Calgary agency agrees with petition calling for extension to tax deadline

Death and taxes are always a sure thing, and just like you can’t dodge the grim reaper, the tax filing deadline has not changed this year despite the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) strike.

Employees with the Canada Revenue Agency are among the tens of thousands of federal workers on strike.

The Union of Taxation Employees (PSAC-UTE), a subdivision of PSAC, is separately negotiating a contract for more than 35,000 striking Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) workers.

Read more: PSAC strike Day 10: Ottawa tables new offer to union as disruptions persist

PSAC represents roughly 120,000 federal public servants.

On Friday some of those workers were on a picket line at an office building on Southport Road, where the CRA leases several floors.

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“It’s been very difficult for clients to get parking and we have a lot of elderly clients that have been affected so that’s been difficult for them. We’ve been trying to work with them and trying to push as many of our clients as possible to to use DocuSign electronically but with our elderly clients they prefer paper, unfortunately, so that’s been a challenge for us,” said Kathleen Dengler a partner with Geib and Company Chartered Professional Accountants.

Canadians are encouraged to file online. The government says those submitted digitally will be processed automatically by the system without delay.

Dengler says it’s best to make sure you have direct deposit, especially because of the labour dispute.

“Overall it’s not impacting that much. I would say most people file electronically and those returns are being assessed and processed as normal unless there’s a pre-assessment review so those ones could be delayed. If someone is filing paper, those will sit in the mail room I would assume until they’re back to work,” Dengler said.

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Read more: No deadline extension for tax returns despite potential CRA strike

The tax deadline has not changed but a petition has been started by an Ottawa accountant urging the government to extend its deadline to June 15, when those who are self-employed are required to file their returns.

The petition says the CRA has had a significant reduction in staff on the personal inquires phone line, “which impacts low-income Canadians the most, as they may not have access to a accountants to answer their questions.”

“I think it’s pretty important to extend the deadline, not only for people who are living on a low income, but for all Canadians,” said Rise Calgary executive director Salimah Kassam.

Among many other services, Rise Calgary helps prepare tax returns for low-income Calgarians.
Kassam said it’s important for people to file their taxes so they can access benefits. She said the strike will cause delays for people not filing electronically.

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“Unfortunately right now, for those folks who are wanting to use a paper system — who may not have the digital literacy and who may be filing for more than five years, which we do quite a bit of — we aren’t able to process those right now,” Kassam said.

Kassam said the labour dispute has also had an impact on the Canadian volunteer income tax preparation program.

“This is an awesome program where we have volunteers across the country, helping other people file their taxes. Right now, unfortunately, we can’t move forward on on boarding new volunteers. Here at Rise Calgary, we have two volunteers who are ready to go and ready to help other people and help us with a huge demand that we have right now for tax filing but we can’t get them the right access they need,” Kassam said.

So far, approximately 95 per cent of the 17 million people who have filed have done so using self-service digital options.

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