Spencer Colby The Canadian Press “This year, like many others, Canadians have told us that the agency does not always provide them with complete, accurate, clear and timely information,” underlines the Taxpayers' Ombudsman, François Boileau, in his report.
Inaccurate information, difficulties in contacting an agent, freezing of bank accounts without warning… Numerous flaws in the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) have been identified by the Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman, François Boileau. Its annual report was published Tuesday in Ottawa.
66% of the 2,188 complaints received between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023 relate to the quality of service provided by the contact centers of the 'BOW. Most stem from dissatisfaction with the agency's main phone line.
“This year, like many others, Canadians told us that the agency does not always provide them with complete, accurate, clear and timely information,” underlines Mr. Boileau in his report.
Its investigation reveals in particular the existence of excessive waiting times, the receipt of contradictory or inconsistent information, or calls interrupted prematurely.
A complainant allegedly alleged that an agent confirmed having received a document validating his eligibility for tax credits, while another agent allegedly claimed that the CRA had never received these same documents.
< p>“Some complainants told us they couldn't reach a contact center agent when they needed to speak to the agency. Some also told us that the agency did not review their request in a timely manner and did not provide information about the delay,” we read in the fifty-page report.
Among the shortcomings raised, we also note significant delays in obtaining benefits related to COVID-19 and the Canada Child Benefit (CCB).
« Rude” and “aggressive”
Nearly 17% of complaints were related to the fifth right set out in the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which guarantees Canadians “to be treated in a professional, courteous and fair manner by the Canada Revenue Agency”.
François Boileau notes that while most CRA officers adhere to standards of courtesy, some have also been “rude, aggressive, demanding and impatient.”
“Unprofessional behavior should never be tolerated at the Agency and the Agency must take appropriate action when it becomes aware of such behavior. However, we also know that callers can sometimes also behave in a disrespectful manner,” he adds.
Punishment without warning
Some complainants also alleged that the CRA took legal action against them for a debt — which could mean freezing their bank account and garnishing their wages — without first notifying them.
The problem had already been noted in 2019. “The existence of the debt was not called into question, but the taxpayer had the impression of not having received notice before the “ARC is taking legal action,” noted Mr. Boileau four years ago.
Recommendations were then made to improve legal warning policies.
In light of persistent complaints in this regard this year, “additional work may be necessary to determine whether there are any 'other opportunities for the agency to improve its service'.
The Ombudsman made four recommendations. He emphasizes the need for the CRA to “proactively inform Canadians, on Canada.ca, of delays that a program may experience.”
It encourages the agency to update its processing time tracking tool to include tax returns and tax requests subject to internal deadlines not defined by service standards. Simplifying the administrative procedures of tax centers is also recommended.
Finally, the ombudsman suggests that the CRA find new ways to estimate and identify non-filers in Canada and their demographic composition.