How does the PSAC strike affect me during tax season?

Julia Hornstein, Vimal Sivakumar
Published: April 22, 2023

Amid a strike involving over 155,000 federal government workers, here is how Canadians will be impacted when it comes to filing their taxes until the strike is resolved.

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On April 19, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) started to strike after failing to reach an agreement with the Canadian government on several fronts.

According to PSAC, they are striking to get the government to negotiate “fair wages, a better work-life balance, more workplace inclusivity, and reduced layoffs through the creation of more jobs, rather than contracting positions to private organizations.”

Despite the strike, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has indicated that the agency has no intention to adjust tax deadlines for Canadians. Additionally, some services CRA services will be maintained during the strike while other services experience delays and challenges due to a reduced workforce.

CRA services that will be maintained during the PSAC strike

The CRA has noted that the following service areas will continue to operate completely or largely without disruption for as long as the strike continues.

  • Application processing and benefit payment issuance related to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) program
  • Customer service phone lines including the CRA’s Benefit Enquiries line (see note below)
  • Issuance of tax return benefits (ex. GST/HST credit, Climate Action Incentive Payment (CAIP))

Note: It is expected that phone line wait times will be longer than usual

CRA services that will be partially or fully impacted by the PSAC strike

According to the agency, “many CRA services are expected to be delayed or [become] unavailable.”

The agency says that they expect the following service areas to see the most change:

  • Income tax and benefit return processing will be delayed
  • Wait times for contact centre assistance will increase
  • Processing and issuing of mail and paper returns will be paused for later processing
  • CRA’s Individual Enquiries line will operate on a “best-effort basis where possible”

Furthermore, CRA contact centre service availability will vary. According to their Labour Disruptions page, Canadians can expect:

  • Benefits and Individual Tax phone lines to remain open, but with “reduced agent capacity” (see note below)
  • The following three methods of contact with the CRA to be completely shut down during the strike: the Business Tax Enquiries phone line, the Debt Management Call Centre and CRA agent online chat functions

Note: Priority will be given to Individual Tax phone line callers who must file a tax return to obtain family or child benefits

Doing your taxes for the first time in Canada

A tax return is a document filed with the CRA that reports your income, deductions and credits for a given tax year.

Even if you only lived in Canada for part of the year, you may need to file a tax return if you earned income, whether from employment or investments. You must file a tax return if:

  • You have to pay taxes
  • You want to claim a refund

There are two main ways to complete and send the CRA your tax return, online or in person.

To file your taxes online, you would need to use a certified software, which will send your completed tax return directly to the CRA. If you want to file your tax return in person, you will use a paper return. The completed paper return would then be sent by mail to your tax center.

Note: The processing times for online returns are usually two weeks while paper returns usually take eight weeks or more

Credits and Benefits

Canada has several benefits and credits to support you financially. To start getting payments, you must:

  • Get a social insurance number (SIN) from Service Canada
  • Apply for the benefit and credit you are eligible for

Many of the available benefits and credits are provincial and territorial. Other benefits include the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) or the GST/HST credit.

It is important to note that, during your first year in Canada, it is not necessary to file a tax return before you can start receiving benefits and credits. Beyond your first year, however, you will be required to file a tax return to continue getting any eligible benefits and credits, even if you had no income.

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