The Elderly and Tax Time

By Kevin Brown | Bio

I was preparing my mother-in-law’s Canadian tax return this week for net-filing, a service I have provided for the past six years. For those of you who have used a software tax package, you will know that ‘net-filing’ a return is an online submission direct to the Canada Revenue Agency. Her return is very basic, really just accounting for her Old Age Security benefit and Canada Pension. Since she retired, she has never received a refund and never has had to make a payment. So this should have been relatively easy. Ah, but not so! This time, when I attempted to obtain the 4 digit access code that would allow me to file online, the online connection to the CRA would not grant me the access code.

I had to call their 1-800 number.
Their response was that I could not have access to the code because I was not identified in their system as a guardian. I mentioned that my wife was also available, but, no, she also was not identified in their system. Only my mother could request the code. OK, so I asked my mother-in-law (who is 92 years young) to take the telephone.
So the call proceeded with the CRA representative asking my mother-in-law to provide her former address. She explained that she had provided Revenue Canada with her new address and that indeed the new and correct address was on her tax slips. No matter, she was told, CRA does not get that address information from the department that accepted the address change from my mother-in-law. She would have to provide her previous address. She complied and then was asked for her banking information. My mother-in-law flatly refused to provide this information over the telephone. I was pleased to hear her do so, as we have warned her never to provide personal information (especially banking information) over the telephone. Frankly, I was appalled that the Canada Revenue Agency would even ask for this information.
Well, without the banking information, they now proceeded to ask my mother-in-law for her previous address in Chilliwack, BC, which goes back to 2003. My mother-in-law said she could not remember the address and we would have to look it up. She was then told that the CRA would need her to also provide the previous address to that (which was another address two years prior). My mother-in-law began to cry as a result of feeling confused.
At that point, I took over the telephone call and complained…but to no avail. I told the CRA I could not believe the way they were treating my mother-in-law in the so-called name of privacy. What privacy? We already had her address, telephone number, date of birth, and social insurance number. She was not paying tax nor receiving a refund. Who was the government protecting? Was there no recognition of the the need for and application of common sense here?
In the end, I said we would mail her tax form in. The response, “Well, once you do that, her address record will be changed and you should not have this problem next year.”
Is this the way that the Government of Canada deals with seniors and with their caregivers when they try to lend a hand? I dare say, I do not look forward to having to have someone help me do my taxes when I no longer can complete the return for myself.
As this is the final month to complete your taxes, be prepared! And whatever you do, DO NOT provide banking information over the telephone!

 © 2009 Kevin Brown. All rights reserved.

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