Tag Archives: Seniors and Finances

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 declares war on Empire Life Insurance

Only child prepares to battle more human screwups

Only child prepares to battle more human screwups

Mother’s Day was good. My son Martin and his girlfriend Juni took me out for brunch and afterwards he came with me back to my house to do a few odd jobs and talk computer and other stuff with me. He removed the cover from the air-conditioner (the jury is out if and when the a/c will be used this year with the cold weather still) and put in the heavy top part of the patio umbrella. He didn’t have to hammer the nails back into the patio table as the arborist did come through and fix their damage. (See my added comment from last week’s post). Martin also helped me save and include old newspaper photos into Power Point (from the Toronto dailies online through the Toronto Public Library research connections). These are  for the memoir writing course I’m teaching next month.

I walked with him to the bus stop and after he boarded the bus I went to the nearby Home Depot to buy some bone meal. Because the weather included sporadic short showers I didn’t do any gardening and accepted that. Spent time reading newspapers and a book. Okay will all that.

Then yesterday – Monday – arrived and all the shit that brought. Again due to other people’s bad judgement/stupidity. Sheesh! I can get into enough trouble on my own without all this outside stuff.

First I got through five (yes, five) issues – some health-related but most connected to snafus with the house, city services and a utility. So, I phoned the dentist’s office to book an appointment but couldn’t get one until next Monday, did follow-up phone calls on the windows manufacturer coming to fix a problem with a window (under warranty but appointment has been postponed several times partly because of weather and partly they only will come when their techs are in the area), the city for follow-up on my complaints about garbage not being picked up two weeks ago – only one on the block, Rogers for a falling-down cable outside in the back, and my house insurance company for something else (this one was not a screw-up – I just didn’t understand the info mailed to me).

The other item in the mail is one of the big problems now.

Empire Life Insurance where I have my life insurance – they picked up my policy from a company they absorbed a few years back – are up to their old tricks. In a nutshell, they increase your premiums annually if you are a senior and don’t have any extra saved in your premium fund. So, they send a threatening letter (worded politely) if you don’t send X number of dollars – basically one quarterly premium payment increased – they will cancel your policy.

Is this right? Sounds like they are taking advantage of us seniors.

They have done this before and I have waged war and called them on it. Two years ago, after several angry phone calls to their call centre, I was connected to someone who could do something. We talked and she said that she would arrange it that I would no longer get these letters and that the increase would automatically be applied. She followed up with a letter.

Last year, thats is what happened. This year? Empire Life Insurance is back to their old tricks. I have the threatening letter now, when the fiscal year for the premiums isn’t until August. I have the current May bill to pay (with 30 days grace – I’m waiting for my government pension later this month or the deposit from the new editing client after the Victoria Day weekend when she is back from holidays – then I can pay).

So I am on the warpath again. I will collect all my information from the last time and phone to try to get it straightened out – AGAIN. I am also going to try to sic CARP (I’m a member) on them. Two years ago I tried the Insurance Bureau of Canada complaint department but they weren’t helpful. If this isn’t solved I will have to cancel my policy and have no life insurance unless I can find something else suitable that I can afford (I’ll ask CARP) so my son can pay my funeral costs and debts without using his own funds. Life Insurance is paid out before any will is processed.

Empire Life Insurance will also get bad PR from me.

You know the old saying about life being a bowl of cherries with the pits. I seem to be living it against my will.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under CARP, Consumer action, Family, finances, Health Seniors, Life Insurance, Only child, Problems, Worrying

Only Child in financial crunch thanks to health issues

Only child ponders finances, health and the like

Only child ponders finances, health and the like

Looks like what I do for my health will not only depend on my time, but my finances. Surprise! Surprise! I say that sarcastically as I am one of many seniors who live below the poverty level and have to make choices what we can really afford to pay for. And I have known that for years.

Food, utilities and property taxes, family, property, insurance and book promo are at the top of the list for monthly payments, although not necessarily in that order.

So where is health? Yes, it should be on the list, and maybe it is – somewhere. (I haven’t listed all the categories for my monthly expenses.)  But in the last nine months or so health has stolen from my finances and my time – the bad health issues. I don’t mean buying healthy food and eating healthy food. I seem to be able to keep within food grocery budget (so far), but whatever I budget for health each month is never enough. And that is just the basics I spend on health each month. Basics for me is a lot of vitamins, minerals and other supplements. Necessary for me. A few quick examples. I have to take mega-doses of Vitamin D from November to end of April becaue of our you-know-what weather in Canada (the word begins with “f”), there is little winter sun. The body doesn’t keep Vitamin D so it needs constant replenishing. I have a digestive disorder so have to take probiotics and digestive supplements. And then there are the various supplements, etc. for my allergies and re-occurring sinisitus from the allergies. But those are basic monthlies and don’t take into account all the extras such as dentist, serum for allergies, and all the health emergencies that come up.

In previous posts I mentioned that I am dealing with one big health issue a  month – even if the related health practitioners don’t like it. The focus had been on my time. I love my late mom, but don’t want to spend my senior years like her – a long litany of various medical appointments that didn’t improve her health and didn’t save her life. For example, medication for her arthritis didn’t make it better. She lost her job because of her arthritis. And thanks to the arthritis, she had a fall, which led to an undetected brain aneurysm, which wasn’t found by any of the litany of medical experts she saw – until it was too late and it sent her into a five-day coma, which killed her – despite surgery.

I rest my case with that aspect.

But the financial. This month was earmarked by me (in conjunction with my dentist – at least I was following his direction here) that I needed my (hopefully – experience has trusted me not to trust anything where health is concerned) last dental appointment to fix the residue of the dental emergency in early December had to be in February.
Well, I made an appointment for Feb. 17, but have since moved it to Feb. 29. That’s a time thing. For those who read my author blog you will know I’m in a big crunch to finish my third Beyond mystery book to get it to the publisher by Feb. 28. Of course, if accepted, there will be more changes and rewrites. But I moved the dental appointment to after the publisher’s deadline – I cannot afford taking time from my writing day this month to do medical appointments for medical practitioners who don’t have evening and/or weekend hours.

But now I can’t afford to pay the dentist this month. He is very understanding about lowering the fee, but I’m hoping he will accept post-dated cheques for over the next few months. Starting with March, the property taxes return. I have a horrendous hydro bill coming later this month (horrendous because hydro’s credit which provided dollars off ended January 1). I have applied for the new electrical bill help which could give me $30 a month off or $60 a month for each bill which is bi-monthly.

Won’t be this current bill. My application has been received. I got notice of that last week, although it was a month since I sent it in. I was told when I phoned in last week that it would take two to four more weeks before being approved because the consent form takes the time.

Well excuse me. I filled out and signed the consent form and there is only me involved for consent for them to get a copy of my income tax notice of assessment for 2014 – the latest available. Oh pardon my ignorance – that is two different governments.

So, to return to health issues. A business colleague just published a book called “My Business Ate My Life” – a self-help (with some humour) guideline for small businesses who spend 24/7 with their business. If I wrote a similar book, the title would be “My Health Ate my Life.”

Being old is not fun – with health and finances. And, for those who are wondering – I can’t afford to pay for one of those extended health care plans. I have looked into a bunch of them – monthly payment all too high for limited coverage a la carte.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Health, Health Insurance, Health Seniors, Hydro Rates, Insurance, Life Balance, Life demands, Money, Old Age, Older Women living alone and health, Poverty

Only Child on seniors’ age versus finances

Only Child  contemplates some harsh realities

Only Child contemplates some harsh realities

When is a senior a senior? Is it 65? Or 60? Or maybe 59? Or maybe 70? Being senior is not necessarily your age, how you feel or how your health is. Being senior boils down to one thing – money.

Last week I did the draft of my income tax returns for 2012. Not only was the income from all sources paltry but what I can’t claim for senior tax credits upset me because I’m not quite 65 – the age the Canadian Federal government puts for seniors’ tax credits, Old Age Security  and Guaranteed Income Supplement payments (the latter can be clawed back when you do your tax returns).

But, wait a minute – the Feds aren’t consistent here. Canada Pension Plans can be paid out from age 60. Last year I opted to start receiving them and many months they saved my bacon. But if my tax calculations are correct (or nearly correct – I have to go through the draft again) my income tax payment is around the same amount as one month’s CPP payment.

Besides not qualifying for seniors’ tax credits, I’m not married or living common law and don’t have a child under 18, so can’t qualify for those tax credits either. My medical-health expenses either don’t qualify or aren’t sufficient to work in with the percentage deduction there. So I’m left with tax credits for a bank service and for having a pass for Toronto public transportation. Oh, I can fill out the form for Ontario property tax credits (age isn’t a “qualification” here) – but it is no longer used as a tax credit when filing your taxes – if approved, you get a monthly payment for the next year.

But wait a minute: the Toronto Transit Commission seniors’ age starts at 65; Shoppers Drug Mart is either 60 or 65 (depending on who you ask there), Hudson’s Bay is 60, Sears is – well I don’t know as their Sears Advantage seems geared to all adult ages. VIA Rail is 60.

Can’t we get this age senior setup consistent? I suggest 55, although that won’t help me now. Of course, that isn’t where governments are thinking for seniors’ age. Freedom 55 is more of a dinosaur than we seniors are.

Where does that leave a maybe senior who is living barely above the poverty level (counting all income sources) for a single person living alone in Toronto? (And I did a Google search for that so I’m not making this status up).

Where it leaves me is having to hit on my RRSPS (which are so meagre they wouldn’t keep me for half a year) to pay my taxes and other non-regular expenses (house repairs/replacements and the like). I don’t have a company pension and it’s too late (in my years) to get into this new government pension setup for self-employed. My freelance income sure isn’t sufficient (maybe if I could spend more time at it instead of dealing with repairs and housework, it could improve. But that’s all part of “the only person living just above the poverty line syndrome). I know I’m not the only “senior” swaying in this boat.

So I do an annual hit on my RRSPs? I figure the way things are going (stress, worry, problems, even health) if I don’t they might just outlive me.

Excuse me while I attend to the latest problem – my printer is acting up – it is printing only one page at a time, even when set to do more. And I checked the connections – even switched to another power cord.

What do you think of all this senior age-money nonsense?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Ageism, Aloneness, finances, Income Taxes, Living alone, Old Age, Old Age pensions, Only child, RRSPs, Seniors, Worrying