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Tax AID DABC yields $100,000 in tax returns/credits

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Cause for celebration! Since its launch in July 2015, Tax AID DABC has helped clients receiving PWD/PPMB benefits to secure over $100,000 in tax returns and benefits.

For more information or to speak to one of our advocates about Tax AID DABC, please call 604-872-1278/1-800-663-1278, or email taxaid@disabilityalliancebc.org.

Thank you to the Vancouver Foundation for funding this program.

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Disability and Income Supports Workshop – Powell River, BC

Powell River BC, November 17, 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: Vancouver Island University, Powell River Campus (Room 150)

We are excited to invite people with disabilities, service providers, and community members for an upcoming event in Powell River. The event will look at some of the most common sources of income and support for people with disabilities including:

1. Provincial Disability Benefits
2. Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits
3. Income Tax Programs Including the Disability Tax Credit and Registered Disability Savings Plan.

In the afternoon, a DABC advocate will be available for one-to-one consultations to help people receiving provincial (PWD or PPMB) disability benefits to get help filing taxes for 2014 or previous years. Space will be limited so please RSVP by email (taxaid@disabilityalliancebc.org) or by phone (1-800-663-1278) in advance to guarantee a spot.

Happy RDSP Awareness Month!

Move over Thanksgiving – this October marks the second annual RDSP Awareness Month, an initiative announced by the BC government to promote awareness and uptake on the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).  For the uninitiated, the RDSP is a groundbreaking way for people with disabilities and their families to save for their future.

The RDSP is unique because the Federal Government is willing to contribute tens of thousands of dollars, up to $90,000, to the RDSP over a person’s lifetime.  Is there a catch?  Well yes, a few actually, but that hasn’t deterred British Columbians from contributing more than $148 million dollars to their RDSPs.  Keep in mind that the RDSP is a long-term savings plan and you need to be prepared to leave money in your RDSP for 10-20 years or you risk losing much of the benefits of the plan.

To be eligible, you have to qualify for the disability tax credit (DTC) which requires you to complete and submit a T2201 disability tax credit certificate to the CRA and have them confirm that you are eligible to claim the disability tax credit.  The eligibility criteria for the DTC are different than for Provincial disability benefits.  There’s a self-assessment questionnaire on the T2201 certificate that you can use to get a sense of whether you might qualify.  Disability Alliance BC also offers an RDSP helpsheet which explains more details about the DTC and RDSP.  In addition to qualifying for the DTC, you also have to:

  • have a valid social insurance number,
  • be up-to-date on your taxes,
  • be a Canadian resident, and
  • be under 50 (for the Federal government to make contributions to your RDSP),

To be able to get the full benefit of the RDSP.

Once you’ve qualified for the DTC you can open up an RDSP.  Most major banks and credit unions offer the RDSP and you will likely need to book an appointment at the bank or credit union of your choice.  You will have to decide when you open up your RDSP how you want to invest the money that goes into the account.  Most financial institutions will offer a range of options based on your tolerance for risk and your financial goals.  Most financial institutions will also take care of applying for Federal government contributions on your behalf.

Speaking of Federal government contributions, there are two ways the government contributes to RDSPs.  The first is a grants program which matches individual contributions to RDSP’s at a rate of up to 3:1.  This means that for each dollar you put into an RDSP the Federal government will contribute $3 in return on your first $500 of contributions in a year.  Even if you can’t afford to contribute to the RDSP you can still benefit from the bonds program which provides contributions of $1,000 to an RDSP if your income was under $26,021.  The Federal government will contribute up to $70,000 in grants and $20,000 in bonds over your lifetime.

For many people with disabilities, the RDSP has the potential to be life-changing.  Relative to other Provinces, BC has a good uptake rate on the RDSP, with an estimated 11% of eligible British Columbians having started an RDSP.  That means there’s still up to 89% of us who could stand to benefit.  If you are one of that 89%, I strongly encourage you to spend some time looking into whether the RDSP might be for you.  There are various resources available from Disability Alliance BC and other organizations which provide a more detailed look at the ins and outs of the RDSP.

If you need to get caught up on income taxes to benefit from an RDSP, remember that people on Provincial disability benefits (PWD or PPMB) can contact Tax AID DABC to ask for help getting caught up.

Thanks for reading!  Our next post is scheduled for October 30.

Free tax filing clinic in Victoria: September 25th

On Friday, September 25, a Tax AID DABC advocate will be providing free income tax filing assistance at the Disability Resource Centre (DRC) office in Victoria, BC for people receiving PWD/PPMB benefits. We will be able to help with multiple years of taxes. The DRC office is located at 817 A Fort Street, Victoria, BC.

Anyone who wishes to book an appointment can contact DRC reception at (250) 595-0044.

Tax Slips: Why you need them and how you can get them (Part 3)

In the previous posts in this series, we discussed why tax slips are important for filing your taxes and some ways that you can get tax slips, either from CRA or elsewhere.  In this final installment, we will discuss how to get your tax slips by mail or by using CRA’s online MyAccount service.  I will also tell you why you probably won’t be able to request your tax slips from CRA in-person.

You can request your tax slips by sending a letter to CRA.  To do this, write a letter to CRA requesting that they mail your tax slips to you.  Make sure you include the following information in your letter: your name, Social Insurance Number, date of birth, current address, and your signature.  In your letter, you should also provide a short note about the information you are requesting.  For example “I need the tax slips you have on file for me so I can catch up on my unfiled tax returns.  Please send all tax slips on file for any years I have not yet filed my taxes.”  You might also want to take the time to request that CRA change the address on file if your address has changed recently.  You can do this by completing the one page Form RC325 (available on the CRA website), or you can just note the change of address and your moving date on the letter you are sending.

Notice that when you send a letter by mail, you don’t need to answer a challenge question like you do when you ask for information on the telephone (see the previous post for details).  As I understand it, this is because your signature is considered to be sufficient verification of your identity and a challenge question is therefore not generally required.

After you’ve written and signed your letter, mail it to your Regional tax centre.  For residents of BC, this is the Surrey Tax Centre.  The mailing address is:

9755 King George Boulevard, Surrey BC , V3T 5E1

You should expect to wait two weeks or more to get a response.  Waiting times will vary depending on the time of year and how busy the tax centre is when they receive your request.

If you are computer savvy, you can also use the CRA’s online MyAccount system to access certain kinds of tax slips including T4’s, T4E’s and T4A’s.  Currently, MyAccount does not have T5007’s (Social Assistance Payments, including PWD or PPMB payments) on file so if you need this information you may not be able to get it from MyAccount.  Also, to access tax slips on MyAccount you need to complete a registration process first.  You can get information about registering for MyAccount on the CRA website.  I will also discuss some of the reasons you should consider registering for MyAccount in a future post on this blog.

With that said, you now have three possible methods to get tax slip information from the CRA; phone, mail, or online.  One method that will probably not work, at least as of the writing of this post, is to request your tax slips in-person.  I had never personally tried to access tax slips by visiting a CRA office, but from time to time, clients will ask whether this is possible.  Doing my due diligence, I took a stroll over to my local Vancouver tax services office to inquire about whether they could provide me with my tax slips.  I was politely told that CRA offices have not provided this kind of in-person service for individuals for at least the past few years.  This may change in the future, but for now it seems that going to your local tax services office to request your tax slips in-person is unlikely to yield results.

This concludes our three part series on obtaining tax slips.  Thanks for reading!  Any errors or omissions are the fault of the author.  The next blog post is scheduled for October 9.

FREE tax assistance clinic in Sechelt – September 30th

On Wednesday, September 30th, a Tax AID DABC advocate will be providing free income tax filing assistance at the Open Door Group office in Sechelt, BC for people receiving PWD/PPMB benefits. We will be able to help with multiple years of taxes.

Anyone who wishes to sign up can contact Donna at the Open Door Group at 604-885-3351 ext. 3101, or come into the office at 5674 Cowrie St, Sechelt, to sign up in person.

Tax Slips: Why you need them and how you can get them (Part 2)

In the first entry of this multi-part blog post, we talked about some of the reasons you might need your tax slips and where you can go to get them.  I had suggested that it’s often easiest to get them directly from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), particularly if you need to file your taxes for previous years and are not sure all of the years you need to file.  The next two posts will provide greater detail about some of the ways you can request tax slips from the CRA.  We’ll look at three ways you can get your tax slips from the CRA and one way that will probably not work.  Part two will discuss contacting the CRA by phone and part three will look at other options including requesting information by mail or online.

For most people wanting to obtain their tax slips, my first suggestion would be to try calling the CRA since it’s often the fastest way to get this information.  However, there are a few pitfalls to calling that you should know about.

The CRA’s number for individual income tax enquiries within Canada is 1-800-959-8281.  Agents are available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  However, just because you call between those hours, doesn’t mean you’ll get through on your first try.  The line is often tied up with other calls.  However, I generally find that this changes, almost literally, from second to second.  In my experience, I can usually get through within about 1-3 minutes, but that’s because I’m not afraid to call 5 or 6 times in a row if necessary.

I prefer to use a cell-phone or a phone with redial so I do not have to manually punch in the number each time.  This may seem like overkill but it does tend to work.  As a rule of thumb, I would suggest that if you cannot get through within about 5 minutes using this trick, the line may genuinely be tied up and you might consider waiting a few hours or until the next day to try again.

Once you do get through you will be greeted by an automated system.  I encourage you to listen to the options provided but if you’re impatient, the fastest way to request an operator (as of the writing of this post) is to press “1” followed by the “star” key.  You’ll have to wait on hold for an agent but not for long.  Usually it only takes 1-2 minutes and I cannot even think of a time when it took more than 5 minutes for me to get through.

After all this, you should finally be on the line with a real person.  In order to access your file, they will need your Social Insurance Number, date of birth, and full name.  With only very limited exceptions, you should never try to request information about someone else’s tax situation.  You should never impersonate another person for the purposes of obtaining such information.

Not unlike the Bridge Keeper in Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail”, you will have to answer a challenge question before the agent you are speaking to will provide you with any personal information.  These challenge questions provide an extra layer of protection against income tax and identity fraud, but they can be a bit of a pain to answer.  You won’t always be asked the same questions in the same order, but some questions that come up frequently include “What was the amount on line 150 of the last tax return you filed”, “who did you work for in a given year”, “what are the full names and birthdays of your dependent children” or “what are your previous addresses”?  If you can answer one of the challenge questions to the satisfaction of the agent, she/he should be able to provide you with information about your tax slips as well as the years you still need to file your tax return.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to answer a challenge question or otherwise prefer not to request information over the phone, there are a few other options available to you.  These will be discussed in the last part of this series.

Thanks for reading!  Any errors or omissions in this or other posts on the Tax AID blog are the fault of the author.  Changes in CRA policy or procedure may impact the accuracy of the information in this post.  Part three will cover other options for obtaining tax slips from the CRA.  It will be posted on September 18.

Tax Slips: Why you need them and how you can get them (Part 1)

Tax slips, as you may well know, are slips of paper that contain information about your income tax situation.  You will likely get tax slips from a person or organization that provided you income in a given year.  The type of tax slip you get depends on the type of income you received.  If you worked during the year, you might get a T4 slip from your employer showing a record of how much money you made for that tax year.  If you received PWD or PPMB benefits, you should receive a T5007 slip from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI) which tells you how much social assistance you received.

Your tax slips are an important documentary record of the money you received throughout the year.  You will need the information that is on them to be able to accurately file your taxes so it`s a good idea to store them in a safe place once you get them.  However, if you haven`t gotten around to filing taxes in a few years, you may have lost track of a few key tax slips or you may not have any at all.  Do not despair!  If you lose a tax slip, or never received one that you think you should have received, you may have to do a bit of detective work.  However, you don`t have to be Sherlock Holmes to get the information you need.

You have two main options to obtain tax slip information.  First, you might be able to get the information from whoever provided it in the first place, whether it is an employer, MSDSI, or some other party that gave you money.  Getting this information will often be as simple as just contacting the party in question and asking for it.  MSDSI even has a dedicated phone line dedicated to T5007 inquiries (1-877-815-2363).  Make sure you have your personal information handy so you can verify your identity.

Second, you may be able to get your tax slips directly from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  CRA might not have your most recent tax slips for the current year but they will usually have tax slips for previous years on file.

Although there is no hard and fast rule about whether you should request your tax slips from the slip provider or from CRA, a good rule of thumb is that if you need tax slips for the current tax year it`s probably easiest to ask the tax slip provider to give you the information directly.  If you need information from previous tax years it`s probably easiest to request the information from the CRA.  There are a few reasons that getting this information directly from CRA can be a good option.  They will usually have all of the tax slips you need from multiple different parties, which saves the hassle of needing to request information from all of your tax slip providers.  Also, the CRA will be able to tell you which year you have not filed your taxes in addition to letting you know which tax slips they have for you.  This saves you the guesswork if you are not 100% sure which years you need to file.

That does it for part one of this three part blog post.  Part two and three will go into more detail about this topic, focusing specifically on ways to request information from the CRA.  Part two will be published on August 28.

Update: Contrary to original expectations, we’ve decided there is enough material on this topic to add a third entry.  As scheduled, part two will be posted on August 28.

Welcome to Tax AID DABC!

We are very excited to be launching the website for Tax AID DABC.  This new program, funded by the Vancouver Foundation, is going to be a valuable resource for people across British Columbia who receive the Persons with Disabilities benefit (PWD) or Persons with Persistent and Multiple Barriers to Employment benefit (PPMB) and who want to get caught up to date on their income taxes.  We hope the website will help you to learn a bit more about our program, provide some valuable resources, and convince you that there are lots of great reasons to get caught up. If you are interested in learning about how we can assist you or just want to ask some questions, I hope you will not hesitate to get in touch.  Our services are free and confidential, and we’re happy to be asked difficult questions.  There are lots of ways to contact us which you’ll find on the contacts page.  We have prepared a brochure and a poster to help spread the word about this new service.  If you want to take a look at them, you’ll find them in electronic format on our resources page. You can also help us spread the word by using the hashtag #TaxAidDABC on social media. Thanks so much for your interest in Tax AID DABC, and remember, taxes don’t have to be taxing!