Qualitative Research on First-Time Tax Filing with Newcomers to Canada

Executive Summary

Prepared for the Canada Revenue Agency

Supplier Name: Environics Research
Contract Number: CW2273938
Contract Value: $57,969.00 (including HST)
Award Date: 2023-02-15
Delivery Date: 2023-05-15

Registration Number: POR 132-22

For more information on this report, please contact Canada Revenue Agency at:

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Qualitative Research on First-Time Tax Filing with Newcomers to Canada

Executive Summary

Prepared for Canada Revenue Agency
Supplier name: Environics Research
May 2023

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) commissioned Environics Research to conduct qualitative research with newcomers to Canada focusing on their experience, attitudes, behaviours, barriers/challenges to tax filing to identify gaps and opportunities in supporting them and ensuring they receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

Cette publication est aussi disponible en français sous le titre : Recherche qualitative sur le portail client de la recherche scientifique et le développement expérimental (RS&DE)

This publication may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes only. Prior written permission must be obtained from the Canada Revenue Agency.

For more information on this report, please contact the Canada Revenue Agency at:

360 Albert St.
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0S5

Catalogue Number: Rv4-183/2023E-PDF
International Standard Book Number (ISBN): 978-0-660-49387-9

Related publications (registration number: POR 132-22)
Catalogue Number: Rv4-183/2023F-PDF (Final Report, French)
International Standard Book Number (ISBN): 978-0-660-49389-3

© His Majesty the King in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of the Canada Revenue Agency, 2023.

Executive summary

1. Background and objectives

Canada welcomed just over 1.3 million new immigrants into Canada from 2016 to 2021, the highest number of recent immigrants recorded in a Canadian census. This reflects hundreds of thousands of people coming into Canada each year. The CRA developed a working definition of “newcomer” for the purposes of this research: an individual, and family members living with them, who has entered Canada within the last 5 years as either a permanent resident or a temporary resident (work and/or study in Canada) with the intention of establishing, for the first time, a residence in Canada. Protected persons (refugees) were included in previous research1 and were not included in this current study.

To ensure newcomers to Canada can fully participate in the Canadian tax and benefit system, the CRA wanted to understand their lived experience, their attitudes, behaviours, barriers/challenges to filing taxes, and identify gaps and opportunities in serving them and ensuring they receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

This research was intended to help the CRA develop and implement a targeted strategy to support newcomers to Canada filing their first income tax and benefit return.

Thus, the objectives of this qualitative research included: 

2. Methodology

The research involved 30 in-depth individual interviews (IDIs) with newcomers to Canada, aged 18 and over, who have lived in Canada for five years or less. Environics recruited participants through organizations that provide programs and services to the target populations of interest, including settlement, cultural and community organizations. We carefully chose organizations to attain and balance the following characteristics:

  1. A mix of permanent residents (received residency status while outside Canada and now live here) and temporary residents (work/study permit holders);
  2. Newcomers drawn primarily but not exclusively from the top five places of birth reported by recent immigrants in the 2021 census: India, the Philippines, China, Syria and Nigeria;
  3. Different regions of and official languages of Canada;
  4. Mix of ages and genders.

Interviews were conducted virtually (through Zoom) between April 12 and May 5, 2023, ranging between 30-60 minutes in length depending on participants’ responses. Twenty-eight (28) interviews were completed in English and two (2) in French.

More information about the study methodology is included in Appendix A.

Ethnography of vulnerable newcomers' experiences with taxes and benefits. Canada Revenue Agency, 2019.

Statement of limitations: Qualitative research provides insight into the range of opinions held within a population, rather than the weights of the opinions held, as measured in a quantitative study. The results of qualitative research should be viewed as indicative or directional in nature rather than statistically projectable to the population.

3. Key findings

The research findings reveal that, overall, recent newcomers to Canada share an understanding of the value of taxes for quality of life in Canada and therefore understand and accept their responsibility for filing income taxes here. Their limited previous experience with income taxes in their countries of origin appears to contribute to appreciating the relative transparency of the tax and benefit system in Canada.

Despite these commonalities, a key finding of this research is that newcomers do not follow a singular, monolithic path when it comes to learning about and eventually filing their taxes, speaking to a greater need for unique resources segmented to specific scenarios. Not only are there differences by status (permanent vs temporary resident) or family composition (with or without children, single parents), but there are differences in mindset and outlook, such as confidence about and interest in independently navigating the tax filing system. Moreover, the newcomers who participated in this research clearly represent the highly skilled immigrants Canada has been seeking to attract.These newcomers were largely able to communicate in an official language and had all successfully filed their income taxes at least once; , this will not necessarily be the case for all recent newcomers.

The following paragraphs summarize the research results:
Past experience with and perceptions of taxes

Journey and pain points


Sources of information and avenues for support

4. Cost of research

The cost of this research was $57,969.00 (HST included).

5. Political neutrality statement and contact information

I hereby certify as a senior officer of Environics that the deliverables fully comply with the Government of Canada political neutrality requirements outlined in the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, and Procedures for Planning and Contracting Public Opinion Research. Specifically, the deliverables do not include information on electoral voting intentions, political party preferences, standings with the electorate, or ratings of the performance of a political party or its leaders.

Sarah Roberton
Vice President, Corporate and Public Affairs
Environics Research Group