Report on Plans and Priorities 2014–15

Section 2: Analysis of Program by Strategic Outcome

Program: Taxpayer and business assistance

Program description

The CRA is committed to providing taxpayers with accurate and timely information so that they can comply with Canada's tax laws and access the benefits available to them. To achieve this, we maintain a website that contains information about our programs and services, including self-serve options, and we communicate with Canadians through videos, webinars, and social media. When taxpayers seek more support, we offer expertise and guidance through our telephone services, our technical interpretations, and our advance rulings services. We protect the interests of donors and contributors by monitoring charities and administering registered plans to make sure they respect legislative requirements.

Budgetary financial resources (dollars)
2014-15
Main Estimates
2014-15
Planned Spending Footnote 1
2015-16
Planned Spending Footnote 1
2016-17
Planned Spending Footnote 1
Base spending 265,509,013 266,396,556 262,583,960 256,179,956
Charities - public safety and anti-terrorism 4,508,669 4,508,669 4,509,929 4,516,764
Disbursements to the provinces for Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 80,000,000 80,000,000
Total 350,017,682 350,905,225 267,093,889 260,696,720
Human resources
(full-time equivalents)
2014-15 Footnote 2 2015-16 Footnote 2 2016-17 Footnote 2
3,676 3,638 3,575

What we want to achieve

To provide timely, accessible, and accurate information that meets the needs of taxpayers, from individuals who file their taxes once a year to businesses who file many times throughout the year. To offer guidance, technical interpretation, and early certainty to help taxpayers manage their tax affairs with confidence.

Strategic context

The upfront information and guidance we provide to taxpayers is a critical part of red tape reduction and continuous improvement in service to Canadians. Our consultations with small businesses identified that easy access to clear, accurate information is a priority for them. For this reason, our red tape reduction action plans will improve our telephone agent's ability to respond to business enquiries. Many taxpayers prefer to first look for information online. Our website is a comprehensive source of information and is being expanded through the use of online tools like twitter, videos, and webinars, which provide cost-effective and easy-to-use help for taxpayers. Our goal is to provide the information taxpayers need to self-serve and comply with their tax obligations without CRA intervention. We are updating our tax interpretation bulletins so that taxpayers can find online help with more complex tax questions. Our call centres and rulings service provide tailored, account specific advice when a taxpayer needs further help.

Not all Canadians prefer electronic options. For this reason, we continue to expand our ability to support taxpayers by working with partners like community associations who help thousands of taxpayers prepare their tax returns each year.

Taxpayer services - enquiries and information products

Budgetary financial resources (dollars)
2014-15
planned spending
2015-16
planned spending
2016-17
planned spending
152,960,455 150,790,093 147,937,758
Human resources
(full-time equivalents)
2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
2,111 2,083 2,082

Taxpayers' information needs vary widely and can depend on factors ranging from their level of income and where they reside, to the complexity of their tax affairs. To meet this broad spectrum of needs, the CRA will provide current information and respond to enquiries through several channels.

CRA website

The CRA website contains a full range of information, from general facts to more complex reference material, as well as a variety of educational and tax-related tools designed to help taxpayers voluntarily comply. The website also provides secure portal services enabling them to complete transactions online. The CRA website has more than 138,000 pages of information and in 2012-2013 attracted more than 105.9 million visits. In the first half of fiscal year 2013-2014, visits to the CRA website reached more than 58 million, on track to exceed 110 million visits for the year.

The CRA supports the Government of Canada's Web Renewal effort and was designated as the lead for taxes on the new canada.ca website launched in December 2013. The goal of the Government's Web Renewal effort is to consolidate more than 1,500 Government of Canada websites into one by 2016, ultimately making it easier for Canadians to deal with the government.

Social media, videos, webinars

Although social media is a relatively new communications tool for us, our reach via Twitter is steadily growing year over year. By the end of 2013 we had 28,000 followers, five times more than the previous year. The CRA is building Twitter into its strategic communications planning as a way to draw attention to important issues and information in real time, and it is encouraging access to the CRA website and other information channels for detailed information.

The CRA is expanding its use of videos and webinars to cost-effectively provide information to taxpayers. In 2012-2013, the CRA delivered 152 webinars to about 10,525 participants. During the 2013 filing season, 40 videos posted on the CRA YouTube channel received more than a half million views. The most frequently viewed videos were those that offered help with tax filing and the CRA's online services. During the planning period, we will:

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Telephone services

Our telephone services complement our online information services. All taxpayer services agents are trained in providing taxpayers with the information they need and providing explanations related to tax and benefit enquiries.

Taxpayers and benefit recipients who want to understand how tax laws apply to their specific circumstances will be able to rely on the knowledge and assistance of our taxpayer services agents. Through these centres we handle millions of enquiries each year, many of which are highly complex. To expand the function of our telephone services to meet other requirements, during the planning period we will:

Community volunteer income tax program

The CRA's Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) is a community-based outreach program to help thousands of Canadians during tax-filing season. In 2013, the CVITP had more than 18,000 volunteers in over 2,000 community organizations across Canada working for it. They filed more than 565,000 tax returns, representing a 3% increase over last year.

We rely on partner organizations to host tax preparation clinics and arrange for volunteers to prepare tax returns for individuals with low to modest income and a simple tax situation. The CRA's role is to offer training and tax software to community organizations, allowing them to guide their volunteers in completing returns. To further enhance the service, during the planning period we will:

Policy, rulings and interpretations

Budgetary financial resources Footnote 3 (dollars)
2014-15
planned spending
2015-16
planned spending
2016-17
planned spending
Base spending 68,030,914 67,484,740 64,290,088
Disbursements to the provinces for Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 80,000,000 - -
Total 148,030,914 67,484,740 64,290,088
Human resources
(full-time equivalents)
2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
1,013 1,010 951

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Taxpayer services for complex information needs

Taxpayers and tax professionals with more complex tax information requirements rely on the CRA to provide technical interpretations of tax legislation, which ultimately helps prevent errors and promote compliance.

To ensure faster, easier access to current information, the CRA introduced income tax folios, a new technical publication series which will progressively replace our income tax interpretation bulletins and provide hyperlinks to improve web functionality. To make the folios easy to navigate, they are divided into seven series, each aimed at a different audience: individuals, employers and employees, property, investments and savings plans, businesses, international and residency, trusts, and charities and non-profit organizations. Folios are expected to save time and give taxpayers current technical information, interpretations and rulings.

During the planning period, we will:

The CRA also provides written non-binding income tax and GST/HST interpretations of specific provisions of tax law. Taxpayers can also request binding advance income tax or binding GST/HST rulings related to how legislation applies to a clearly defined situation.

During the planning period, we will:

RED TAPE REDUCTION:

Clear and accessible information

In response to feedback from small businesses, we are improving our online services by adding more options to My Business Account, including providing written answers to account-specific enquiries.

To make sure businesses have quicker and easier access to these services, we are creating a new page on our website that will take users to the appropriate online business service based on the task that they want to complete, for example, File, Pay, Review, Change Request, Calculate, and Register.
These measures will help businesses by:

  • allowing them to electronically file more types of information returns, which will save time and cost
  • providing faster, easier access to online services
  • offering greater confidence and certainty by providing written responses to inquiries, which will lessen the need to make follow-up calls to verify information
  • enabling immediate changes of address, which will reduce delays in receiving mail from the CRA

Registered plans

Budgetary financial resources (dollars)
2014-15
planned spending
2015-16
planned spending
2016-17
planned spending
16,250,754 16,026,409 15,945,901
Human resources
(full-time equivalents)
2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
178 173 172

Registered plans are one of the most effective savings and retirement tools available to Canadians. The CRA is responsible for registering and administering deferred income and savings plans like employee pension plans, retirement savings plans, education savings plans, disability savings plans, tax-free savings accounts, and pooled registered pension plans. We oversee deferred income and savings plans that hold more than $1 trillion in assets. We ensure the integrity of the deferred income and savings plans sector in Canada by promoting compliance with legislation, and we focus our efforts on areas at greater risk of non-compliance.

During the planning period, we will:

Charities

Budgetary financial resources (dollars)
2014-15
planned spending
2015-16
planned spending
2016-17
planned spending
29,154,434 28,282,718 28,006,209
Human resources
(full-time equivalents)
2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
333 331 329

To qualify for registration as a charity under the Income Tax Act, an organization must operate according to specific guidelines, and the CRA is responsible for monitoring the organization's compliance. We support and encourage compliance with income tax legislation and regulations for registered charities through our enquiries services and outreach activities, and by providing a thorough and timely application process. We offer in-person sessions, webinars, and webcasts on topics like the tax deductibility of donations, filing requirements, record keeping, tax planning schemes, preparing for an audit, and the implications of non-compliance.

We conduct audits and, when charities are found to be non-compliant with the requirements of the Income Tax Act, we take appropriate action. This action ranges from helping the charity understand the rules through education and outreach activities, to suspending its charitable status, or to revoking its registered status. During the planning period, we will:

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Service excellence: Making information accessible

The CRA is committed to transforming the way we provide information to taxpayers and businesses. To keep pace with evolving demands, we are taking advantage of technology that expands our reach, and developing ways to make information more user-friendly.

We are successfully adapting to faster, more efficient communications channels as shown by our rapidly-expanding number of followers on Twitter, the popularity of our webinars, and the growing number of visitors accessing our videos posted on the CRA's YouTube channel.

The CRA recognizes that populating our website and telling taxpayers that information is available is the first step. The second step is helping to ensure that taxpayers can quickly find what they need and readily understand it, especially when it comes to complex information. For example, we are updating the way we present information on tax interpretation. Tax interpretation bulletins have long been an important resource for taxpayers and tax professionals, but navigating through them to answer specific questions was difficult. The CRA has introduced a new technical publication to update the information currently found in the income tax interpretation bulletins and to introduce improved web functionality.

Conclusion

Our service to Canadians, and our high rate of voluntary compliance, depend on the information we provide through our website, call centres and rulings services. This chapter sets out our commitment to excellence in the delivery of these services, with important improvements that will reduce red tape for small businesses when they call our telephone agents, make it easier to find information to answer complex tax questions, and provide a wider range of online help.

Strategic outcome: Taxpayers meet their obligations and Canada's revenue base is protected

We use the following expected results and performance indicators to assess whether we are meeting our overall strategic outcome.

Program: Taxpayer and business assistance

Expected results: Taxpayers and businesses have access to the information and services they require to voluntarily comply with tax laws
Performance indicators Targets Date to be achieved
Individual inquiries – telephone service level - respond to calls in the agent queue within two minutes 80% March 2015
Business inquiries - telephone service level – respond to calls in the agent queue within two minutes 80% March 2015
Expected results: Compliance with applicable legislation by organizations and businesses administering and/or producing registered plans, charities, and excise-dutiable products is improved
Performance indicators Targets Date to be achieved
Percentage of charities, registered plans, and commodity audits completed compared to planned 100% March 2015

Sub-program: Taxpayer services – enquiries and information products

Expected results: Individual taxpayers have access to timely and accurate responses to their tax enquiries
Performance indicators Targets Date to be achieved
Caller accessibility - Percentage of individual callers who succeed in reaching the CRA telephone service
(tax filing season)
85% March 2015
Caller accessibility - Percentage of individual callers who succeed in reaching the CRA telephone service
(non-tax filing season)
80% March 2015
Percentage of accurately updated internal reference materials for taxpayer services agents (individual) 100% March 2015
Expected results: Businesses have access to timely and accurate responses to their tax enquiries
Performance indicators Targets Date to be achieved
Caller accessibility - Percentage of business callers who succeed in reaching the CRA telephone service 85% March 2015
Percentage of accurately updated internal reference materials for taxpayer services agents (business) 100% March 2015

Sub-program: Registered plans

Expected results: Registered plan administrators and their agents receive timely service in response to applications
Performance indicators Targets Date to be achieved
Percentage of registered plan applications reviewed within the established time frames (180 days) 85% March 2015
Expected results: Non-compliance by registered plan administrators and their agents with legislation and regulations pertaining to registered plans is detected and addressed
Performance indicators Targets Date to be achieved
Percentage of registered plan audits completed compared to planned 100% March 2015

Sub-program: Policy, rulings and interpretations

Expected results: Taxpayers and businesses receive timely rulings and interpretations under the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, and various other federal legislation
Performance indicators Targets Date to be achieved
Advance income tax rulings issued within 90 business days 85% March 2015
Technical interpretations issued within 90 business days 85% March 2015
GST/HSTrulings and interpretations - respond to calls in the queue within two minutes 80% March 2015
GST/HST rulings and interpretations - respond to written requests within 45 business days. This excludes highly technical and precedent and/or policy-setting rulings and interpretations. 80% March 2015
Expected results: Non-compliance with the Excise Act and the Excise Act, 2001 with respect to dutiable products is detected and addressed
Performance indicators Targets Date to be achieved
Percentage of planned excise regulatory reviews and excise compliance activities that are completed 100% March 2015

Sub-program: Charities

Expected results: Service to registered charities and applicants for charitable status is enhanced
Performance indicators Targets Date to be achieved
Charities - responding to telephone enquiries in agent queue within two minutes 80% March 2015
Charities - responding to simple applications for charitable registration within two months 80% March 2015
Charities - responding to regular applications for charitable registration within six months 80% March 2015
Expected results: Compliance in the charitable sector is improved
Performance indicators Targets Date to be achieved
Percentage of charities that are audited, that are known to be participating in gifting tax shelters 100% March 2015
Percentage of charities that file an annual information return on time 80% March 2015

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