Today is the last day the Canadian Revenue Agency’s Whitehorse office will be open.
That doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay your taxes anymore, but it does mean you will no longer have an agent to talk to when filing, or asking questions about, your taxes in the years to come.
It will also mean you’ll have to be prepared earlier when filing your taxes, and the whole process will take much longer, said Carol Church, the owner and operator of the city’s H&R Block.
The consequences of this office closing are huge, she said. People, especially low-income, less-educated, seniors, young families and business people all use that office on a regular basis, to do many different things, she said.
It’s also going to make life a lot tougher for bookkeepers.
At tax time, Church’s staff will walk into that office with 15 to 20 clients’ payments each day.
“After the end of this week, we’ll only be able to do that through a bank and we’ll have to have a proper remittance form. If you don’t have that proper remittance form then you have to order them, which will take three weeks.”
The other option is to go online, she said.
“The problem with that is bookkeepers can’t do that for people. So now you’re stopping the trades people,” she said. “All our clients have to now stop what they’re doing, get online, sign up for all these accounts and make a payment themselves, which is sort of defeating the purpose of having a bookkeeper. Or, if bookkeepers are starting to be given bank account information, then across the country you’re going to start seeing bookkeepers fraudulently taking people’s money, so clients are not going to want to voluntarily turn their bank account information over.”
Yukoners will also have to wait longer to collect their money, if they’re expecting a tax return.
Right now, places like H&R Block send clients over to the office at the Elijah Smith Building on Main Street to find out how much is owed before writing out cheques.
“We won’t be able to do that locally,” said Church. “So we’ll have to phone, which means I have to get more staff, more phones and do less returns in the same amount of time.”
The federal office also covers the cost of shipping the territory’s returns down to B.C. That is another cost Church will now have to absorb.
“So that office shutting down so far has affected the bookkeepers, it’s affected tax preparations, it’s affected the clients, and the end result,” she said.
“And I’m absorbing the cost of all that. Overall, I think it’s going to be literally thousands because, again, we’re going to be doing less returns in a day because we’ll have to spend more time with each one. Right now, if they’re missing a slip, we can send them over there, in three minutes, they get their slip, they come back and we finish up. But now we’ll have to phone and wait three weeks for it to arrive.”
People in the communities will really suffer because they’ll have to worry about travel time as well as delivery time from down south, said Church.
“It’s really hard to comply when the government’s not co-operating,” she said.
This will result in a cost for the government too because they’ll have to hire more collectors and phone operators, added Church.
Reasons for the closure are largely based on numbers.
“The way that Canadians file their taxes is changing,” said Noel Carisse with the Public Affars Branch. “CRA is changing to meet those needs. In-person discussions between the Agency and Canadians only accounted for 2.5 per cent of all interactions last year. Canadians can visit their local Service Canada location for assistance, and the CRA will provide in-person meetings when issues cannot be resolved on the phone.”
Plus, in the grand scheme of things, the territory is also a pretty small number, according to Yukon MP Ryan Leef’s Ottawa Office.
“Unfortunately, I think what happens is that the Yukon is looked at in terms of population,” said Kay Richler, Leef’s executive assistant in Ottawa. Leef was unavailable before press time, as he was flying to Whitehorse. “But at the same time, it’s a capital city and when it comes to Yukoners – where do they go?”
The majority of CRA offices are being closed across the country, including in cities double the size of Whitehorse, added Richter.
A meeting between Leef and Minister of National Revenue Gail Shea is scheduled for next week, she said. The plan is to find out all the information, and then talk about possible solutions, said Richter.
After that meeting, Leef is planning to hold a public meeting in Whitehorse, she added.
There are already more than 700 signatures on Church’s petition to keep the Whitehorse office open. She’s also written letters to more than 140 MPs and has tried to speak with Leef directly, she said. Leef suggested she collect more than 10,000 signatures, she said, adding that there are only about 17,000 tax filers in the territory. Church also encourages people to call Leef themselves. Her next step is to speak with Yukon Senator Dan Lang and Shea.
“I don’t think that we should give up,” she said. “I think we need to push this and keep this office. We’re a capital city and we deserve to have a tax office presence.”
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at