North of 60°
Through our SYB consultations in the fall of 2018, we had the opportunity to meet with small and medium businesses and accountants in the northern regions of Canada. Although most of what we heard is consistent with what we heard from the business community across Canada, participants in Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Iqaluit voiced specific concerns related to the unique challenges of living in the north, for example, a higher cost of living, environmental hardships, and limited access to services (including internet).
As indicated in the 2017 Report on the Canada Revenue Agency’s consultations with northern residents, we heard about the challenges you face when trying to meet your tax obligations. In particular, we heard that we need to provide more help to territorial residents so they can file income tax and benefit 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.
With the Northern Service Improvement Strategy (NSIS), the CRA is using recommendations from the SYB consultations in the north, as well as comments gathered from northern residents who participated in roundtables with the Minister of National Revenue, to build on the Agency’s first efforts in Yukon. With this strategy, the CRA has further enhanced service in Whitehorse and extended that enhanced service to Yellowknife and Iqaluit.
Northern Service Improvement Strategy
In February 2019, we opened three new Northern Service Centres (NSCs) in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit. These NSCs provide year-round support for individuals and businesses in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, and give the CRA a physical presence in northern Canada.
Some of the services available through the NSIS include:
- Support for Community Volunteer Income Tax Program clinics, where volunteers file income tax and benefit returns free of charge for individuals with a modest income and a simple tax situation.
- Dedicated phone lines to connect individuals and businesses with CRA employees who are familiar with northern tax issues.
- Extended Liaison Officer capacity to offer on-site visits for businesses and group seminars adapted to include specific issues related to carrying-on business in the north and Territorial taxes.
- Expanded outreach activities and in-person information sessions to raise awareness of the benefits, credits and deductions that individuals may be entitled to.
- We are streamlining the process for claiming the lowest return airfare portion of the Northern residents deductions. The proposed changes would allow northern residents to document the cost of airfare in a reasonable timeframe before the date of travel, even if it is not the lowest airfare available. The airfare amount could be obtained more easily since it could be documented before the date of travel and there would no longer be the requirement to ensure that it was the lowest airfare available. The airfare would still have to correspond to the day of travel.
- Educational activities were done before the start of the 2019 tax-filing season on the northern residents deductions, to help more Canadians successfully claim the deductions without error.
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