Increasing Income through Filing Your Taxes

The Income Security Action Group of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force encourages everyone to file a tax return. For modest and low income Canadians, filing a tax return helps increase the number of benefits they can collect and may result in an increase in their income. Many Canadians have no idea they would get money back, and they fear being told they have to pay the government for back taxes they cannot afford.  But this is not the case for most people on low income.

Here are three good reasons to file for 2017:

  1. To qualify for programs including the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the GST/HST credit, and the Ontario Trillium Benefit, which all pay cash when you qualify.
  2. To take advantage of certain tax credits like the Working Income Tax Benefit.
  3. To recover any tax you may have overpaid from your pay cheque.
  4. If you have not applied to the Ontario Electricity Support Program  you may be missing out on a monthly benefit towards your hydro bill starting at $35.00 and upwards based on your income. A new partnership exists with the United Way of Bruce Grey and Grey Bruce Community Income Tax Clinic to apply.

A recent Community Income Tax Clinics Network meeting with Community Income Tax volunteers,  the Income Security Action Group and Community Voices examined barriers to tax filing (Prosper Canada, 2016):

  • 17% of people have insufficient access to clinics and services
  • 14% of people don’t know where to get help
  • 14% can’t afford commercial tax services
  • 12% not aware of the need to file even if they have no taxable income

The big roadblocks:

  • Poor ACCESS to affordable and relevant services.
  • Insufficient COMMUNICATIONS about the benefits of tax filing and available assistance.
  • Lack of TARGETED APPROACHES to the distinct barriers and needs of different groups.

There are some incredible volunteers that provide free tax services to people on low income all across Grey-Bruce.   But we do have challenges with transportation to clinics; people knowing where and when free clinics are being held; and people who need support to prepare paperwork for filing.

The Canadian Revenue Agency supports programs that prepare taxes for low-income Canadians through its Community Volunteer Income Tax Program.  A list of clinic dates, times and locations can be found by calling 211 or check on line at 211 Information Bruce Grey or The HealthLine.

Our list for 2018 is now up! 2018 Free Income Tax Preparation Assistance List

Do you offer a free clinic? Is your community without any services? Please contact us!

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A Rise in Living Wage in 2017

The United Way of Bruce Grey updated its Living Wage Rate 2017. It found that in 2017, a family of three consisting of a single parent, a 15-year-old and an eight-year-old would need the sole earner to work 40 hours a week making $21.01 an hour to get by.

The rate was last updated in 2015, using 2014 data. Housing costs have significantly increased total household costs. The average rent across Ontario is now $1,115 and the United Way has found that many rental units in Bruce Grey are priced over the $1,000 threshold.

The rate has been updated by the United Way Bruce Grey at a time when the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and partners are engaged in discussions about Ontario’s minimum wage being raised to $15 an hour.

In May 2017, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government announced its plans to raise the minimum wage from its current $11.40 to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018 and $15 on Jan. 1, 2019.  The change has been welcome by some economists and the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force who say it can help the economy by increasing people’s ability to get by and be better consumers in local economies.

The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017   (Bill 148) proposes important changes to address Ontario’s outdated labour laws and seeks to reduce precarious work.  The proposed legislation, which also includes equal pay for part-time workers, increased vacation entitlements and expanded personal emergency leave, started committee hearings on July 17th that are traveling across the province.

On July 17th, the City of Owen Sound Council approved a motion to request the government carry out an economic impact study of the increase in minimum wage within 2 years. On July 21st,  the Owen Sound and District Chamber of Commerce held a town hall meeting on the issue, held in conjunction with the Keep Ontario Working Coalition.  The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and its partners were at both discussions.  David McLaren shared  ON Labour Reform Facts on Need  for a $15/hr minimum wage which references 7 decades of economic impact studies of raising the minimum wage.

With the increase in a living wage, this educates people on why the United Way Bruce Grey and other organizations are in favour of the wage increase.  The FairWorkplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 goes beyond cathcing up with the rising costs of living in Ontario and address practices of precarious work that are the new norm in the workplace.

Living Wage Rate 2017

Basic Income Pilot Consultations

he members of the Income Security Action Group are encouraging all members of the Poverty Task Force to visit the Basic Income Pilot Consultation page of the Ontario Government.

In June 2016,  the Honourable Hugh Segal prepared a discussion paper, Finding a Better Way: A Basic Income Pilot for Ontario, which the governmnet is using as the starting point for this consultation.  There is a full report and an executive summary available.

Providing a Basic Income can help:

  • lift more people out of poverty
  • simplify the income security system
  • improve people’s health, empower people to get jobs and help people afford housing
  • give people more certainty and empower them to actively participate in the economy
Use this  basic-income-pilot-consultation_flyer_2016 to circulate to colleagues and people in the community to complete 2 surveys.
Most recently, members of the Income Security Action Group and Community Voices attended the Hamilton Consultation on the Pilot.  Read the basic-income-pilot-consultations_hamilton-summary from that meeting as prepared by the government.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!