CPA Ontario marks 50th year helping low-income Canadians claim tax benefits
Launches Remote Community Pilot; partners with the Red Rock Indian Band
TORONTO, March 1, 2018 – Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario (CPA Ontario) is pleased to announce that it is extending its signature Tax Preparation Assistance (TPA) program, now in its 50th year, to the Nipigon area as part of a newly launched pilot project aimed at enhancing tax filing support services in remote, underserviced communities across the province.
The TPA program, which is run by volunteer CPAs and CPA students, helps Ontarians with low incomes file tax returns so that they are eligible to claim refunds and provincial and federal tax benefits. Tax refunds are frequently the single largest cash infusion low-income households receive each year, yet over one billion dollars of income benefits and tax credits remain unclaimed because of a lack of awareness or familiarity with the tax filing process. This is compounded in remote communities by a lack of access to tax filing support and the costs associated with filing a return.
“Remote communities face real barriers to accessing the benefits they are eligible for,” said Carol Wilding, FCPA, FCA, President and CEO of CPA Ontario. “This year marks an important milestone in the evolution of the TPA program, and we’re very proud to work with the Red Rock Indian Band as we look to continue expanding the TPA program to remote communities across the province.”
In Ontario alone, there are 41 federal and provincial income benefit programs that, when accessed, have been shown to increase incomes by as much as 50 per cent. In 2014, Working Income Tax Benefits worth $175 million went unclaimed by an estimated 240,000 eligible workers in Canada. Other benefits that often go unclaimed include the Canada Child Benefit and the Ontario Trillium Benefit, a refundable tax credit that provides relief for energy costs and sales and property taxes.
Ontario's Minister of Finance Charles Sousa said, “Our government applauds CPA Ontario for expanding its widely successful Tax Preparation Assistance program to help even more low-income individuals and families take advantage of Ontario tax credits and benefits. We also applaud the work of volunteer CPAs and CPA students who are making a real difference in people’s lives.”
“Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are missing out on tax benefits they are eligible for because they are not filing an income tax return, or are unaware of the credits they are entitled to,” said Marlene Chiarotto, CPA, CA and Director, Program Delivery and Integration at Prosper Canada, a national charity focused on financial empowerment. “First Nations are amongst the most vulnerable Canadians, along with seniors, and having access to this support is an important building block to their financial empowerment,” added Mrs. Chiarotto, a TPA volunteer.
For First Nations communities, estimates suggest that 30 to 40 percent of eligible families on reserves, and even fewer off reserves, are not filing taxes because of personal, institutional or systemic barriers. As a result, as much as $354 million in income per year goes unclaimed, a figure CPA Ontario, through the expansion of the TPA program, hopes to reduce.
“Members of our community often have to drive over an hour to Thunder Bay to file taxes and, when you add in fees, it can cost more to file taxes than we receive in return,” said Chief Edward Wawia of the Red Rock Indian Band. “In working with CPA Ontario, we’ll be able to grow awareness of the tax filing process within our community, while making it far more convenient to file and receive benefits.”
The TPA program is holding free clinics across Ontario from February until the end of April. To qualify, individuals must have a total household income of less than $40,000 with dependents, or less than $30,000 without dependents. There should also be no property income, business income and no terminal returns. For information on sessions and to book an appointment, visit cpaontario.ca/tpa.
Notes to the Editor:
- Prosper Canada, http://prospercanada.org/getattachment/ea6b571e-861e-4977-95cd-ba799bfbf12d/Accessing-Income-Boosting-Benefits-through-Tax-Fil.aspx
- Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc., Qualitative Research: The Experiences of Indigenous Communities with Tax Filing, June 2017.
- Ministry of Community and Social Services, https://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/publications/social/sarac/role_refund_sarac.aspx
- Prosper Canada, http://prospercanada.org/News-Media/News/If-they-had-a-billion-dollars.aspx