When Canada was testing this 'Telefile' thing in the '90s

Filing taxes by telephone? It was a new method being tested out in New Brunswick in the mid-1990s.

In the '90s, New Brunswickers were the beta testers for the tax-filing service

'Not a happy time for anybody'

27 years ago
Duration 0:23
In 1997, the CBC asks New Brunswickers how they feel about filing taxes.

Filing taxes by telephone? It was new to Canada and new to the New Brunswickers who were charged with testing it in 1997.

Back then, the CBC's Kas Roussy was reporting on the more convenient approach to filing one's taxes. At that point it had been available in the province for several years as part of a pilot project.

"It's called Telefile," Roussy told viewers on The National on April 17, 1997.

'So quick and so easy'

As Roussy explained, the Telefile service was aimed at serving people who had simple tax returns to submit — and that included many seniors.

Woman dials touch-tone phone
Josephine Monahan was a fan of the Telefile service when she tried it out in 1997. (The National/CBC Archives)

Simply put, the service allowed an individual to punch in their tax return via touch-tone telephone, all while being guided by automated voice instructions.

Roussy said some 66,000 New Brunswick residents were eligible to use the service at that point.

For Josephine Monahan of Sussex, N.B., it was worth the effort to try out the new way of filing her taxes.

"It's so quick and so easy," said Monahan, who saved $25 by using Telefile to file her taxes herself, rather than hiring an accountant.

"Kind of scary in one way, but it's kind of wonderful in another way."

'These newfangled things'

Man on telephone looking into camera
First-time Telefile user Lloyd Jones didn't find the system so easy to use. (The National/CBC Archives)

Not everyone was a convert to the Telefile system, however.

Lloyd Jones, a senior who was trying out the system for the first time, found the Telefile system challenging to use.

"These newfangled things, you know? I'm old-fashioned, I guess," he said.

Roussy said Telefile was still being tested, but the plan was to expand its use across Canada in the years to come.

The Telefile service did run for many years, but is no longer in operation.

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