Government workers angry, frustrated, as they try to report Phoenix overpayments

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Phoenix pay protest

Public servants protest over problems with the Phoenix pay system outside the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

OTTAWA — Federal government workers who’ve been overpaid through the troubled Phoenix pay system are voicing frustrations with a plan to report the overpayments in order to avoid costly tax implications.

Public Services and Procurement Canada has given civil servants until Jan. 31 to declare overpayments.

Under the plan, employees who report by the deadline will only have to pay the net amount they received.

Those who don’t declare the overpayment on time will have to repay the gross overpayment, including tax and other deducted amounts that they never actually received, which for some could add up to thousands of dollars.

But many of those civil servants have complained of busy signals or being put on hold indefinitely when calling the Phoenix pay centre.

Public Services acknowledges the centre is experiencing higher-than-normal call volumes as the deadline approaches and recommends employees fill out an online form instead.

Others complain that deductions are already being taken from their paycheques for overpayments, even if they didn’t receive any extra pay or have already paid money back.

More than half of all federal civil servants — about 180,000 workers — have reported being overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all since the Phoenix pay system went live nearly two years ago.

But those receiving overpayments have been treated as a low priority as the government struggles to ensure those who are underpaid or not paid get the money they earned.

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