Cross-border nurses say they paid their taxes — but CRA took their money and froze their accounts

The day after depositing $1,400 in her bank account, Lora Christensen's debit card was abruptly declined for a lack of funds. After calling her bank, Christensen found out that Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had placed a hold on her account and taken money out.

'I couldn't pay my bills,' says one nurse who works in Michigan

An upset woman with white and purple hair and nose piercings wearing a black t-shirt and a red jacket standing outside her front door
Lora Christensen is a nurse at a children's hospital in Detroit. She says the Canada Revenue Agency told her she owes $32,713.62 in back taxes. As a result, the agency has taken $1,600 from her bank account, leaving her with -$250. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

The day after depositing $1,400 in her bank account, Lora Christensen's debit card was abruptly declined for a lack of funds.

After calling her bank, Christensen found out that Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had placed a hold on her account at the end of November and taken money out.

"They took almost $1,600 away from me," she said.

"Currently, my bank account is -$250."

Some Windsor-based workers who work in Detroit say the Canada Revenue Agency have taken their money and frozen their accounts but the workers say they have paid their taxes. (Carlos Osorio/The Associated Press)

Christensen is a registered nurse who lives in Windsor, Ont., and works for a children's hospital in Detroit. Because of this, she has to file taxes in both Canada and the U.S. 

According to Christensen, CRA said she owed $32,713.62 in back taxes, which Christensen does not believe she owes. She said the agency has placed a lien on her account for about the same amount, though Christensen says she submitted proof that she paid her taxes.

For a single mom like Christensen, she said the lack of funds has made things stressful.

"My daughter has occasionally asked me, 'Did you get your money back?,'" she said. "I don't know if she's as stressed as I am."

They took almost $1,600 away from me. Currently, my bank account is -$250.- Lora Christensen, cross-border worker

In addition to travelling to a different country for work, cross-border workers also have to navigate two different systems of taxation, and Christensen is not the only cross-border worker facing frustrations with the CRA.

Fellow nurse Isabelle Tardif posted a similar story to Christensen's, with many others commenting, in a private Facebook group called "Proud to be a Canadian Nurse in Michigan."

CRA claims that Tardif owes $59,000 in back taxes, she told CBC News. She says CRA took $12,000 US, which was all of her savings. In May, her accounts were frozen as well.

Tardif says she also provided CRA proof of payment of her taxes. She submitted her U.S. files from 2018 to 2020, but said the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) still has not processed her taxes for 2021.

Gail Chene, manager at Ferrara Income Tax in Windsor, says that the average tax return takes six to eight months for the IRS to process. She also said that this could be what is contributing to the issues Christensen and Tardif are facing.

Although Tardif has since regained access to her bank account, she has filed an objection.

"Now, I'm on a seven-month waiting list with the chief of appeals to try and get my money back," she said.

A woman with brown hair wearing a grey t-shirt and blue standing in front of her car on her driveway
Isabelle Tardif is a nurse at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She had to secure a loan from a family member to help pay her mortgage and is paying with everything using her credit card. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

Tardif was able to secure a loan from a family member to help pay her mortgage. The lack of funds in her bank account meant that she has had to pay for everything with her credit card.

"I couldn't pay my bills," she said. "They didn't even leave me $10.

"They took everything."

Tax system for cross-border workers

Canadians who work in the U.S. are required to pay taxes in the U.S. before they pay taxes in Canada, explained Ian Murphy, tax partner with MCO Partners. They are required to pay separate federal, state, municipal, social security and medical taxes in the U.S.

"All [of that] combined together, converted into Canadian dollars, they get to claim that as a foreign tax credit against their Canadian taxes," said Murphy. "In Canada, taxes are based on your worldwide income if you're a Canadian resident. In the U.S., in this situation, you would only be taxed on your earned income."

The process relies on proof of taxes being filed in the U.S., which Tardif and Christensen say they provided to CRA.

A man with blonde hair wearing a grey suit jacket and a dark blue shirt
Ian Murphy is a tax partner with MCO Partners in Windsor. He says the Canada Revenue Agency is under-staffed, under-trained and "broke," creating a massive backlog of cases. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

CBC News initially reached out to CRA for comment on Dec. 12. As part of an emailed statement CBC News on Dec. 15, CRA said it cannot discuss individual cases, but people whose cases are selected for review by internal programs should contact CRA to work with them on the case.

"Individuals that receive correspondence from the CRA should open it and take the actions requested in a timely manner," the statement read. "Communication from CRA should never be ignored as actions may be taken to resolve the situation."

The statement also said wait times might be longer as CRA is dealing with more objections about COVID-19 payouts.

Murphy said there are massive backlogs at CRA because the agency is under-staffed, under-trained and "broke."

"They handed out a lot of money during COVID," he said. "I think they're going to exhaust a lot of their own agents. I understand they need to up the measures for collecting taxes, but I don't know if this is the place where they're going to get much bang for their buck."

Tardif said that she and other workers have reached out to local MPs about their struggles. CBC News has contacted the offices of Irek Kusmierczyk and Brian Masse for comment. 

Masse's office said the MP has written to the federal Minister of National Revenue.

"I believe you need to put a stop immediately to the freezing of Canadians' bank accounts for debts which are not legitimate," Masse's letter reads. "Your current process not only spends time and resources on Canadian law-abiding taxpayers, but it is also particularly harsh and cruel on people trying to follow the law."

Murphy said his advice is to sort things out with the CRA agent assigned to the case and that they are usually sympathetic.

"When I talk to collections agents on the phone, I say to them, 'We uploaded everything months ago. Your own system is behind,'" he said. "If you tell them it's a foreign tax credit, most of them will say, 'I'll call you back in three to six months.'

"And they drop it immediately."


TJ Dhir


TJ is a journalist with CBC News in Windsor. You can reach him at


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