Single mother in Happy Valley-Goose Bay says CRA withholding child benefits

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Single mother in Happy Valley-Goose Bay says CRA withholding child benefits

A single mother in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., who was told she owed the federal government tens of thousands of dollars is among people criticizing the Canada Revenue Agency for withholding benefits for her child.

Samantha Morgan said she was stripped of the child benefits after her divorce.

"It's sad how they are picking on single mothers."

Stories from other single parents who have been struggling with the CRA over benefits have been pouring in to CBC in recent weeks. The agency was also recently criticized by the federal auditor general for not answering calls and providing false information. 

Morgan said she has no idea where she stands with the CRA. She said she has been fighting with the agency for a majority of her eight-year-old daughter's life for child benefits and GST rebates.

"The total is $44,573," Morgan said after adding up all the invoices she has received every month since she began having problems with the agency in 2013. "I don't know [what it's for]; they say different things every month."

One invoice seems to ask Morgan to pay back benefits paid out in 2012. She has called for help, but said often those calls went unanswered and when she did get through, the answers weren't clear.

Morgan said she was also inundated with requests for information.

"Pay stubs for certain times, certain amounts … my whole separation agreement, all my divorce papers," said Morgan.

"I've sent in proof of everything they've asked, everything."

Began after divorce

While Morgan was married, there was no problem claiming allowances for her family. The trouble started once she told the CRA about her divorce.

"The first year they said it was because my husband had claimed me and my daughter on his taxes, is why this was coming about."

"But the next year they said it wasn't the case. Everybody's getting audited. So I don't know the real reason as to why they're sending me all of this, and my ex-husband has proof that he claimed me and my daughter that year."

Most of the time, she said, her calls go unanswered. When she does get through, she's not satisfied with the answers.

'Not an answer'

This past summer, said Morgan, she received a cheque from the government for $3,000, and a CRA call centre agent told her it was back pay for not receiving family allowance for the last four years.

"He said we're even now [but] it doesn't work like that, that's not a real answer," she said.

She said she hasn't received anything in the mail since then.

When she was married, she was getting $450 a month, said Morgan. Though she does have a good job now, she believes she is still owed money for those past years. 

"God only knows how much they owe me after four years of not getting a cent from the government."

The CRA does provide a maximum of $6,400 per year for each child younger than six and $5,400 per year for older children — cash that could have gone a long way for Morgan.

"This helps a single mother in every way, and they just completely took that away from me for the past four years, and continuously sending me bills every day is stressful," said Morgan.

Room for improvement

The CRA would not comment on Morgan's specific case, but an email from an agency spokesperson said the federal government is "wholeheartedly committed to ensuring that all Canadians get the tax deductions, credits, and benefits to which they're entitled," and to provide "complete, accurate, clear, and timely information."

The email said the government is looking at ways to make it easier to submit information and that it is reviewing how the information can be better shared by different areas within the agency. 

It also acknowledged there have been problems with the CRA's call centre and said there have already been improvements to it and will be more this year.