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Phoenix: Damages ruled taxable as Treasury Board refuses to cooperate

CRA sign

After months of waiting, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has rejected our request to review the taxability of Phoenix damages. This is directly due to Treasury Board’s refusal to provide CRA with a joint statement of facts which corrects CRA’s understanding of the purpose of our damages settlement agreement.

In an April 27 letter from the CRA, the Agency states:

As discussed in our meeting on February 3, 2021, we consented to reconsider our position only if the Employer and PSAC provided us with an agreed-upon statement of facts. As this did not happen, we have not considered any of the assertions in your draft statement of facts.

After numerous requests for Treasury Board’s cooperation, and direct appeals to Minister Duclos, they have refused any and all cooperation on the matter.

“It’s clear they’re still angry that PSAC forced them to deliver a better deal for our members,” said PSAC President Chris Aylward.

“They’re frustrated that they have to honour the top-up clauses signed with the other unions to match our general damages agreement, and now they’re taking it out on PSAC members by sabotaging attempts to get a positive tax ruling.”

Tell Minister Duclos to stop blocking CRA from reviewing their decision!

Our union carefully worded the agreement to reflect a wide range of impacts suffered by PSAC members, including for “stress, aggravation, and pain and suffering” and for the late implementation of collective agreements. There is a strong precedent of damages for those purposes being deemed non-taxable by CRA. The tax treatment of the general damages should reflect the purpose of that compensation as outlined in the agreement.

It is unacceptable that Treasury Board refuses to affirm these facts. Instead they informed CRA that the agreement’s purpose is to resolve a policy grievance between the employer and the union – something that may be true for other unions, but not for PSAC’s damages agreement.

We will not let this stand without a fight.

While we continue to explore every legal avenue to appeal CRA’s decision, please take a moment to join our efforts by sharing your outrage directly with Minister Duclos and the Prime Minister.

Our goal is to ensure all PSAC members receive the full compensation they deserve and that we avoid any time consuming and complex tax disputes for individual members. We are also pushing Treasury Board to expedite the availability of the claims process for all former members and retirees who are still waiting to receive their Phoenix general damages.

We will provide additional updates to members about this ongoing work as we move forward.

For more information about Phoenix damages, please check out our FAQ.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

Government rushing Phoenix damages payment without tax ruling

PSAC banner illustrating a conversation

Send a letter to Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Minister Anita Anand that Phoenix damages shouldn’t be taxed.

The Liberal government has shamelessly chosen the 5th anniversary of the Phoenix pay system disaster to short-change thousands of PSAC members on their compensation for years of pay problems.

Even though PSAC is in the process of working with CRA to review the taxability of Phoenix damages, the federal government has confirmed that it intends to ignore these efforts and issue the up to $2,500 for our members, on March 3 – with taxes deducted. Treasury board provided no explanation for their actions.

“The government still has time to do the right thing,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward.  “General damages should not be taxed, so we’re calling on key ministers to immediately intervene to fix this before payments are issued.”

The $2,500 settlement, even if taxed, is still greater than the five days of leave offered to PSAC members, but it represents a violation of the language we negotiated into the agreement. PSAC maintains that general damages paid to all employees for ‘stress, aggravation, pain and suffering’ and for the late implementation of collective agreements are non-taxable, as CRA has acknowledged other specific damages in the settlement should be treated.

“It’s a slap in the face to the tens of thousands of PSAC members who suffered years of pay problems, and then worked non-stop during this pandemic to deliver aid and benefits to millions of Canadians in crisis,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward.

PSAC will pursue every legal route to secure the full compensation that our members are entitled to. This includes tax challenges that would retroactively see our members reimbursed should the payments be issued as planned on March 3, but our goal remains to avoid any time-consuming and complex tax disputes for our members.

“Phoenix short-changed PSAC members for years – the last thing they deserve is for the government to short-change them again,” added Aylward.

PSAC will continue to work to resolve this problem and updates will follow in the coming days.

The original version of this article was first posted on the PSAC website.

Get reimbursed for Phoenix-related tax issues

Fix Phoenix Pay System Logo

As the tax filing deadline quickly approaches, we know that Phoenix has made tax season extra stressful for many public service workers. PSAC has long-secured measures to help alleviate some of the tax-related financial losses caused by Phoenix pay problems.

Frequently Asked Questions: 2018 Tax Implications of Phoenix payroll issues

Reimbursement for tax advice

Public service workers impacted by Phoenix can reach out to tax experts to help determine if there are errors on their T4s and determine whether there are tax implications for those errors. Members can be reimbursed for this tax advice up to $200 per year (taxes included).

To file a claim, complete this online form.

More information can be found at Claims for expenses and financial losses due to Phoenix: reimbursement for tax advice.

Claim for impacts to income taxes and government benefits

Those who have been impacted by Phoenix may also be facing financial loss due to the incorrect reporting of their salaries. Often this is due to:

  • overpayments put an individual into a higher tax bracket, causing them to owe more in income taxes, or
  • the increased income caused an individual to be ineligible, or eligible for less, government benefits and credits such as the Canada child benefit.

To find out if you are eligible to be reimbursed for these types of financial losses, go to Claims for expenses and financial losses due to Phoenix: Claim for impacts to income taxes and government benefits.

Claim out-of-pocket expenses

Anyone who has been financially impacted by Phoenix, tax-related or not, may also be eligible to claim out-of-pocket expenses. Out-of-pocket expenses include things like penalty fees, interest charges, or NSF (non-sufficient funds) charges.

Visit Additional Financial Expenses Incurred Because of Phoenix Pay System Errors to get more information and fill out the claim form.

The original version of this article was first posted on the PSAC website.