Cautionary tax tales for seniors

Local tax expert concerned about seniors being targeted at tax time

The end of April is the deadline for filing personal income taxes in Canada; a busy time for tax preparers. Pat Thorrougood from Kimberley’s Exact Tax says she has a lot of senior clients and she is worried that some seniors are being taken advantage of as the deadline looms.

Her first concern is the frequency with which her clients are seeing emails purporting to be from Canada Revenue Agency and requesting personal information in order for a person to claim their refund.

“I’m worried about seniors when they see this,” Thorrougood said. “It’s got a good logo, everything looks official. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.”

The Canada Revenue Agency itself has posted warnings about this particular scam — a phishing scam designed to collect personal information.

On the CRA website:

The CRA does not do the following:

The CRA never requests, by email, personal information of any kind from a taxpayer.

The CRA will never request information from a taxpayer pertaining to a passport, health card, or driver’s license.

The CRA will not divulge taxpayer information to another person unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.

The CRA will not leave any personal information on an answering machine.

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

Am I expecting additional money from the CRA?

Does this sound too good to be true?

Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?

Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?

How did the requester get my email address?

Am I confident I know who is asking for the information?

The other issue that worries Thorrougood is certain agencies who solicit seniors by telling them they will help them get disability refunds for a percentage of their return, usually in the range of 25 per cent.

It’s not illegal to do so, Thorrougood says — but neither is it necessary to pay someone to access the funding because the form you need to fill out (T2201) is really quite simple.

Thorrougood explains that if someone (usually a senior) qualifies for disability funding, they can received tax credits of up to $1500 per year.

“For some people who haven’t been aware of this, they may not have claimed seven or eight years worth of credits,” she said. “They could receive an amount like $11,000 or $12,000 and the broker, or person who assisted them with the form gets 25 per cent. Any reputable tax business like Exact Tax, or H&R Block will have the form. The only thing you need to fill out yourself is the personal information on the top half. Then you take it to your doctor and for $20 he fills it out. Even if you have one of these brokers help you, you still have to go to the doctor.

“I’m concerned that people in some cases are paying up to $2500 or more for a service that can be done by paying $20 for your doctor to fill out a form. I do it for my clients for free. Any ethical establishment will charge at most $50 to help fill out the form.

“It really upsets me to see someone who is living on a fixed income of $30,000 pay so much when they don’t have to.”

 

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