Statement by Canada's Taxpayers' Ombudsman on the Release of her Report, Reaching out: Improving the Canada Revenue Agency's Community Volunteer Income Tax Program

News release

Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, Sherra Profit, today released the following statement on how essential the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) is for vulnerable populations, especially during the current pandemic. The Ombudsman releases her report that calls on the CRA to reenvision the CVITP to help more individuals fulfill their tax obligations and access much needed benefits and credits.

We have all witnessed the CRA take quick action and deliver new and much needed essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of Canadians have received assistance through the CERB program. Even with this and other new forms of assistance, our current, unprecedented situation has magnified the disparities and inequities that exist between different segments of our population. With many CVITP clinics cancelled, postponed or scaled back, many individuals with modest incomes are left without a means of filing their taxes by the extended filing deadline of June 1, 2020.

For nearly 50 years, the CRA has been delivering the CVITP through partner organizations across the country. Each year this program helps hundreds of thousands of individuals with modest income and a simple tax situation comply with their tax obligations and access the benefits and credits designed to assist them. Despite this, there are obstacles that prevent the CVITP from reaching its full potential and fully serving the needs of its users. The current program model also presents challenges for the partner organizations and volunteers who work hard to run the clinics every year. These already more vulnerable and marginalized people are made more vulnerable when they do not have adequate access to CVITP clinics.

I recognize the CRA has expressed a commitment to minimizing and removing barriers to accessing the CVITP and to helping clinics operate virtually on an interim basis. Now is an opportune time to reenvision how the program operates and is funded. The CRA needs to consider fundamental changes that would allow the CVITP to reach more people and provide better service, thus creating increased financial wellness and empowerment among its users.

The challenges and barriers my report identifies with the current CVITP model are magnified in this time of social distancing, including the number of persons who cannot reach, or find it difficult to reach CVITP clinics in person. These challenges now extend to most users of the program, which last year totalled over 740,000. This is a concern given the services provided by the CVITP every year contribute to ensuring many individuals receive the benefits and credits they rely on to support their day-to-day lives. The ability to access much needed benefits and credits such as the Canada child benefit (CCB) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement are vital to maintaining and improving individuals’ standards of living.

Through my report, Reaching Out, I make 15 recommendations that focus on expanding and reenvisioning the CVITP, including improved funding and supports, to better serve its users and the organizations and volunteers who deliver the program.

I am in regular contact with the CRA to ensure it is supporting CVITP clinics in remaining accessible during this pandemic, and considering the impact on benefit delivery for those unable to file their return. As we navigate through this challenging time, my Office remains available to address any service-related issues individuals may have in their interactions with the CRA.

My Office can be reached by telephone at 1-866-586-3839 or online at Canada.ca/en/taxpayers-ombudsman.

Contacts

Media relations 

Telephone:
+1-613-402-1578 

Email:
Mediarelations@oto-boc.gc.ca

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