Tax returns in the dark for 50,000 teachers who applied for a tax credit for school supplies

Kajsa Hansen, a primary and secondary school teacher, said she was counting on her expected $12,467 tax refund to pay for upcoming bills, such as a new battery for her motorized wheelchair.

But now the residents of Calgary think she should book those charges on her credit card. That’s because her refund has been suspended due to a tax credit she claimed, which, it turns out, has yet to be approved.

“It makes me angry and frustrated,” said Hansen, who… has a genetic condition that affects her mobility.

“Why is [the credit] as something I can claim if I can’t really claim it?’ she said. “There was no warning.”

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is withholding tax returns from about 50,000 teachers, the agency confirmed with CBC News — all because of a tax credit they claimed for school supplies purchased for their students.

In what is known as the Eligible Educator School Supply Tax Credit, the federal government has increased the maximum number of teachers from $150 to $250. The problem is that the increase has been incorporated into new legislation (Bill C-8) that has yet to be passed. adopted in parliament.

Until the bill becomes law, any teacher who has applied for the credit will not get a tax return.

“It’s not just the tax credit, it’s the whole process of every other refund they have now being delayed because their returns are being set aside. And that just doesn’t make sense,” said Sam Hammond, the president of the Canadian Teachers Federation . “Some need that money.”

Edmonton elementary school teacher Chelsea Turcotte had hoped to use some of her projected $4,061 tax refund to pay for a recent spike in her utility bill — until she learned her refund was on hold. (Chelsea Turcotte)

Edmonton schoolteacher Chelsea Turcotte had hoped to use some of her projected $4,061 tax refund to cover a spike in her energy costs. But when she learned her return was in limbo, she had to make other plans.

“I had to ask my mother for a loan,” Turcotte said, almost in tears. “It just breaks my heart that I have to take that step, but that’s where it is now.”

Teachers did not understand the message

Tax specialist Armando Minicucci said teachers could have avoided the delay by filing their taxes without claiming the credit at this time.

“You have up to ten years to adjust your tax return, so there is plenty of time,” says Minicucci of the Toronto firm Grant Thornton.

But that plan only works if you know about the problem in advance. CBC News interviewed five teachers who each filed their own tax returns in February or March, saying they had no idea at the time that there was a problem with the school supply.

“Had they told us there would be a delay, I wouldn’t have bothered to apply for it,” said Hansen, whose claim for the credit totaled just $68.

The CRA told CBC News that as of Feb. 18, when it became clear that the legislation would not be passed in time for the start of tax filing season, it sent notices to tax preparers and tax software developers, and posted messages for tax preparers online

The CRA made no mention of warning taxpayers.

CBC News found a warning on: a government website describe the credit. However, according to a search in internet archivethe post was added sometime on or after April 9.

‘A deal big enough to cause some stress’

Hansen said she only learned about the issue after calling the CRA a few weeks ago to find out the status of her refund.

Winnipeg elementary school teacher Kathryn Olson said she found out why her anticipated $1,087 tax refund was delayed thanks to a social media post by another teacher.

“I really wish I had known this was going to be a problem,” says Olson, a first-year teacher who is still paying off his student debt.

“It’s really hard as someone who is just starting out as a financially independent person. Like, $1,000…it’s a big enough deal to cause some stress.”

“Unfortunately they can’t do anything at the moment”

Minicucci said teachers who have already applied cannot resubmit their returns until they receive their tax bill from the CRA.

“Unfortunately, there’s nothing they can do at this point other than hope the legislation gets royal approval soon.”

Bill C-8 was tabled in parliament in mid-December and has not yet passed the third reading in the House of Commons. If and when it does, it still has to be passed in the Senate.

The office of National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said the official opposition is responsible for the robbery.

“Conservative MPs are playing political games with this bill to prevent it from becoming law,” spokesman Chris MacMillan told CBC News in an email.

Sam Hammond, president of the Canadian Teachers Federation, says withholding refunds from teachers is unfair as some of them need the money now. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

The Conservatives dispute the claim.

“Conservatives oppose Bill C-8 because it implements part of the Trudeau administration’s 2021 budget, which has involved excessive borrowing and spending,” financial critic Ed Fast said in an email.

“This is not about political games; it is about the official opposition doing its job in reviewing legislation, and it is up to the government to decide when to vote on the legislation.”

Rather than pointing fingers, teachers hope both sides can work together to find a solution so they can quickly earn their money back.

“I just want them to do their job,” Hansen said. “I went to work every day. I was doing my job, so I would like to get my money.”

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