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More than just tax filing: Helping Canadians get back on track with CRA

15 February 2022
Author: Ana Fremont
“What if Canada Revenue Agency decides to freeze my bank account and seize all my assets because I haven’t filed my taxes for so long?” Roger* nervously asked the Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving (FEPS) worker at Agincourt Community Service Association (ACSA) during his initial call seeking help with his back taxes.  Staff could see Roger was extremely nervous about his situation and knew it would only be possible to help him if they took the time to listen and to understand his story and concerns.

Roger, now in his late 40s, had been working as an IT professional throughout his career earning a decent salary. After he suffered a medical episode in 2017 he was unable to continue his full time employment and his income was cut by 75 per cent. Then in 2019 he completely lost his job due to further deterioration of his health. The resulting physical disabilities he suffers from puts him in dire need of an assistive device to maintain mobility and functional independence. He could not afford to buy one on his own as he was living off his life savings. Roger learned that to access financial assistance for the equipment he would have to bring his taxes up-to-date; that was his motivation to finally tackle his back taxes. His largest concern in doing this was that he felt he was “in big trouble with the government”. 

To further complicate matters, anything tax related gave Roger extreme anxiety. He refused to look at CRA letters and documents, and was deeply reluctant when it was explained to him that he needed to call CRA at least once to get his tax slips and find out the current status of his taxes. Through multiple FEPS sessions over four months and with the patient support of the FEPS worker, Roger finally collected all his necessary tax slips and documents. The FEPS worker prepared 10 years of tax returns which showed that, not only did Roger not owe CRA any money, but he was entitled to a refund of over $14,000

Roger was in total disbelief when he heard the news. The FEPS worker slowly walked him through the logic. Satisfied with the explanation, relief washed over Roger and he was finally motivated to file his returns. Roger no longer experiences the fear and anxiety that had burdened him every time he thought about taxes. He shared that now, not only would be able to apply for the financial subsidy to purchase an assistive device, but the unexpected $14,000 refund would be enough to cover a full year of rent, allowing him the time to find employment. 

Roger extended deep gratitude to ACSA for helping him achieve financial stability, functional independence, and to face his anxiety. He felt very hopeful in his upcoming job search and promised to file his taxes on time every year from now on! 

The Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving (FEPS) program, created by West Neighbourhood House, provides free, confidential, one-on-one support to Toronto residents with low incomes to help them build their financial health. Prosper Canada is excited to continue working with FEPS partner organizations West Neighbourhood House, Jane-Finch Centre, Agincourt Community Services Association, and The Working Centre. The FEPS sites have served more than 10,000 Ontarians, and even more will be served through the extension of this program.

Agincourt Community Services  Association (ACSA)

The Agincourt Community Services Association (ACSA) addresses a variety of issues including systemic poverty, hunger, housing, homelessness, unemployment, accessibility and social isolation. Their aim is to act as a bridge between people who need help and those who can provide it.

*Name and image have been changed to protect the client’s privacy


Ana Fremont is a Manager, Program Delivery and Integration with Prosper Canada. From 2004-2011 she developed and managed several financial education programs including financial coaching and foreclosure prevention counselling services in New York and Chicago.

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