Category Archives: Old Age pensions

CRA gives seniors short shrift

It used to be important to get your annual tax returns in on time. Then it could take up to six weeks to get your Notice of Assessment – to find out if you did your returns correctly and if you owed more or less or were getting a return. Not anymore. Now the CRA is saying to wait eight weeks.

But that’s not correct. A friend of mine who is a senior filed a few days before deadline and she just got her Notice the first week in July – that is one week later than eight weeks.

But my situation is worse. I had to phone the CRA customer service line and did so July 11. Here is my story.

I mailed my tax returns for 2016 on April 28 (our deadline was May 1, 2017 because April 30 was on a weekend). I sent the returns Priority Post with a signature required. They arrived on time and there was a signature. Because I tracked it online I was able to print out the signature before it disappeared at the site a few weeks later. I also had my mailing receipt from the sub-post office. So I had proof of filing on time,

Nothing had arrived in my mailbox and so July 11 I made my phone call. The customer service person was good. She checked and found that the last entry they had for my tax returns was that it had been inventoried as received the third week in May (three weeks after they received it). She suggested she do a Status Enquiry which is basically what it says  and is a reminder that the clerks who are checking the returns better get off their asses and go through the return. She said it could take up to four weeks and then I should get my N. of A. So I authorized her to do so.

Nothing happened for weeks. As the one month deadline approached, I again called the CRA customer service and the fellow there checked the status. My return and notice of assessment would be completed August 11 and then mailed to me.

August 11 is exactly one month after the Status Enquiry went in.

I received my N of A Tuesday, August 15. As I had figured out I owed no money and was getting nothing back – everything in that area is a big fat zero. I was a few dollars out in my calculations. But I am still living below the poverty line.

But the kicker is a lot of the extra seniors’ funds I get from both the federal and provincial government depends on this Notice of Assessment. No Notice of Assessment by mid-July and I don’t receive (if only temporarily): my Ontario Government Energy and property tax monthly grant payment, and from the Federals the quarterly HST/GST tax rebate, my Ontario Government Seniors Grant – a lump sum of $500. you can get once a year if you apply for it, which I did. I also lost the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) which with my low income I had become entitled to. And my Ontario Drug Plan for Seniors (provincial) ran out the end of July and I got notice I would have to re-apply because they hadn’t received my Notice of Assessment from the CRA. That was the same reason for the GIS stopping and I have to re-apply. I have re-applied for the drug plan – at least the application time deadline is the end of September. The rest I am supposed to get at some point in time. I still have my meagre Canada Pension Plan money and the actual Old Age Security payments coming in.

In the meantime, excluding the lump sum for seniors and the quarterly GST rebate, since July I have been receiving $500 less a month. Fortunately in July, two editing clients paid me installments for work I am doing so that has carried me over to mid-August. But the bills keep coming in including the big quarterly water and waste utility bill. I am not taking holidays this year – I can’t afford to travel.

Now, I’m living on a few hundred dollars until the next CPP/OAS payment the end of this month – plus all the other money I’m waiting for.

But I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I’m going to exhale all the way down to my federal MP’s office to complain. Clearly the timeline for CRA vis-a-vis seniors payments has to be extended if they can’t get the tax returns processed even within their own timelines.

So, I ask you: is the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) short changing seniors?

What do you think? Please comment.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 2016 and 2017, finances, Old Age pensions, Only child, Seniors

Only Child’s financial woes continue – thanks to outside sources

Only child stews about financial woes

Only child stews about financial woes

Despite inheriting some of my mother’s ability to live frugally and have a financial budget, I am still having too many instances of running out of money the last week of the month. What really ticks me off for this month is that all the financial woes are caused by other individuals or government departments or banks screwing up.

Take yesterday as a big example of what can go wrong:

I was (and still am as of today) waiting for Service Canada, the GST people, Ontario Government and the like to sort out three payments I’m supposed to receive from forms filled in on my tax returns for 2015. So far I have not received the once a year Seniors grant all seniors get if we apply for it annually  (which I did). And for us low income seniors there is the property tax and energy credit – this one goes into your bank account once a month for 12 months and the GST rebate, put in your account quarterly. All should have been put in this month of July and they usually are. You have to have your assessment from the CRA first – well I got that over a month ago and had filed my 2015 income tax returns same time as every year – last week in April. But the money hasn’t been put in my bank account for any of those three.

To add insult to injury, I couldn’t access my bank account online yesterday to see if anything had been deposited. Neither could any other Scotiabank customer. Scotiabank was having computer server difficulties from an upgrade done over the weekend. I didn’t check my account on the weekend so don’t know for sure if the inaccessibility was all weekend or all Monday. What I do knowis  that when I checked – mid- morning Monday and several more times during the day to about 4.45 p.m., I still couldn’t sign into my account.

I wasn’t going to waste my time with a trip to my bank branch with nothing to deposit and no idea if there would be enough there to withdraw anything. (more on that first part shortly). Okay, so I decided to do the telephone banking. Wouldn’t hurt for once. But I couldn’t get very far there. When you get the recorded voice it tells you to press 1 for text and press 2 for screen. No option for land line phones. Excuse me – we don’t all have smart phones. So I pressed nothing and got a repeat of the recorded message. I hung up and had to call customer service. At least I got a good service representative who knew her stuff and not only gave me my bank balances (Nope! No government deposits then or today either when I was able to access my accounts online), she also agreed to pass along my complaints to her supervisor and from there it would go to a manager. I requested that manager call me back about it. Besides the complaint about the telephone service missing the third option, I also complained about the misleading pop up on the bank website when you tried to sign in to your account. The pop up had Scotiabank’s apology for the inaccessibility online but suggested bank customers could use their mobile apps as that function  was still working.

Is all this access setup (excluding the outage) discrimination for those who don’t have all the latest technology?

And being a former journalist, I dug further. At the Canadian Outages website  I found out more information including a lot of other disgruntled Scotiabank customers. And some of them like me have computers and land lines. No smart phones with mobile apps, not that everybody with a mobile could connect to their Scotiabank with the mobile app – it wasn’t working all the time either. Check out the Canadian outages website – there are more comments on the bad Scotiabank service. Even though I am not for all of this excess technology, the basic online account and being able to access it I find is necessary. If you think I’m lazy, think about people with mobility issues who can’t exactly dash off to their bank branch.

And I am still waiting for one of my major business clients to pay me for a writing course I taught for them (and their patrons) in June. I’m still waiting for my cheques despite submitting signed contract copies twice (one as far back as the end of April)  – the second submission (all by email) was because the client’s administration department had lost one of the first submissions. The person I was dealing with in person for the course did his part re getting the process going for my cheques and has been diligent in following up on all my inquiries. It’s the administration and financial departments there that messed everything up.

So that is why I am sitting (and fuming) with less than $75. to buy necessary health supplements and food.

Now if I was a lazy bum and not a senior, maybe I could blame myself.

But it’s not my fault and I’m doing all I can to get things fixed and moving.

No wonder I’m cranky a lot.

At least I did receive notice from Service Canada (via regular mail) that my GIS is being continued for 2016 to 2017 and it and my OAS (both for seniors) have been increased. They gave me the amount. Supposed to start with this month’s payment – tomorrow – in my bank account.

Now, let’s hope it gets deposited July 27, 2016 and I can see it online.

Seeing is believing – that’s my motto for living. “Hope” is a four-letter word.

Cheers (I think).

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Bank service complaints, Banking, Clients, finances, Life demands, Mother, Old Age pensions, Poverty

Only Child warns pensioners to be wary of government pension setup

Only child contemplated government red tape with pensions

Only child contemplates government red tape with pensions

When my late dad turned 65, the Canada Pension Plan was just coming into existence. The CPP was legislated in 1965 and came into effect in 1966 . So, of course Dad never paid into the CPP when he worked for the CNR as it was then called. Of course CNR paid a pension. My mother died before she reached 65.  Dad died at 66.

Fast forward many years and my generation – the so-called baby boomers-  are dealing with the current federal government pension plans and Guaranteed Income Supplement. And if you think once we sign up and get approved it is all smooth-sailing and we will get our regular monthly increments, sometimes with additions, think again.

There are many Federal Rules and Regulations that can screw up those receiving pensions. I know this from first-hand experience.

Because I can’t afford to retire (I didn’t say the pensions etc. were enough to live on), I still am self-employed. I am grateful that I am doing something I love (writing, editing, teaching writing) and would probably chose to do so until age 70. Then I would just write – to me, writing is for a lifetime. However, how many pensioners who have to work to make ends meet are working at something they love?

To make a long story short, if you are still self-employed and getting CPP you can elect to still contribute until you are 70.

Watch it here folks. If your self-employment income (after business deductions) is below a certain amount, you don’t have to pay into the CPP for that tax year. So, I followed this rule, didn’t have to pay,  and the powers that be at CPP punished me for that.

The b******* clawed back my CPP.  The monthly decrease is a mere $1.47 so I’m not quibbling about that. But they arbitrarily decided to deduct all the difference in the same month’s payment instead of spreading it over 12 months. And they pick a month barely three months from when they send you the notice letter so that if you do dispute it (which I did) your three months timeline for disputing runs into that month of cut-off. Yes, I disputed, after contacting my MP, and did the dispute for lots of time for the CPP rulers to do as the letter said can be done – have a different set of CPP rulers go over my situation.

Well, I got notice that I’m not getting it reversed. This notice came after the full clawback deduction in May’s payment. Their excuse? Legislation says they can’t repay once they do the clawback, once it is taken off. What do you want to bet they didn’t even bother to re-check it?

Sure, there is more procedure if I disagree. I am planning to take all that to my MP and hope his office will help me with that.

But in the meantime I’ve run into more government red tape – with the Guaranteed Income
Supplement (GIS). I did apply for it originally (as per government instructions) when I applied for the OAS.  Last year I got notice from the government (read Service Canada – they do all the government dirty work with us citizens) that I would be receiving the GIS monthly – how much extra, that it would be added on to my OAS for one payment, plus the first month of all that I would get a lump sum for past months.

Great. I thought.

My suspicious radar should have been on alert. June 30, this year, I received another application form for 2016 and 2017 GIS. I thought once you applied that was it. I did know they could claw back if your taxable  income went up too much. Well, for 2015 my taxable income went down, enough to put me below the poverty level for a single person (according to the Ontario Government). I thought they got the information about a person’s income from the CRA (they do; I checked with Service Canada). I always file my income taxes and on time. And this year for a change I don’t seem to have made any math errors. (And yes, I signed out of paying anymore into the CPP.) So, why are they sending me this application form, which arrived June 30, when the note with it says that if I don’t fill in this form and get it in by June 30, my GIS could be stopped until they receive it and then I would get reimbursed and the payments would continue?

What? Okay, if  I have to reapply, fine. Just get the damn form to me on time to do so.

I phoned Service Canada June 30 afternoon right after receiving this nonsense in the mail. The fellow I talked to checked into my account and said there was money there in my account to be paid in July. But he suggested that I fill out the form and deliver it to Service Canada on Monday just to be on the safe side.

Which I did. I had questions for the Service Canada employee at one of the desks. After waiting 30 minutes to do so, this fellow was not very helpful and wasn’t very polite either. He did give me one piece of information for filling in my form but he wouldn’t check into my account to see if the money there is OAS only or includes the GIS. His excuse “We don’t have the means to do this like where you phone Service Canada.”

Oh, please. Now I have to waste another 20 minutes to half an hour on hold at Service Canada and also worry if I filled in the form correctly because I just sat down at one of the tables and finished filling in the form and then handed it in at the front. I did find it is sent by courier, not Canada Post, so if there is a Canada Post strike it won’t be stuck in regular mail.

And if you think this is just me whining, think again. Some of my friends have told me similar stories of what has happened to them.

If any of you reading this have any bad dealings with your government pensions, I would like to hear.

Meantime, I’m going to set up an appointment later this month with my MP.

But first, I have some client work to finish. That got slowed down because of all this government red tape.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under finances, Income Taxes, Old Age pensions, Only child

Only Child terrified of heavy rain and wind storm starting Wednesday

01910012As if dealing with the snafus connected with the preparations for my East End Writers’ Group’s 15th anniversary presentation for Wednesday evening weren’t more than enough, there is a big storm coming our way the same day. It’s the remnants of Hurricane Patricia plus a clipper from western Canada. And I am terrified.

Terrified of too much rain and floods and high winds. Terrified of the potential damage to property. I worry about water getting in the basement, especially as for some of the time the winds are from the east, and if so how much water and the cleanup. I worry about eaves trough issues – eaves troughs have been cleaned twice so far this year but the leaves keep falling. Problem is walnut trees hanging over from the neighbours’ property. I’ve been keeping an eye on the situation and early this morning noticed some leaves and small branches (that’s how it falls) sticking over the eaves troughs. So immediately I called Gerry who cleans the eaves troughs but he can’t come today as he has to work at his main job (usually he works nights). He suggested tomorrow morning AFTER I had told him about the big rain and wind storm coming Wednesday.  He is coming Friday morning to clean out what the wind sends down during the storm. So I climbed up on a chair and started tying to remove the leaves with a rake. Not high enough to see what’s going on, but I have vertigo and was getting dizzy. I got a hold of Mike who hopefully will come today and clean out the eaves troughs – it will cost me more, but if he can do it today during daylight, that will be a big help.

Terrified of roof, tree, etc. damage and the consequences.

Terrified of power outages and the consequences.

My nerves are so much on edge that my respiratory infection which was showing signs of getting better, is now in a bit of a relapse. It’s all this stress that keeps coming at me – in spades. I noticed that over the weekend when I had little stress the healing had progressed. But from early this morning, no.

I had been sticking to natural remedies because of my allergic reactions to most anti-biotics. And I had decided to see a medical doctor to check out my tinnitus but now he will have to check out the respiratory infection and I’m terrified here – of both the diagnosis and the treatment. My trust in medical doctors is very low because of past experience, which is fodder for another post. I would really like to go to a naturopath but they aren’t covered by our provincial health insurance so I can’t afford the cost. After paying some bills today and taking out money for cash expenses, my bank accounts are almost depleted.

Seniors day as I call it when the old age pensions and the like arrive, isn’t until tomorrow.

Sometimes I think life is too much of a struggle. It is no fun not having a partner, or whatever you call a significant other.

As for the weather, which is at the heart of all the current problems, I can only say what the lady in the bus back in May said.

“God controls the weather.”

I hope he gives us all a reprieve with a much less severe storm. I have my wishes here and am presenting them to him. I hope he listens to me and does the right thing.

It’s not just me involved here – there are all the others connected with the East End Writers’ Group presentation Wednesday and on a much broader scale all of us living in southern Ontario.

If you want to read more about the storm (and get terrified), go to The Weather Network http://www.theweathernetwork.com/ and enter “Toronto” in the Find Your Forecast box.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, East End Writers' Group, Extreme Weather, God, Health, Life demands, Living alone, Old Age pensions, Only child, Power Outages, Trees and Shrubs, Uncertainty, Weather

Only Child on federal election and poverty levels

Only child ponders upcoming Canadian Federal election

Only child ponders upcoming Canadian Federal election

With the Canadian federal election coming up October 19, one issue that keeps coming up is the middle class versus the rich. Yes, the middle class seems to be disappearing, but disappearing to where? Much of it has fallen into the poverty level of living, if you can call that living.

The worst of poverty “living” is social welfare or as it is called in Ontario – Ontario Works. A study done by Poverty Free Ontario shows 2011 (latest year statistics available apparently) statistics for those living on Ontario Works compared to those not on Ontario Works who live at the poverty level. For example, a single adult living alone in Ontario on Ontario Works gets $7,452 a year, compared to a single adult not on OW but who is in the poverty level of $19,930.

Although Ontario Works clients received a small increase last November there is still a big gap between the two figures. Much of that blame goes to a former Conservative premier Mike Harris who reduced Ontario Works payments in half in the 1990s.

The title of a report on children living in poverty in Toronto, Ontario, Canada  says it all.  “Toronto holds onto its shameful title: Child poverty capital of Canada”  The study states that 28.6 per cent of children in Toronto live below the poverty level, with that percentage changing with specific areas of Toronto.

Today, Toronto is releasing its 20-year busting poverty plan. City councillor in charge is Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell. There is a long list of what is to be implemented during the 20 years. And a list of low income categories appears at the end.

Here are links to the above stories:

http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/poverty-in-ontario/status-of-poverty-in-ontario/

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/10/13/toronto-holds-onto-its-shameful-title-child-poverty-capital-of-canada.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/06/23/toronto-releases-20-year-poverty-busting-plan.html

All very well. But seniors aren’t listed.

In fact in all these reports, there is not much about seniors living below the poverty level. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’m one of those. And this election doesn’t do much to address seniors financial and health issues, in my opinion. The Liberals’ Justin Trudeau keeps talking about the middle class versus the rich. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives already raised the eligible age for receiving the Old Age Pension to age 67. NDP leader Tom Mulhaire wants to raise the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

As a senior I am grateful for what I receive. But not grateful for what I have no choice to eliminate from my life because of limited finances. Unfortunately most of that is in the health area, a lot of which is not covered by OHIP, the Ontario provincial health plan. Outside the plan, I focus on eye care, although eye tests are covered by OHIP once you reach 65. But glasses aren’t. Neither is dental – it never was unless you had dental surgery in a hospital. I have a dentist but can’t afford him. I can’t afford audiologists (except if they offer free hearing testing). Physio-therapy, which might help my osteo-arthritis, has reduced coverage. Many medical tests are no longer covered by OHIP thanks to former Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuilty (as my friend calls him) – don’t excuse me here – McGuinty, kicking some of them off the covered list.

Case in point. Three years ago I had what appeared to be a severe Vitamin D deficiency. If I had gone for blood tests to determine this, I would have paid. So, I played guinea pig, taking mega-doses of Vitamin D from late fall to early spring. It seems to have worked. And getting extra health insurance coverage (read “private”) is out of the question – not when there is a cap on coverage in total dollar amount and percentage – now 80 per cent instead of the 95 to 98 per cent coverage you could get in the 1990s. Not when you choose your coverage a la carte and pay high monthly premiums.

The Toronto report on poverty being released today lists areas where improvements need to be made. I hope more dental coverage for low income residents is in the next few years. Some of us seniors may not be around for the next 20 years.

No wonder many people are finding it difficult to choose who to vote for next Monday. Many of us want to get Harper out. We may end up with a minority government of NDP or Liberal. Would they join in a coalition government? Would that be a good thing?

Only time will tell.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Goverment Legislation, Health, Health Insurance, Health Seniors, Help and Support, Old Age pensions, Only child, Poverty, Progressive Conservatives, Seniors

Only Child’s thoughts on living below the poverty level

Only Child  contemplates living in poverty

Only Child contemplates living in poverty

A Google search on poverty levels in Toronto brought up this shocking information. The poverty level for a single person is $19,930 a year. That’s after taxes. Depending on your sources, that figure pertains to somewhere before 2014. See http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/poverty-in-ontario/status-of-poverty-in-ontario/

Before or after 2014, that figure really hit home with me.

I just finished doing my 2014 income taxes in late April, so income before and after taxes was still in my mind. It turns out I am living around the poverty level for a single person – but before taxes, so I guess after taxes it is below the poverty level.

And that’s with having a boarder here most of last year – until late October – I kicked her out – with a few months leeway because according to her plan she could be here indefinitely until she found a job and was secure for six months in it. She is/was on social services (called Ontario Works here in Ontario). So the extra low monthly boarder rent income wasn’t making much difference to me as the poverty-line figure shows. My friends told me this boarder was just taking advantage of me anyway. But that’s a story for another post. At least my hydro and water bills are much less now.

I am also a senior and while I am grateful for the Old Age Pension and Canada Pension Plan, they aren’t high enough. Especially the latter, which varies with each person depending on how much you put into it when you worked. And being self-employed for the past 18 years, and before that, sporadic full employment from the late 1970s, doesn’t help increase the CPP. The Federal government does give you some extra CPP allowance (seven years I believe) to allow for raising a child from birth. There are tax credits that are doled out monthly and one in a lump sum – some are senior-specific. And I do get some alimony from my ex-husband.

My self-employment? Not as lucrative as even a couple of years ago.

The Feds also have something called the Guaranteed Income Supplement, which I signed up for when I signed up for the OAS. But I haven’t heard hide nor hare back about that – probably because your income has to be under $17,088 annually. See table at http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/services/pensions/oas/payments/index.shtml

That’s  $2,842. less than the poverty level income for a single person. Something is wrong here.

All that isn’t enough for the rising costs of living. I have health issues and take natural supplements because drugs don’t agree with my body. Yes, there are drug plans for seniors and others but you are on your own with natural supplements. The basic Ontario medical coverage gets skimpier and skimpier in what it covers and purchasing extra health coverage from private companies is too expensive.

So I end up using my line of credit to cover the more monthly expenses than money coming in. And I don’t go on shopping sprees for anything and take only one holiday a year – visiting family. I forgo a lot of entertainment (like plays and movies and some concerts) I would like to go to because I can’t afford it. Free entertainment is what I look for. Street festivals and other free events and lectures outside home. I walk a lot, garden, read (mostly books from the library but I do buy a few from writing colleagues) and do readings and other presentations with other crime authors for my Beyond mystery series. I socialize with friends, an occasional meal out – sometimes they pay – and sometimes we go to garden events (free ones) together. I am fortunate in that I have a son who helps me with computer problems and takes me out to dinner for my birthday and Mother’s Day. He is even paying for a new chesterfield for my living room – his idea at Christmas – if I can find the time to finish looking around for one.

This all makes me wonder how others with less or even the basic poverty level income, can manage. I don’t have to pay rent as I’m a homeowner (and fortunately no mortgage), although with all my utility bills needing paying this month, plus other regular monthly bills to pay, the total here came to above what my May income is. And that’s before the cash items such as food and health.

So I grow some of my vegetables and fruit in the garden.

That is if I can get someone to take me to the garden centre to get some topsoil. Another long story here for another post perhaps.

No wonder I’m cranky a lot of the time. I think I have a right to be cranky.

Cheers.

 

Sharon

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Filed under Family, Gardening, Health, Health Insurance, Health Seniors, Healthcare coverage, Income Taxes, Money, Old Age pensions, Only child, Poverty, Seniors