As April 30 looms, temblors of fear roll from sea to sea. It’s income tax anxiety and, unfortunately, it often stops us from taking advantage of some of the best help available — the people who answer the Canada Revenue Agency phones.

Last week I urged readers to take control by doing your own taxes. But whether you are a veteran filer or a novice, chances are you will need to ask a question or two. Same here. Over the years I’ve benefited greatly from CRA assistance.

Decades ago, as a fledgling writer, a kindly CRA agent explained what I could claim as self-employment expenses and even directed me to pertinent publications.


When my husband proposed to me on the beach at Catalina Island, my first call (well, maybe not quite the first) was to the tax folk where I learned that losing the equivalent-to-married exemption meant I’d actually pay more tax if I got hitched. Hello common law! (That deduction, sadly, no longer applies to the common law crowd.)

Following the death of my father-in-law 20 years ago, we neglected to file an estate return but CRA walked me through an appeal process which resulted in the cancellation of the substantial penalty.

When our youngest daughter lost her hearing after meningitis struck, CRA helped us through the tricky process of claiming various disability deductions.

After my mother died in December, a CRA agent smoothed out a few wrinkles in her financial affairs.

And now that I’ve taken over my father’s finances, CRA has again provided a service. During a chin wag with an agent she noticed my father had never applied for the disability deduction for which he is eligible. Once his doctor fills out form T2201, I’ll request a reassessment going back years, which could be a nice windfall for dear old Dad.

Of course, with the filing deadline only six weeks away, get cozy with a headset for your phone or hit the speaker button since you are likely to be waiting awhile.

– Alison Griffiths is a financial journalist, author and host of Maxed Out on the W Network. Write to her at

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