OTTAWA – The Canada Revenue Agency is sitting on a windfall of more than $1 billion in cheques left uncashed by taxpayers over 20 years.
The agency says if you are one of the five million Canadians who didn’t cash their cheque from CRA between 1998 and 2018 then your money is still waiting for you.
Last week, the tax agency launched a new online tool called “Uncashed cheques”. The goal: find the owner of every single one of 7.6 million cheques that have sat in government coffers for two decades.
According to information obtained by the National Post, those cheques amount to $1 billion of taxpayer’s unclaimed money. That’s an average of $200 for each of the five million affected Canadians.
“There are many reasons Canadians may have an uncashed cheque from the Canada Revenue Agency. For example, someone may have moved and not updated their address, believed the payment was issued to them in error, or the cheque may have been lost, stolen, or destroyed”, the agency explains on its website.
The feature has always existed, but it was mostly unknown and filing a claim was more complicated, explained Jeremy Bellefeuille, spokesperson for the minister of National Revenue.
So for the launch of the 2020 tax season on February 24, the department created an online verification tool that every taxpayer can access via CRA’s website. Once logged in to the agency’s “My Account” service, click on the “Uncashed cheques” link at the bottom of the “Related services” column on the “Overview” page.
Any unpaid amounts older than six months will be listed on that page, as well as the necessary forms to claim your money.
“This is money that belongs to Canadians. Each year, the Canada Revenue Agency issues millions of payments in the form of refunds and benefits,” Bellefeuille said via email. “In order to help taxpayers reclaim these long lost funds, the CRA soft launched this online feature.”
To his point: none of the National Post’s six parliamentary bureau reporters and columnist knew of the service, and two of them were happy to discover they were owed money dating back to 2005 or 2006.
Bellefeuille encouraged people to sign up for direct deposit payments. “If they’re not registered for direct deposit, a new cheque will be mailed to the address on file,” he said. The number of unpaid sums by CRA has decreased in recent years thanks to the rising popularity of direct deposit payments.
This is money that belongs to Canadians
If CRA is sitting on so much money and is so intent on getting it out, why doesn’t the department simply automatically send taxpayers a new cheque?
“As Government cheques never expire or stale-date, the CRA cannot void the original cheque and reissue a new one unless requested by the taxpayer. Taxpayers are encouraged to cash any cheques they have in their possession,” Bellefeuille said.
In the meantime, the money from the unclaimed cheques doesn’t simply sit in an account waiting to be paid. Instead, it goes back into the government’s general coffers to be used elsewhere until a taxpayer cashes their cheque.
My Account on the CRA website has a section of “uncashed cheques”.
Highly suggest checking to see if you’ve got any. I had 105 dollars from 2017.
— Platinum Seat Ghosts (@3rdPeriodSuits)
Already on Twitter, users are discovering they are owed significant amounts of money they never claimed. Dozens of Canadians say they’ve discovered uncashed cheques ranging anywhere from a few dollars to over $10,000 after a Tweet by user @3rdPeriodSuits went viral late last week.
For example, user @rackiBerg posted a screenshot of five unclaimed payments ranging from $5 to $655 that he says he never knew were uncashed.
Another Twitter user, Christopher Matthews, tweeted that he had over $6,000 of unclaimed sums from the federal agency.
“I have moved so often the past few years, I have bunch of them in there going back to 2013. Over 1K in total. Thanks! It’s almost enough to see a Leaf game. LOL,” joked user @leafsongrass.