The Canada Revenue Agency administers dozens of cash transfer programs that require an annual personal income tax return to establish eligibility. Approximately 10–12 percent of Canadians, however, do not file a return; as a result, they will not receive the benefits for which they are otherwise eligible.
In this article, we provide the first estimates of the number and characteristics of non-filers. We also estimate that the value of cash benefits lost to working-age non-filers was $1.7 billion in 2015. Previous literature suggests either a rational choice model of tax compliance (in which the costs of filing are weighed against its benefits) or a more complex behavioural model.
Our study has important consequences for policy-making in terms of the administrative design and fiscal costs of public cash benefits attached to tax filing, the measurement of household incomes, and poverty rates.