Vol. 151, No. 24 — June 17, 2017

Regulations Amending the Old Age Security Regulations

Statutory authority

Old Age Security Act

Sponsoring department

Department of Employment and Social Development

REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT

(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)

Issues

Canada’s population is aging, and this is projected to increase the workload required for processing Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) applications. The number of GIS recipients is expected to increase within the next two decades, growing from 1.9 million in 2017 to over 3 million by 2030. In addition, increasing service expectations of Canadians, as well as aging information technology infrastructure and business processes related to the processing of GIS applications, are already placing further pressure on workloads.

Currently, GIS recipients have their benefits automatically renewed each year, provided that they file an annual income tax return. However, the Old Age Security Act (OAS Act) still requires that individuals submit an initial application and provide the necessary information to determine eligibility for the GIS. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (the Minister) has committed to introduce automatic enrolment for the GIS by January 2018. However, regulatory amendments are needed in order to enable the determination of marital status for the purposes of automatic enrolment for the GIS. Making changes to the Old Age Security Regulations (OAS Regulations) would also provide an opportunity to make necessary repeals of outdated references.

Background

Old Age Security program

The objective of the OAS program is to ensure a minimum income to seniors, and to help reduce the incidence of low income among this population. OAS benefits include the basic OAS pension, which is paid to all individuals aged 65 and over who meet the legal status and residence requirements, the GIS for low-income pensioners, and the allowances for low-income individuals aged 60 to 64 who are the spouses or common-law partners of GIS recipients, or who are widows or widowers. OAS benefits are indexed quarterly to reflect increases in the cost of living.

Eligibility for an OAS pension is based solely on age, legal status at the time of application and the years of residence in Canada after age 18. The amount of a person’s OAS pension is determined by their years of residence and aims to strike a balance between the contribution made by Canadian residents to the economic and social fabric of Canada and the right to a lifelong public pension.

In addition, low-income OAS pensioners may be eligible for the GIS, which provides financial assistance to seniors who have little or no income other than the OAS pension. The GIS is income-tested to ensure that the highest benefits are provided to the lowest-income seniors, and is paid at different rates based on whether an individual is single or part of a couple. To apply for the supplement, individuals submit an initial application and provide the necessary income and marital status information to determine eligibility for the GIS. Provided that they file an annual income tax return, their benefits are automatically renewed each year.

Proactive enrolment

In light of Canada’s aging population, it is expected that there will be a significant increase in the workload required to process benefit applications and to maintain accurate and timely benefit payments. In recognition of these pressures, in 2012, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act introduced amendments to the OAS Act to implement proactive enrolment. This regime was designed to eliminate the need for many seniors to apply for OAS benefits through automatic enrolment. (see footnote 1)

Under automatic enrolment, a combination of data elements allows Employment and Social Development Canada (the Department) to waive an application and, in the absence of any information to the contrary, presume eligibility for a benefit.

Once an individual is selected for automatic enrolment, the individual must be notified in writing of the Department’s intent to waive their application for a benefit, and the information that the Minister intends to use to determine their eligibility must be provided to them. Unless the Minister is otherwise advised, the individual’s application is deemed to have been made and approved the day of their 65th birthday. Once the application is approved, a notice of entitlement letter is sent to the individual outlining the date the benefit becomes effective, the payment amount and their right to request a reconsideration or an appeal.

Proactive enrolment — Phase 1

Proactive enrolment is being implemented in a phased-in approach. The first phase, which began in March 2013, focused on the automatic enrolment of Category 1 individuals for the OAS pension. These are individuals who, at age 64, have participated in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) for 40 years or more (see footnote 2) and who are in receipt of, or approved for, payment of a CPP or QPP retirement, disability or survivor pension. CPP or QPP participation is used as a “proxy” to presume years of residence.

Proactive enrolment — Phase 2

The second phase, which was implemented in November 2016, is the automatic enrolment of Category 2 individuals who, at age 64, have participated in the CPP or QPP for 40 years or more, and are not in receipt of, or approved for, payment of a CPP or QPP retirement, disability or survivor pension at the time of selection, but have 40 years of tax filing information with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). (see footnote 3) The individual’s CRA information is used to supplement the residence “proxy” for those individuals.

By the end of 2016, 45% of new OAS pensioners have been approved and have begun to receive a full OAS pension through automatic enrolment. It is estimated that by the time the second phase of automatic enrolment is fully implemented (i.e. once all eligible individuals notified in November 2016 have turned 65), over 55% of new pensioners will be automatically enrolled for the OAS pension.

With automatic enrolment in place for Category 1 and Category 2 individuals, the Department will focus on the automatic enrolment of individuals for the GIS at age 65, beginning in December 2017. Amendments to the OAS Act allowing the Minister to waive the requirement for an initial GIS application will be brought into force in concurrence with the proposed regulatory amendments.

Repeal of the increase in the age of eligibility

Although not related to GIS automatic enrolment, the Department would also like to take this opportunity to repeal certain provisions of the OAS Regulations in order to support the legislative amendments to the OAS Act that cancelled the provisions that increase the age of eligibility for the OAS pension and the GIS from 65 to 67, and the allowances from 60 to 62. These legislative amendments were included in Budget 2016 and received royal assent on June 22, 2016.

Objectives

The objective of the proposed regulatory amendments is to define which information can be used to determine the marital status of potential GIS beneficiaries in order to help enable their automatic enrolment for the GIS. Automatic enrolment would improve services and create administrative efficiencies by maximizing the number of seniors who can receive the GIS automatically, thus removing the burden for seniors of completing applications and reducing administrative costs for the Government.

Description

Proactive enrolment — Phase 3

To continue expanding the scope of proactive enrolment, the proposed regulatory amendments would define which available information may be recognized as determinative of marital status in order to waive the requirement for a GIS application.

In order to waive the requirement for a GIS application, the Minister must be able to determine income and marital status by leveraging existing data from the CRA and within the Department. Given that the CRA already provides income information for GIS purposes as part of Service Canada’s ongoing renewal process, no regulatory changes would be required to support the disclosure of income information. However, since there are different rates of payment for the GIS based on the individual’s marital status, an amendment to section 16 of the OAS Regulations is required to include marital status as declared to the CRA as acceptable evidence of marital status. Of note, CRA’s marital status information is based on an individual’s reported marital status as of December 31 of the previous tax year. In order to ensure accuracy, the OAS Act requires automatically enrolled individuals to correct any inaccuracies in their marital status information. For those individuals who are married or in a common-law relationship, the OAS Act stipulates that their spouse’s or common-law partner’s identity and information must also be available to the Department.

Repeal of the increase in the age of eligibility

It is also proposed to take this opportunity to repeal subsection 2(1.1) of the OAS Regulations, which references the provisions under the OAS Act that were scheduled to increase the age of eligibility for OAS benefits. As the Budget Implementation Act 2016, No. 1 cancelled the increase in the age of eligibility, this subsection is no longer relevant.

“One-for-One” Rule

The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply as there is no change in administrative costs for business.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply as there are no costs imposed on small business.

Consultation

The amendments to the OAS Act to allow for automatic enrolment for the GIS were included in the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, which received royal assent on June 29, 2012, and were discussed at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, as well as at the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance. In addition, during the public comment periods following prepublication in the Canada Gazette of Phases 1 and 2, the Department was not made aware of any particular concerns with the overall approach of phased implementation.

Given that these regulatory amendments enable the expansion of the proactive enrolment initiative, and because of the technical nature of the amendments, no additional consultations were deemed necessary.

Rationale

These regulatory amendments would have a beneficial impact by enabling the Minister to use existing data from the CRA as sufficient evidence to determine the marital status of a potential GIS beneficiary. This information would be used to determine the specific rate of GIS payment as part of the automatic enrolment initiative, which will eliminate the requirements for many seniors to submit an initial GIS application.

Automatic enrolment for the GIS is expected to lead to administrative efficiencies and offset projected operational pressures for the Department in the administration of the OAS program. The estimated cumulative cost savings for the Department stemming from GIS automatic enrolment would be $268,348 by fiscal year 2024–25. These savings stem from the fact that Service Canada officers would no longer need to process and handle mailed-in applications for these clients.

With respect to the removal of subsection 2(1.1) from the OAS Regulations, the repeal ensures that the Regulations are brought up-to-date and are in alignment with the legislative amendments which cancelled the increase in the age of eligibility.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

Automatic enrolment for the GIS would be implemented in phases as part of a multi-tiered strategy to simplify access to the GIS and improve take up.

Effective December 2017, individuals who are selected for OAS automatic enrolment under Category 1 or Category 2 would be advised of the Department’s intent to collect information from the CRA with the intent to enroll them for the GIS at age 65. They would also be advised that they must correct any inaccuracies to income or marital status and that they can choose to decline the benefit prior to age 65.

Individuals selected at age 64, who have not had any changes to their eligibility information, would have their application for the GIS waived once they reach 65. A benefit award letter would then be issued, along with rights to appeal. A separate notification would be sent to the spouse or common-law partner, which would require them to correct any inaccuracies in their own income or marital status information.

OAS pensioners who, for any reason, did not apply, or were not automatically enrolled for the GIS, will continue to have the ability to apply for the GIS. The Department will also continue its ongoing efforts to identify clients who are eligible for the GIS through periodic GIS take-up initiatives.

Systems, policies and procedural changes

In order to implement GIS automatic enrolment for Category 1 and Category 2 individuals, Service Canada has been developing system changes, policies and procedures for implementation in December 2017. It is estimated that the direct cost to support these activities would amount to approximately $1.9 million over the 2016–17 to 2017–18 period.

Systems and procedures designed for automatic enrolment would ensure the accurate assessment of eligibility for the GIS. Upon implementation of the Regulations, Service Canada would include automatic enrolment for the GIS for Category 1 and 2 individuals as part of its regular quality monitoring and review processes.

Contact

Nathalie Martel
Director
Old Age Security Policy and Public Pension Statistics
Income Security and Social Development Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada
140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV, 8th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0J9
Telephone: 819-654-2757
Fax: 819-953-9122
Email: nathalie.martel@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca

PROPOSED REGULATORY TEXT

Notice is given that the Governor in Council, pursuant to section 34 (see footnote a) of the Old Age Security Act (see footnote b), proposes to make the annexed Regulations Amending the Old Age Security Regulations.

Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed Regulations within 30 days after the date of publication of this notice. All such representations must cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to Nathalie Martel, Director, Old Age Security Policy and Public Pension Statistics, Income Security and Social Development Branch, Department of Employment and Social Development, 140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV, 8th floor, Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0J9 (tel.: 819-654-2757; fax: 819-953-9122; email: nathalie.martel@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca).

Ottawa, June 8, 2017

Jurica Čapkun
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council

Regulations Amending the Old Age Security Regulations

Amendments

1 Subsection 2(1.1) of the Old Age Security Regulations (see footnote 4) is repealed.

2 The Regulations are amended by adding the following after section 10:

10.1 If the Minister waives the requirement for an application for a supplement in respect of a person under subsection 11(3.1) of the Act, the Minister’s approval is effective as of the day on which the person attains the age of 65.

3 The Regulations are amended by adding the following after section 16:

17 If the Minister does not have sufficient evidence or information to determine if a person, for whom the requirement for an application for a supplement has been waived under subsection 11(3.1) of the Act, has a spouse or common-law partner, the Minister may use the tax return filed with the Minister of National Revenue by that person for the most recent calendar year for which the filing due date has passed to make that determination.

Coming into Force

4 These Regulations come into force on the day on which subsection 454(2) of the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, chapter 19 of the Statutes of Canada, 2012, comes into force, but if they are registered after that day, they come into force on the day on which they are registered.

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