Om­buds­man in­ves­ti­gat­ing if vul­ner­a­ble women and kids aware of tax ben­e­fits

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - BY MIA RAB­SON

OT­TAWA - Canada’s tax­pay­ers’ ad­vo­cate says the Canada Rev­enue Agency isn’t do­ing a good enough job en­sur­ing women liv­ing in shel­ters with their chil­dren are aware of and re­ceiv­ing ben­e­fit cheques.

Tax­pay­ers’ om­buds­man Sherra Profit launched a sys­temic ex­am­i­na­tion Fri­day to study what kind of ef­fort the CRA has made to reach out to shel­ters re­gard­ing ben­e­fits such as the Canada Child Ben­e­fit or the work­ing in­come tax ben­e­fit.

Profit said she has re­ceived sev­eral com­plaints from shel­ters about the lack of in­for­ma­tion from the CRA, but also a call from Rev­enue Min­is­ter Diane Le­bouthillier last fall con­cerned about con­cerns she was hear­ing.

Le­bouthillier asked the om­buds­man’s of­fice, which op­er­ates at arm’s length from the CRA, to look into the mat­ter.

Profit launched a pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion which in­cluded con­ver­sa­tions with staff at about 25 shel­ters across Canada, which proved there did seem to be a prob­lem worth look­ing at in more depth.

Only a hand­ful of the shel­ters said they’d had any con­tact from the CRA at all and in those cases it was not di­rectly with in­for­ma­tion to help clients ap­ply for and re­ceive ben­e­fits. The in­for­ma­tion shel­ter work­ers could pro­vide to clients was largely based on their own ex­pe­ri­ence as par­ents or through their own ef­forts to re­search what ben­e­fits are avail­able.

The Canada Child Ben­e­fit alone is worth up to $6,400 for a child un­der six each year.

“Ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion about ben­e­fits is cru­cial es­pe­cially when some­body is in a sit­u­a­tion where they’re need­ing use of the shel­ter,” said Profit in an in­ter­view with the Cana­dian Press.

“They’re in that sit­u­a­tion where they don’t have ac­cess to the re­sources they nor­mally would have ac­cess to, es­pe­cially if the in­for­ma­tion is just on­line. We re­ally want to make sure that those peo­ple who are in a vul­ner­a­ble sit­u­a­tion al­ready are not made fur­ther vul­ner­a­ble by not be­ing able to ac­cess the in­for­ma­tion the CRA has avail­able to help them get those ben­e­fits that may as­sist them with their in­se­cure and vul­ner­a­ble sit­u­a­tion.”

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