Taxpayers' Ombudsperson Requests That the Canada Revenue Agency Make Improvements to Respect Canadians' Right to Be Represented by a Person of Their Choice
Thursday, 20 July 2023 10:21.AM
The Taxpayers' Ombudsperson, Mr. François Boileau, sent a service improvement request to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), asking it to update its processes and its content on Canada.ca to make sure it respects Taxpayer Right 15 of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, "You have the right to be represented by a person of your choice."
The Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsperson participates in several outreach activities each year to promote awareness of our Office. At Chartered Professional Accountants Forum North, we heard about concerns related to the CRA's approach in its Assisted Compliance program.
We examined the Assisted Compliance web page and found that some of the content encouraged Canadians to contact the CRA before contacting their tax preparer, who may also be their authorized representative. Specifically, the page stated, "We suggest you discuss the details of the letter with the CRA officer to make sure you fully understand your obligations before contacting your tax preparer [emphasis added]."
Encouraging taxpayers to contact a CRA officer first, before contacting their tax preparer, may create an issue. Taxpayers often rely on the expertise of their representatives for tax planning and may not fully understand the fine details because they leave them in the hands of their representatives.
We noted a similar issue during our examination of the CRA's audit process for charities. During this examination, we found that the CRA directs auditors to contact a director of a charity, not the authorized representative, even if the authorized representative previously informed the CRA to contact them for all financial matters.
We understand there will be times when contacting an authorized representative may not be the most efficient way for the CRA to operate, such as when it is collecting a debt that is not in dispute. However, if a taxpayer requests that the CRA contact their authorized representative, then the CRA should respect this choice.
Therefore, in the service improvement request, the Taxpayers' Ombudsperson asked that the CRA update its publicly available information to remove instances where it suggests that a taxpayer contact the CRA first when the taxpayer wants to be represented by a person of their choice.
After the CRA received the request, it informed us that it was already in the process of updating the Assisted Compliance program web page. The CRA has since finished the updates, and we were pleased to see that the web page no longer has the content that we flagged. However, the CRA should not stop there. It is important that the CRA continue to look for opportunities to make interacting with it easier for taxpayers and their representatives.
The Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsperson works independently from the CRA. Canadians can submit complaints to the Office if they feel they are not receiving the appropriate service from the CRA. Our main objective is to improve the service the CRA provides to taxpayers and benefit recipients by reviewing individual service complaints and service issues that affect more than one person or a segment of the population.
The Taxpayers' Ombudsperson assists, advises and informs the Minister of National Revenue about matters relating to services provided by the CRA. The Ombudsperson ensures, in particular, that the CRA respects eight of the service rights outlined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
"Canada's tax system is complex, and not everyone has the time or energy to fully understand the finer details. This is why Taxpayer Right 15 of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights is so important. If the CRA does not fully respect this right, it could put many Canadians, including at-risk populations, at a disadvantage."
- Mr. François Boileau, Taxpayers' Ombudsperson
SOURCE: Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsperson
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