Tax filing support for newcomers is crucial

20 December 2017
Author: Chloe Stanois
Rachid came to Canada from Syria with his wife and three children as government sponsored refugees. They had the support of friends within the community, as well as Reception House for settlement assistance. However, following the advice from a friend, when Rachid began working he did not report any of his earned income to his settlement worker or Resettlement Assistance Program officer of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This began Rachid’s journey to navigate Canada’s benefit and tax system through support from Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving (FEPS) workers at The Working Centre.
 
Since Rachid did not report his income, he owed IRCC $5,000. The Working Centre helped Rachid to negotiate a payment plan in line with his current financial assets. FEPS workers also noticed that he applied for regular Employment Insurance benefits, but should have applied for Employment Insurance Sick Benefits. The Working Centre helped him talk with Service Canada and correct his Employment Insurance claim, then file weekly reporting. 
 
FEPS workers also helped Rachid with an error he made tax filing. He misfiled his 2016 taxes using his nine-year-old son’s Social Insurance Number, so all benefits for the family were suddenly disrupted. The Working Centre contacted his Member of Parliament, Mr. Tabbara, and helped expedite an estimated 16 week resolution process during an extremely confusing and upsetting period.
 
Rachid’s financial literacy has increased exponentially since the first day he visited The Working Centre. As issues continued emerging from the choices Rachid made due to his lack of information and experience, he gained confidence to consult financial resources and explore problem solving options. He transitioned from abstract thinking to concretely understanding what systems, resources and financial pathways were available for the benefit of his family.
 
FEPS is making a difference in the lives of low-income Ontarians
 
The Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving (FEPS) program provides free, confidential, one-on-one support to individuals living on low incomes to help them build their financial health. Created by West Neighbourhood House, a Toronto neighbourhood services organization, the program provides hands-on help with a variety of financial needs such as tax filing, accessing bank services and managing debt. 
 
The FEPS project is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS).
 
Learn more about the success of the FEPS program.
 
The Working Centre
 
The Working Centre is a non-profit organization established in the spring of 1982 as a response to unemployment and poverty in downtown Kitchener. The Working Centre’s main projects give people access to tools to create their own work combined with continuous ways of learning and co-operating. To learn more about The Working Centre, please visit: www.theworkingcentre.org

THE AUTHOR

Chloe Stanois is the Marketing and Communications Officer at Prosper Canada. Chloe is passionate about using storytelling to share Prosper Canada's vision and connect with others. She has a communication studies and sociology degree from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a corporate communications and public relations post-graduate certificate from Centennial College.

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