January 8, 2018 3:35 pm
Updated: January 8, 2018 5:07 pm

Canada Revenue Agency tweaks tax return process — here’s what to know

WATCH: This is how the Canada Revenue Agency is tweaking its tax return process

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The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced Monday that it is changing the way thousands of citizens will file their tax and benefit returns this year.

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About 950,000 Canadians with low or fixed incomes will be eligible for the CRA’s new “File my Return” automated service, Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier, explained in a press release.

READ MORE: Indigenous Canadians face barriers, challenges at tax time, report says

The individuals will be able to file their tax return, as long as it is unchanged year-to-year, by answering short questions and giving some personal information by telephone. They will not need to make any calculations or fill out paper forms, but will still be able to see what deductions, benefits and credits they can receive.

Those who are eligible for the service will be notified with letters by mid-February. The service will run every day from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. ET during tax-filing season.

WATCH: Halifax man in months-long fight with CRA to get refund

The CRA also announced Monday that those who filed their returns directly by mail in past years will receive the “General Income Tax and Benefit Guide,” and other forms in the mail this year. In previous years, Canadians have had to pick up the tax package from a Canada Post, Service Canada, or Caisse populaire Desjardins outlet.

The agency noted that some forms (in both official languages) will still be available at these locations starting Feb.26, in case they are needed. But starting in 2019, all forms will be mailed from the CRA.

WATCH: Canadians pay on average 42.5 per cent of their income in taxes, report finds

Canadians who do not receive the package in the mail by Feb. 26 can order them online, or call the CRA at 1-855-330-3305 (1-855-330-3310 for French service).

The changes for this year’s tax return process come amid criticism that many Canadians face barriers at tax time. For example, a 2017 study found that Indigenous Canadians may skip filing taxes due to reasons such as lack of understanding of the system, and the costs associated with filing (paying an accountant or travelling to an accountant’s offices, for instance).

READ MORE: CRA call centre only picks up the phone one-third of the time, auditor general report finds

In November 2017, an auditor general report found that Canadians with tax questions are more likely to get a busy signal than talk to a tax agent when they call the CRA.

The report found that the CRA blocks more than half of the calls to its nine call centres because it can’t handle the volume. People whose calls are blocked hear a busy signal or a message to visit the website or call back later.

WATCH: Morneau announces increase to working income tax benefit

While the latest changes may not resolve these concerns, Lebouthillier explained in the press release that making tax filing easier for Canadians is her “top priority,” especially for those who face reduced mobility, don’t have internet or live far from service centres.

“The CRA is working to make it easier and simpler to find, complete and file a return. The new services we are now providing are more user-friendly and convenient, especially for Canadians with low or fixed income.”

— With files from Global News reporters Monique Scotti and Leslie Young

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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