It’s tax time: Calgarians living on low incomes may be missing out on benefits from not filing

Support is available

3 March 2021

Picture of Canadian money with a note that has 'Taxes' handwritten on it

Tax time can be an incredibly stressful time for anyone, but factor in living on a low income and it can be even more of a challenge. There are many reasons people don’t file, even though filing is a pathway to a number of income-boosting benefits.

In Canada, the personal income tax system is not just used to raise revenue, it is also an important way for the government to deliver various income support benefits. By simply completing taxes, many Canadians are then eligible to receive money.

  • The Canada workers benefit (CWB) is a refundable tax credit that provides tax relief for eligible low-income individuals and families who are in the workforce.
  • The Canada child benefit (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. The CCB may include the child disability benefit and any related provincial and territorial programs.
  • The goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit is a tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset all or part of the GST or HST that they pay. It may also include payments from provincial and territorial programs.
  • The guaranteed income supplement (GIS) is a monthly payment for low-income Canadians 65 years of age or older.
  • The climate action incentive (CAI) payment refundable tax credit available to Alberta residents.

In Alberta, more than 15% of working age adults don’t file their taxes - the second highest in the country, according to a February 2020 report published by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.

So, what are some barriers to filing?

A recent study from Prosper Canada noted that many people with low incomes are unaware of the benefits or where to get help. Literacy, numeracy and language barriers and problems assembling and storing documentation all came into play when determining whether to file. There was also considerable fear of drawing government scrutiny or making mistakes. COVID-19 has also added a new challenge to accessing available supports.

What supports are available?

Around Calgary a number of community organizations are hosting Free Tax Clinics where eligible people can get their tax returns done by volunteers. There are also information sessions and resources for accessing technology. Check out Tax Filing Help for information and up-to-date resources. Help us spread the word and share resources because together we can break down barriers to tax filing.

In 2020, Free Tax Clinics in Calgary filed almost 6,700 tax returns, which resulted in $2 million in tax refunds and $41 million in government benefits for Calgarians living with a low income.