Tag Archives: CRA

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 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 says beware telephone fraudsters

telephone_rotaryWhen I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s the worst telephone problems were wrong numbers, kids playing tricks with possibly the odd harrassing call. The funniest one my Mom, Dad and I received was from someone calling for a taxi. We weren’t a taxi company but we had almost the same phone number as the cab company, except for one number. The taxi calls were annoying but not dangerous.

Not so nowadays. Telephone fraud is running rampant. Sometimes I think it gets forgotten with all the online scams and frauds. But phone fraud is real and sometimes  connected to your computer.

We seniors have to be especially vigilant as we are prime targets for these fraudsters. I am a former journalist with a jaded suspicious outlook on life, so I am vigilant. And angry when these buggers call me. Often it is a recorded message – even when you mistakenly pick it up and don’t let it go to voice mail.

The past week it has been two calls in particular – coming repeatedly during each day.

One is the fake Canada Revenue Agency call that if you don’t call them back you could be arrested. If you call the number they will want you to pay thousands of dollars and they use the arrest threat. I haven’t called them back because I had heard of this scam before. In fact my friend across the street was getting them last week too (do they target by geographic region?) and after four calls he phoned the Toronto Police Services. So beware calls from this number with the message to call the same number back 855-888-5927. This is not the CRA. I haven’t called the police yet because my online research shows they and other regulatory organizations are well aware of this fraud and this number.

The second call (again recorded) claims to be from the CIBC (bank), a Mississauga, Ontario branch and the caller (a woman) even has the nerve to state “this is not a scam.” But the kicker, what alerted me was the start of the call  where it mentions the name of the person they are contacting. It wasn’t my name and the name was inserted into the recorded message. They gave a reference number (8581721) you are supposed to use when you call them back at 866-751-2167. I didn’t call them back but I did put a complaint (online) into the National Do Not Call list. I also finally put my name and number on their list for those not wishing to be called by Telemarketers – although there are some exceptions of who can still call. And it takes a month to be effective – telemarketers have to update their lists you know.

Third one I’ve been phoned on is the Microsoft computer fraud. First off it is not Microsoft doing this – Microsoft may be guilty of other things, but not this one. I believe the way this fraud/scam works is that after the caller says he is from Microsoft, he tells you there is a problem with your computer and you have to give him your password. I didn’t let the fellow get any farther than stating he was calling from Microsoft. The first one I called him on his scam and he hung up. The second one stayed on the line a bit longer saying “It’s Microsoft.” Not likely. Microsoft doesn’t call you. I finally told him if he didn’t stop calling I’d call the police and I hung up.

What can you do when you get a suspicious phone call?

Never give out any personal information, including passwords.

If you are suspicious, you can hang up – but if you can get their phone number that is even better. Then you can go to http://findwhocallsyou.com/ and type in the phone number. Or chances are there are many more who have complained about the same number. Scroll down their numbers and click on the comments. The fake CRA one is listed.

Call your police department.

If in Canada, there is the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre run jointly by the RCMP, OPP and Federal Competition Bureau.

Get on a national do not call list.

Don’t answer the phone, but take note of the number and time of call. Chances are the most insistent fraudsters will leave a message in your voice mail.

More information on what to do and what not to do is at the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre 

And yes, details about the tax scam is on their site. So are details about other current scams – phone and online and who to report to about them. There is information on how to contact them as well, to report a fraud instance, online or call 1-888-495-8501. The website is updated daily.

Unfortunately we can’t go back to simpler phone times. And if I sound like an old you-know-what longing for past days, you got that right. Our world today is not really nice in many ways. So be vigilant while trying to enjoy what is good – like books, gardens, food, friends and family (not necessarily in that order).

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Only child prepares to battle telephone fraudsters.

Only child prepares to battle telephone fraudsters.

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Consumerism, Microsoft, Telephone Fraud and Scams

Only Child on more government/consumer issues

Only Child gearing up to tackle government depts and companies that screw up her life

Only Child gearing up to tackle government depts and companies that screw up her life

Last Saturday morning was grey, rainy and windy. A perfect premonition for snafus. If that didn’t warn me then my bus being nearly 10 minutes late should have.

It didn’t. And although I put it out there (God, universe – take your pick) to have things work out for getting my Photo ID card – they didn’t. So much for any smidgeon of trust.

No trouble finding the new Service Ontario outlet – a short bus ride from my home. Somewhat long line-up inside but it seemed to move quickly enough – until I got to one of the four wickets.

When I phoned the day before I was told for a photo ID card I needed a birth certificate, my Ontario Health Insurance card and my divorce papers (the latter bridgingthe name change gap as well as giving certified dates of marriage and divorce.)

The latter two were no problem. The unfriendly government employee behind the counter said my original birth certificate wasn’t valid – I needed one issued by the City of Toronto and this one looked like a church one – was it?

“I wouldn’t know; I was a baby then,” I replied.

Then I pointed out that the title said “Birth Certificate” and the part where the issuer was the City of Toronto in the County of York (back in the grey ages) and that it was signed by a Toronto City registrar. She wouldn’t buy it so faxed a copy to her superior in the downtown office. This “superior  idiot” agreed with her. She said that it was issued by a hospital. Now there was no indication of a hospital issuing it and if that were true, it should be valid. Even as late as 1978 when my son was born, his original certificate came from the hospital (but has all the city – Newmarket here – info on it.). In the 1980s I used my original paper birth certificate to obtain the laminated one the Ontario Government were creating and this ***hole Service Ontario employee stated that the laminated ones were valid.

Why has the original paper birth certificate worked for proof of birth elsewhere?

Why has the Ontario government been considering chucking issuing new laminated birth certificates? What will they accept then? Invisible birth certificates?

The photo ID is supposed to be for those of us who don’t have a driver’s licence and costs much less. Is what happened to me a variation of being discriminated against because I don’t drive?

I have a laminated birth certificate. Yesterday I took it (and other ID cards) out of my safety deposit box. They were all in there for safety purposes – the police tell us to do this instead of carrying them around with us or leaving them lying around in our homes in case of b and e’s and/or muggings.

But with government stupidity it looks like you have to constantly carry them around. You never know when you might need them.

I talked to a few people at the CARP Zoomer show (for adults 45 plus) Sunday and was told to complain to the Ontario Ombudsman and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. Will do – once I get my damn ID card and get all the other becoming senior issues and procedures done.

For the record, at this point here are my lists – gratitude/good companies/government depts. And my *hit list of the baddies. Note: some get on both lists – short explanation in brackets afterwards.

Only Child’s Gratitude Good Companies/Government Depts.

  1. Service Canada – phone and in person, in particular one branch at Gerrard and Pape in Toronto – others praise their helpfulness, friendliness. What government service should be like.
  2. Dell Canada (in part – for being able to lease laptops for years at a continually reduced monthly rate)
  3. Sears Canada (in part – Optical Department, Home Services – particularly window blinds – and watch repair)
  4. State Farm (they handle my house and business insurance and did a good job switching the former to monthly payments)
  5. Kristin Green and Associates (manage my website and domain and I have two email accounts connected to this) – despite their switchover to a new server, after my email request for help, Kristin phoned me back and walked me through any changes to my accounts that I couldn’t do. And explained it all in a friendly helpful manner.
  6. Scotiabank – for usually being helpful – and they accepted my original paper birth certificate for eliminating some costs for seniors

Only Child’s *hit list

  1. Service Ontario – see beginning of blog post.
  2. CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) – for lack of  knowledge of recent changes to paying taxes with CPP payments – cost me a lot of time and phone running around and delay paying the extra which I was required to pay (but was first told it wasn’t necessary)
  3. Empire Life Insurance Company for never informing me about the setup for my life insurance premium – it’s part investment –  and that there is a built-in what’s it that if you don’t add in extra to cover  increase in premiums you get a letter stating that if you don’t pay the extra by a certain day, your policy is canceled. The kicker? You have to phone them at the end of each fiscal year that you want to increase your premium or they don’t on your bill. I’m looking into other companies’ life insurance premiums where a medical isn’t required and will take this company to the Insurance Bureau of Canada and Ontario Ombudsman for unethical stupid practices. Today I put my foot down and said if they didn’t send me a bill for the real amount owing for the next quarter I’m paying the faulty lower one they just sent – technically and legally I can do that.
  4. Sears Canada (because the idiot new CEO is planning on closing the flagship store in downtown Toronto in the Eaton Centre. That’s my store for optical, etc. Now I’ll have to go further into Toronto outskirts – if they have Sears Optical there for any warranty-covered follow-ups to new eyeglasses which I would get before the anticipated February 2014 closing. Also I like their clothes better than Hudson Bay)
  5.  Direct Energy for trying to tell me my heating protection plan with them was not valid.
  6. Enbridge Canada for closing my account because they thought I moved and some guy named Peter moved in. They mixed up our streets – same name except mine is a Crescent and Peter’s is a Circle. This was two years ago and was fixed after I phoned several times.
  7. All utility companies for raising the rates and putting many of us deeper into the poor house – no matter what we do to save energy.
  8. The Canadian federal and Ontario provincial government for their service-cutting (mostly the feds) and its results and the province’s errors with hydro and gas and making the taxpayer pay (there is a debt repayment amount in our bi-monthly hydro bills).
  9. Dell Canada for screwing up my original new laptop lease order – they didn’t put in the order and wouldn’t admit they made a mistake. But they ordered it again and it is now here.

The list can go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumerism, Income Taxes, Problems, Seniors