News / Ottawa

Many low-income Canadians who don't file taxes lose out on benefits

Government research finds some low-income, Indigenous people could be getting more if they filed returns.

Vehicles are shown in the northern Ontario First Nations reserve in Attawapiskat, Ont. Public opinion research the government conducted showed many Indigenous people don't receive benefits because they're not filing tax returns.

Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

Vehicles are shown in the northern Ontario First Nations reserve in Attawapiskat, Ont. Public opinion research the government conducted showed many Indigenous people don't receive benefits because they're not filing tax returns.

Canadians who need the help the most may not be getting it, because they’re not filing tax returns, according to research the Canada Revenue Agency conducted.

Benefits like the Canada child benefit and even just regular tax returns aren’t necessarily flowing the research found, because low income people aren’t filing returns.

“Despite a strong awareness of various government benefits and financial services available, there appears to be only a moderate understanding that receipt of some benefits is dependent upon filing a tax return,” read one report the government received from corporate research associates.

It adds many people believe completing a return is too hard.

“There is a perception that completing a tax return is confusing, difficult, and challenging particularly for those who are not adept at math, comfortable with numbers.”

Another study found similar issues existed in Indigenous communities and that there was no one available to help file a return.

“At the very least, members of the various communities often indicated they were personally unaware of any such services if they do exist,” read the report from another research agency Phoenix Strategic Perspectives.

Laura Neidhart, with the group Canada Without Poverty, said they’ve seen that happening with the Canada Child Benefit programming.

She said low-income people sometime worries about back taxes, or lack the resources to file a return or don’t believe it’s necessary.

“Low income often believe they don’t have a high enough income to bother filing taxes,” she said.

She said the results should make the government consider what it’s doing on the issue and it should consider these problems when they design programs to help those in poverty.

“We think the solution is for the programs to be developed in partnership with the communities they’re meant to serve,” she said. “You’re able to have a much more effective approach.”

She said if the programs aren’t working government needs to take a solid look and see where they should be redesigned.

Metro reached out to the Canada Revenue Agency, but did not receive a response before press time.

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