by Terrance Hunsley
The federal government has proved itself capable of moving quickly to deliver a wide range of financial benefits to millions of people. Two important points: First, CRA has the infrastructure to identify people who are likely to need money, and to set up, with involvement of relevant departments like ESDC, capability of receiving applications en mass. Second, they were able to distribute the benefits widely and let the accounting and adjustments be done after, probably through later adjustments in tax levels.
They were also able to give people a convenient point of entry into the system, through using their CRA personal account. The payments went out even while provincial governments were still deciding how they would adjust their own payment systems.
So knowing that we have this capacity, we could consider making CRA the paymaster of all financial benefits for federal, provincial and territorial governments. Your personal account could become the site which gathers and displays your complete financial relationship with government. Your privacy could be protected at least equally to the present system, and you would have immediate access to know what financial records the government is keeping on you.
Your Integrated Personal Account would become the entry point for any government financial benefit, including OAS, GIS, CPP, Spousal Benefits, Working Income Benefit, Children’s benefits, GST credits, carbon tax credit, disability credits, as well as provincial and municipal benefits like social assistance, disability and other income-tested subsidies. CRA already has much of the information required for these benefits. They also have experience in adjusting benefits and payments according to provincial regulatory variations – think of differential provincial income tax rates, gst rates, and special credits.
A report published by the Pearson Centre (Future of Work Policies for the 2020’s) recommends this approach. It goes on to suggest that this account not only be the gateway to all government financial benefits, but also be used to portray the (estimated) proportionate value that we receive from major government expenditures, such as schools, universities, medicare, etc. It could provide future credits and subsidies for such activities as lifelong learning, without a new administrative structure. It would make the costs and benefits of the tax system more evident and accessible. It would be a more efficient and less costly administration, and we would understand our relationship with government a little better.