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More MS news articles for October 2003

Easy come, easy go: 82-year-old pays back $155 tax rebate cheque

Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Barry Dorey
The Halifax Herald

Barbara Garnhum knew she didn't qualify for the $155 tax rebate cheque that the provincial Tories gave out this summer because she didn't pay income tax last year.

But when the cash was direct-deposited to her bank account, the 82-year-old Dartmouth woman figured the rules had changed.

"I thought they were giving me a break because I'm a senior," she said Tuesday.

No such luck.

Mrs. Garnhum was one of about 1,000 Nova Scotians asked to repay the money after tax officials determined they didn't qualify after all.

So days after receiving a letter from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency wanting the money back, she asked her daughter to take her to the bank.

"I was so worried that I paid it right back," she said.

Finance Department spokeswoman Linda Laffin said many recall cases involve people who no longer live in Nova Scotia and aren't eligible to receive the money.

She said Mrs. Garnhum's predicament is the first she has encountered, although the Dartmouth senior says she knows of another senior who got the money.

A spokesman for Premier John Hamm's office put the blame on the federal government, which distributed the cheques.

"It was their information, and it's unfortunate they would single out an 82-year-old with multiple sclerosis," Rob Batherson said.

"I thought they would use a bit more common sense."

But the flap hasn't perturbed Mrs. Garnhum, who said she would discuss the matter with her son and daughter but might just "leave the damn thing alone."

She might not even bother calling tax officials today, as they requested.

"Why should I phone them? I don't pay any income tax, so I wasn't entitled to that $155."

The Conservatives spent $72.7 million to deliver the promised rebate cheques to taxpayers just before the July election call.

The province announced last month that it must now pare $32 million from its spending to balance the budget.

Mrs. Garnhum said she doesn't feel guilty about accepting the cheque because she didn't ask for it. She repaid it right away.

"Let them have it, I don't want it," she said with a chuckle. "I didn't vote anyway."

Copyright © 2003, The Halifax Herald Limited