example, Information Sheet RC4650, Northern Residents Deductions, which contains a checklist for claiming the deductions, was developed based on feedback provided by northern residents.
SOURCE Canada Revenue Agency
For further information: Jérémy Ghio, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of National Revenue, 613-995-2960; Media Relations, Canada Revenue Agency, 613-948-8366