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The CRA 'picks on people who can't defend themselves,' says single mother battling agency

The CRA 'picks on people who can't defend themselves,' says single mother battling agency
From CBC - December 13, 2017

Tears well up in Karli Baxter's eyesas she recounts her recent experience with the Canada Revenue Agency.

The single mother of two from Kitchener, Ont.,is fighting the agency's demand that she pay$20,000 in back paymentsforchild benefits and tax creditsafter a CRA reviewrejectedher claim that she has been separated from herhusband since 2015.

Baxter is just one of nearly 100 people who reached out toCBCNews after itprofiled another single mother from Saskatchewanwho has spent the last six months battling the CRA over own her marital status and child benefits.

"This is very scary, especially at this time of the year. I struggled to even get my daughter a snow suit this year," BaxtertoldCBCNews."Christmas has been impacted. My kids are not getting anywhere near what I would like to do. I have tried to explain it to them and they have been pretty cool, but it still hurts."

Many of the other single parents whocontactedCBCdescribed a similar experience. They saythey notified the CRA of a separation from their spouse andtheir benefits came as expected untila couple years or more later, whenthe agency decided to conduct a review of their situation.

That review requiresproof the separation is real, such as utility bills with separate addresses orletters attesting to the claim from people in authority, such as a doctor or member of the clergy. They say getting those documents can be a challenge if, for example, they moved in with parents or friends initially,or if they did not broadly advertise the breakdown of their marriage.

Even if the documents can be obtained, many of theparents whocontacted CBCtold stories of sending in requested documents only to have them rejected as insufficient.

When the CRA rejectsa parent's declaration, the agencywill then count both parents' incomes when calculating benefits and tax credits. That can lead to reduced benefits and a bill demanding back payments. Similarly, if a parent has trouble proving sole custody of a child, that too can impact benefits and tax credits.

A systemic problem

Itturns out that the challenge to prove they are separated or have custody of their children is a systemic problem for single parents, according to the recently tabled annual report of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman, a government-fundedoffice that operates at arms length to the CRA and promotes accountability to the public.

"The Canada Child Benefit complaints is always in our top five," said Taxpayers' Ombudsman SherraProfit. "It's such a vital benefit to many Canadians who rely on it to feed their children, to pay their rentso it's very serious for a lot of these families."

Complaints to the ombudsman's office resulted in 1,490 files being opened in the 20162017 fiscal year andanother 880 files being opened in the first six months of this fiscal year.

'We are single parents and that's hard enough'

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