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Dear CRA: Shut Up And Take My Paper Tax Return

As the government bungles going digital, paper filing seems to be getting even harder for honest taxpayers.

Once again it's tax time and that means it's also time for my annual battle with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), but it's not for the reason you might think. I'm not averse to paying taxes. I am annoyed at the CRA's continuing discrimination against those of us who wish to file a paper return.

The federal government's commitment to electronic filing is all well and good, particularly for those taxpayers who wish to choose that option. But that fact doesn't give the CRA the right to undercut those of us who still choose the paper-filing route.

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I have my reasons for choosing paper, including being more comfortable with paper filing, the ease of relying on past paper records, and the government's questionable record implementing and maintaining electronic online systems (the Phoenix pay system, the project and the long-gun registry, to name but three). It seems that whenever the feds try to implement a government-wide computerized system, the only thing that increases are the cost overruns.

In any event, I'm not sure why I should have to justify my preference for paper filing. After all, I'm trying to give the government some of my money, so presumably they would want to make that easy for me.

Needless to say, the CRA does not go out of its way to accommodate paper filers. In fact, the last 10 years has seen them make it increasingly difficult to submit a paper return. The most egregious step was the elimination of the annual mailing of personalized forms to those still filing by paper, a step that was hardest on low-income filers and those with no (or poor) internet connections.

Luckily, it appears that there have been enough complaints from Luddites like me that the government has reversed that policy. For the past few years, I either had to order the forms online and hope that they actually showed up, or visit my local Canada Post outlet. I'm happy to report that because I filed a paper return last year, a paper return for the 2018 tax year recently showed up in my mailbox.

The CRA sure isn't making it easy to get a hold of a paper tax return.
Screenshot/Canada Revenue Agency
The CRA sure isn't making it easy to get a hold of a paper tax return.

Sadly, that victory did not come without cost. A recent visit to my local Canada Post outlet revealed no 2018 income tax packages. Instead, there was a notice urging taxpayers to file electronically, print the forms themselves or order them online (an option that, in my experience, is somewhat unpredictable).

Still, there was another small tax form victory for the little guy this year. If you're running a small business (in my case, a Lilliputian writing business with barely a four-figure income), it used to be you could order the required form online in as many numbers as you needed.

Two years ago, that changed. You were not allowed to order that particular form (form T2125 for those with a bureaucratic bent). Instead, you had to print it from the CRA website which was no easy matter for folks who didn't have an internet connection and a printer.

I'm not sure why the CRA continues to make life difficult for the little guy.

Again, the Canada Revenue Agency relented and is once again allowing people to order form T2125 online, but with one small catch: you can only order one copy. When I tried to order a second copy for my wife's business, the system blocked me.

I then phoned the CRA personal tax line and talked to a nice young woman who offered to help me out. But when she tried to order the form, the order was again blocked. Since our one-year-old printer is no longer functional, she suggested we go somewhere and make a copy at our expense. When I politely asked to speak to her supervisor, she took down my number, claimed to transfer my call and promptly disconnected me.

The fact that I'm not alone in receiving sub-par service from the CRA is small comfort.

I'm not sure why the CRA continues to make life difficult for the little guy. Unlike rich tax avoiders with their offshore holdings, wealthy corporations with their maze of tax loopholes and deferments, and the cash-under-the-table tax evaders, we paper filers are simply honest citizens trying to pay our taxes and do the right thing. Sadly, that seems to count for little these days.

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