Ryan, a Toronto taxpayer who asked to be mentioned only by first name, was counting on a $10,000 tax refund to help pay for his upcoming wedding in July.
He sent in his taxes on Feb. 26, the first day of the 2018 filing period, and savoured the arrival of a large cheque from the government.
On May 29, however, he was still waiting for the funds to arrive.
“I’m having to have conversations with my fiancee on what to cut [from the wedding budget] if this money doesn’t come,” he told Global News via email that day.
Fortunately, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) processed Ryan’s return a few days later. Others, however, haven’t been so lucky.
Robert Sandercott of Manotick, Ont., also sent in his taxes on Feb. 26 but said he’s still waiting on about $20,000 worth of refund.
Roger Tremblay of Grande Prairie, Alta., who also filed online on day one of tax season, said he’s expecting the government to return around $5,900 but can’t get a straight story about why the money isn’t in his account yet.
“When I call in to get the date for completion, [it] keeps changing with no reason given,” he said via email.
Global News has heard from around a dozen Canadians who said that their 2017 tax return hasn’t been processed yet, even though they filed in February or early March.
Asked for comment, the CRA said it aims to process at least 95 per cent of individual income tax returns sent by deadline within two weeks of receipt for digital files and within eight weeks for paper files.
“We are currently meeting these service standards,” the agency said.
However, it added, “if a return is selected for review, or if critical information is missing, it may take longer than usual for the return to be processed, especially if we need the taxpayer to send in additional or supporting documentation.”
Just because you filed early, doesn’t mean you’ll get your refund early, said David Rotfleisch, owner of Toronto tax law firm Rotfleisch and Samulovitch.
Although the CRA can select tax returns for review after its initial assessment, it can also decide to do a deeper dive as it is processing your taxes.
“A return can be sent for further review at any stage,” Rotfleisch told Global News.
“It’s not unheard of for CRA to take two or three months to process files,” he added.
Indeed, several taxpayers who contacted Global News said the CRA had contacted them with requests for more information or missing documents. Others, however, said the agency never asked for additional information.
“Part of it is luck of the draw: How it’s happening, who is dealing with it, what the caseload is,” Rotfleisch said.
Many of those who wrote to Global News said the CRA had provided them with several dates by which their refund would be processed, all of which were missed.
Fabio Palermo said that after providing information that was missing from his original tax file, he was told his taxes would be processed by April 26. That date, though, came and went, and Palermo said the CRA recently said it could take up to four months for his $5,000 refund to land into his bank account.
Unfortunately, Canada’s tax system offers little recourse to those whose returns become stuck in processing limbo, Rotfleisch said.
“Eventually, you can get a lawyer involved to force CRA to process the return, but we’re talking years down the road, not months,” he said.
The meagre consolation for those who filed by the April 30 deadline and have yet to see their refund is that their money started accruing a modest daily interest beginning on May 31.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.