A new Canada Revenue Agency office will open in Whitehorse in time for the 2018 tax season.
The CRA made the announcement on Aug. 24.
Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, announced that the CRA will open three Northern Service Centres, one each in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit. Up to 12 full-time employees will staff the three offices year-round, a $6 million investment.
Additionally, the CRA will expand its liaison officer service, which assists businesses and self-employed individuals with concerns related specifically to territorial taxes and northern business issues.
It will also expand its Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP), in which volunteers file income tax returns, free of charge for vulnerable populations and residents with a modest income.
Ross Ermel, regional assistant commissioner for the prairie region, said that staff from the office in Whitehorse will travel to Yukon communities to train additional volunteers so that there are in-town resources for residents outside of Whitehorse.
The CRA will also establish a phone line that Yukoners can call for help with benefits, credits and deductions specific to the North, including the Canada Child Benefit and the northern residents deductions.
This line will route to call centers in the south, but will reach CRA employees who have been trained to have expertise in northern issues.
Ermel said the initiative comes out of extensive consultation and a 2017 pilot project that saw increased outreach efforts in Whitehorse and the surrounding area.
That pilot included a dedicated phone line and a clinic based out of the Service Canada offices in the Elijah Smith building, where a volunteer prepared tax returns for those eligible under the CVITP.
Heidi Hofstad, communications for the pacific region of the CRA, said in an email that a formal evaluation of the pilot was not completed, but that feedback was positive.
She also said that the plan to open new offices was informed by feedback gathered during consultations the CRA recently held in the North.
“Namely, that territorial residents face unique challenges when it comes to meeting their tax obligations, which have been accentuated by limited access to services. The investments made to deliver these improvements will have significant benefits for northerners,” read the email.
Ermel said regulatory amendments will be recommended in the coming months. Consultations on those amendments will begin this fall, though dates have not yet been set.
“We are excited to be at the start of bringing improved services to the territories and making sure that Canadians see that we are truly treating them as clients and listening to their voice,” said Ermel.
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