The Canada Revenue Agency is returning to Whitehorse, albeit with a bit of a different look.
The CRA will once again have an office in the Elijah Smith Building in downtown Whitehorse, MP Larry Bagnell announced Sept. 1.
But instead of being run by paid government staff, this office will be run by volunteers.
The Whitehorse office, along with many others around Canada, closed in 2012 as part of federal budget cuts. At the time, the agency lost 638 jobs.
Yukoners were unimpressed. A petition, reportedly with 700 names on in, circulated in the territory asking that the CRA office be brought back.
Bagnell promised to re-open the office as part of his 2015 election campaign.
The desire for the CRA to return to the territory was widespread, Bagnell said.
“That’s one thing that I found very unique about the request from the public,” he said. “That it was from all segments of the public.”
The volunteers running the Yukon office will all be trained through the federal government’s Community Volunteer Income Tax Program.
Through that program volunteers are trained by CRA staff to answer basic questions, Bagnell said.
“These people are like retired charter accountants.”
CRA staff will also make periodic visits to the territory to help with more complicated cases, he said.
The office will also have a phone line connecting directly to an expert familiar with tax issues in the North.
“The northern allowance, as an example, is very complex and there’s a lot of questions about that that the average person that you phone on a 1-800 number might not know.”
Bagnell said volunteers with be able to help in ways CRA staff cannot.
“They can help people with their income tax form. CRA staff themselves can’t because they have a conflict of interest.”
He also promised more CRA public seminars.
“It will all work out of the hub here.”
There are already a handful of volunteer tax programs in the territory, he said, including one run out of the Multicultural Centre of the Yukon.
Bagnell said the new office will be open year-round and start in time for the next tax season. He didn’t know how many volunteers the office will require.
“It was just announced today so the work now begins to get it all into place.”
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