Section 1 – Plans at a glance
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is responsible for administering hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes annually. The tax revenue it collects is used by federal, provincial, and territorial governments to fund the programs and services that contribute to the quality of life of Canadians. The CRA also delivers billions of dollars in benefits, tax credits, and other services that support the economic and social well-being of Canadian families, children, and persons with disabilities.
CRA at a glance
- 28.8 million individual and 2.4 million corporation income tax returns filed
- $499.8 billion in tax processed
- 86%Footnote1 of individual and 89% of corporation income tax returns filed digitally
- 12.4 million benefit recipients
- $31.8 billion in benefits paid
- Workforce of approximately 40,000 employees
- $4.205 billion planned spending for 2018-2019
Canadian society—along with the business and political landscape worldwide—is evolving at an ever-faster rate as a result of technology, demographics, changing societal values, and economic realities. Today's world is one in which businesses must compete globally for talent and markets; the public expects services to be available 24/7—from any location and any technology—and governments must actively collaborate internationally to protect their revenue streams from abusive tax avoidance. In this fast paced environment, tax administration is a key enabler of government objectives.
The borderless nature of modern commerce creates increasing complexity for tax administrations as it becomes less clear where income is earned and where tax should be paid. In addition, the emergence of blockchain technology applications have expanded from digital currencies to a diverse array of industries. Meanwhile, entities offering digital financial services, involving e-money and peer-to-peer lending, stretch the bounds of current monetary and tax policies. However, the reach of globalization goes beyond large corporations: tax agencies must also consider cross-border compliance by individuals and small businesses. Tax administrations, including the CRA, are responding to this new reality.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) often focuses on evidence-based experimentation in its delivery of services, recognizing that innovation is essential in order to discover new ways to address issues that traditional approaches have not solved. Through innovation and experimentation the CRA seeks to ensure that it continues to fulfil its mandate and provide taxpayers and benefit recipients with the best possible service. To this end, the CRA has established a business solutions lab that oversees the development of experimental methods and that acts as a catalyst for new approaches across the Agency.
This image is designed to show the components that together contribute to the CRA's pursuit of excellence and the goal of being a world-class tax and benefit administration.
At the very top of the image are the words World-Class Tax and Benefit Administration and at the bottom are the words Pursuit of Excellence.
Between those two phrases is an image consisting of one large circle in the centre surrounded by five slightly smaller circles. In the centre circle are the words Service Culture.
There are five arrows within the centre circle pointing outwards to each of the five surrounding circles. In each of the five surrounding circles the CRA's core business priorities are listed.
Beginning with the top surrounding circle and moving in a clockwise direction, the five core business priorities listed in each of the five surrounding circles are: Compliance, Integrity and Security, People, Innovation, and Service.
Internally, the Agency is working diligently to overcome additional, distinct challenges. The recent implementation of Service Renewal necessitated unprecedented volumes of newly hired staff, all requiring training and a learning period which temporarily reduced productivity. These short-term problems, however, were foreseen and planned for accordingly, and Service Renewal was designed as a long-term strategy to increase future productivity at the Agency. Issues raised by the Auditor General regarding accessibility to our call centres, the accuracy of information provided to callers, and the reporting of results, will need to be addressed. Ongoing difficulties with the Phoenix pay system, and employee engagement issues related to a modernization exercise in the Greater Toronto Area are other examples of challenges that require a constant capacity to adapt and adjust.
Our pursuit of excellence
As a modern and successful tax administration, the CRA continues to make significant changes to the way it does business so that our compliance activities, our services to the public, and our business processes can deliver results for Canadians. The Agency has made it a priority to seek out opportunities to try new ideas, adapt to new technology, and apply innovative techniques to achieve solutions, including behavioural economics, advanced data analytics, and qualitative research. We are particularly dedicated to reaching out to Canadians to heighten awareness of benefits and credits available through tax filing and support those who need help to meet their tax obligations through initiatives like our Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. These volunteers assisted over 700,000 eligible individuals with a modest income prepare income tax and benefit returns during the 2017 filing season. Each year, the CRA contacts thousands of Canadians and businesses to seek their views about how the Agency can interact with them in ways that are more fair and helpful, and make it easier to access our services.
What we have learned from these consultations is that, to remain in step with Government of Canada priorities, technology, and taxpayer behaviour, the Agency must become a more agile and innovative entity. We must do this to maintain our capacity to provide effective and efficient services within a global business and tax environment of growing complexity that poses both opportunities and challenges to government and tax administrations worldwide. For these reasons, the CRA has launched two ambitious initiatives, world-class tax and benefit administration and improving our service culture, to guide us as we continue to strive for excellence and ensure that we remain a dynamic organization.
World-class tax and benefit administration
To maintain public trust and keep pace with the evolving expectations of our clients and stakeholders, ensuring that our organization is world-class is an overarching objective. The CRA is continually anticipating, managing, and adapting to new and emerging challenges. The Agency has already demonstrated excellence in making information and tools available to taxpayers and benefit recipients in ways that best suit their needs, abilities and preferences. In enforcing compliance and protecting Canada's revenue base, the Agency strives to improve its compliance strategies both domestically—in shining a light on the underground economy—and internationally, where we are tracking those who attempt to hide assets offshore to avoid paying taxes in Canada.
To judge the capacity and ability of the CRA to achieve and sustain the high degree of excellence expected of a world-class tax and benefit administration, we are measuring ourselves against international benchmarks and other objective standards. A foundational piece of our self-assessment will be the International Monetary Fund's Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool that we will use to assess key performance outcome areas common to all tax administrations in a standardized and objective way. Engaging our workforce is another of the ways in which we are assessing whether our organization meets our own standards of excellence. The Agency is also comparing itself to other tax administrations by examining existing literature, from public opinion research to audit findings, and by seeking input from outside the Agency.
We recognize that political, economic, social and technological change affects what it means to be a world-class tax and benefit administration, and ensuring we are world-class will prepare us to meet these challenges in the future. In short, the Agency's World-Class Tax and Benefit Administration initiative seeks to identify meaningful measures that will allow us to confirm where we are world-class and, more importantly, strengthen those areas that require improvement.
Developing and strengthening a culture of service at the Agency is another overarching initiative that the CRA is pursuing. Trust in public institutions is vital for government to function and serve society well. For the Agency, trust is critical to sustained voluntary compliance with Canada's tax laws. As it strives to be a world-class tax and benefit administration, we have committed to explore how it can overcome any barriers to service excellence so that voluntary compliance is supported and sustained.
The CRA is looking at how improvements in service can be achieved at all levels, strategic, operational, and cultural. Operational improvements mean that the CRA will be providing Canadians with new and innovative services to make it easier for them to interact with us. At the strategic level, the Agency's focus will be on ensuring that policies, programs, and services are designed and implemented with the user of the service at the centre. In strengthening service culture, we will be looking at how we can best foster a productive and engaged workforce where employees feel a sense of responsibility, and are supported, to serve others.
Our service culture initiative seeks to establish a common mind-set for service excellence amongst all CRA employees, and to ensure that our workforce puts the people we serve at the centre of our thinking. This includes the people who are served by the Agency as well as how employees serve each other. Over the period covered by this plan, our commitment to service excellence will be integrated and reinforced in all aspects of CRA operations and will support our ability to remain adaptable to future needs. Strengthening service culture at the Agency will play a significant role in improving the public's trust in us and, in turn, will strengthen and sustain Canada's system of voluntary compliance and the timely payment of benefits to those who are eligible.
Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+)
Gender equality, diversity, and inclusion are key priorities for the Government of Canada. During our examination of the impacts of government policies, programs, and initiatives, Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) provides a lens through which we take into consideration the diversity that exists among our country's inhabitants beyond separating Canadians into two categories (“men” and “women”). GBA+ also takes gender into account in relation to other demographic variables, such as age, income level, language, and geographic location. The CRA is committed to promoting GBA+ as part of good program analysis and informed decision-making, and applying GBA+ to all federal government proposals to ensure improved outcomes for all Canadians.
How to read this plan
This plan has two sections that set out the strategies and initiatives the Agency will pursue to protect Canada's revenue base and support the economic and social well-being of Canadians. A third section, entitled Internal Services, describes the more global objectives the Agency will undertake over the planning period in areas of management that are horizontal in achieving our mandate, such as people and information technology.
This image is designed to depict the various initiatives being pursued by the CRA that are new to the current Plan compared to the previous year's Plan.
At the centre of the image is a circle with words stating the question What's New?. From the outside of the circle there are ten non-linear lines leading to ten small abstract icons, each of which is meant to depict a new initiative being pursued by the CRA.
Below each icon is text explaining what the icon represents.
Beginning at the top and moving in a clockwise direction, there is first a depiction of a globe, below which the following text appears: We are measuring ourselves against international benchmarks and other objective standards to assess where we are world-class and those areas that require improvement
The next icon depicts two figures shaking hands. Below the two figures, the following text appears: We are strengthening our service culture to improve the public’s trust in the Agency and to sustain Canada’s system of voluntary compliance and timely benefit payments
Directly below the icon of two figures shaking hands is the abstract image of just one figure. Below that image, the following text appears: We are implementing our strategy for the recruitment, inclusion, and retention of Indigenous peoples
Continuing to move in a clockwise direction around the What's New? circle, the next icon depicts two speech balloons. Below the two speech balloons is the following text: We are expanding our outreach and partnerships in Canada’s northern communities so eligible northern residents can better understand how to claim deductions and benefit payments available to them
To the left of the two speech balloons is the icon of a light bulb. To the left of the light bulb is the following text: We are developing a "Tell-Us-Once" initiative in partnership with Employment and Social Development Canada to allow, with the consent of the individuals concerned, the sharing of direct deposit and address information related to Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan benefits
To the left of the text associated with the light bulb icon is the icon of a computer screen, with a human hand superimposed over the screen. Below this icon the following text appears: We are redesigning our guides and publications to make them easier to use
To the left and slightly above the computer screen icon is the small image of two gears interlocking. Below the two gears icon is the following text: We are reporting on improved performance indicators, related targets, and results to Parliament and Canadians concerning objections and appeals decisions
Above the two gears icon is the image of a magnifying glass superimposed over a row of books. To the immediate left of the magnifying glass icon the following text appears: We continue to take action against those involved in offshore non-compliance and aggressive tax planning, particularly those identified through the documents released in the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers leaks
Above the magnifying glass text is an icon depicting a computer chip. To the immediate left of the computer chip image is the following text: We are exploring the practical possibilities associated with artificial intelligence, such as the development of artificial intelligence tools to improve the Agency's detection of large-scale tax evasion schemes
Finally, to the right of the computer chip icon is the icon of a call centre headset. Below the call centre headset image is the following text: In partnership with Shared Services Canada and other government organizations, we are actively evaluating and developing new call centre technology for our individual enquiries and business enquiries call centres
Core business priorities
The core business results the CRA expects to achieve over the next three years are aligned with the Agency's established priorities of service, compliance, integrity and security, innovation, and people.
The CRA is dedicated to providing Canadians with services that are effective and responsive to their needs. The Agency continually seeks ways to make it easier and more convenient for individuals and businesses to comply voluntarily with Canada's tax laws and receive the benefits to which they are entitled. We are working to simplify the language of our correspondence, streamline our processes, and add to the menu of services we provide to the public through a variety of channels. The CRA aims to offer services that are easy, helpful, fair, and consistent because we want people who interact with us to feel like valued clients, not just taxpayers.
The CRA works with individuals and businesses to help them meet their tax obligations and pay what they owe. Most Canadians comply with tax and benefit requirements; for example, in 2016-2017, 91% of all individuals filed and paid their taxes on time. The goal of the Agency is to protect the integrity and fairness of our self-assessment tax system by identifying, addressing, and deterring those who do not abide by Canada's tax laws for registration, filing, reporting, withholding, and debt payment. With a focus on the highest-risk taxpayers nationally and internationally, and an increased ability to gather information, the CRA can target taxpayers who try to hide their income and circumvent their tax obligations.
Integrity and security
The CRA recognizes the importance of maintaining Canadians' trust and is committed to protecting the data we receive. Canadians rely on the Agency to exercise the highest level of security to protect their personal information. They also have every right to expect Agency employees will perform their duties with the utmost integrity thanks to our strict code of integrity that extends to post employment. To this end, protecting taxpayer information and the security of the Agency's networks and electronic services remains paramount. Looking ahead, the CRA will continue to implement measures to protect the personal information of taxpayers and benefit recipients from inappropriate access and from increasingly complex cyber-security threats.
The CRA fosters innovation to ensure it continuously improves services for Canadians and protects Canada's revenue base. From our information technology infrastructure, to our use of business intelligence, to how we manage our resources, we are committed to turning good ideas into successful solutions. By intelligent risk-taking principles, the Agency tests new ideas and approaches to the ways in which we deliver our programs and services and assess whether desired results are achieved. Without innovation and change, the CRA would not be able to adapt to social and technological changes as they occur, or respond adequately to the needs and expectations of Canadians. Over the planning period, we will continue to seek out opportunities to try new ideas, adapt to new technology, and continuously improve the way the Agency provides services to Canadians.
The success of the CRA as a trusted tax and benefits administration relies on a diverse, highly skilled and experienced workforce of more than 40,000 people, working in communities across Canada to administer Canada's tax and benefit programs with proficiency and integrity. Leadership development, actively recruiting for specialized skills—such as forensic accounting, project management, and data analytics—and enhancing the workplace environment (e.g., flexible work arrangements) are three key priorities for the Agency over the next three years. We will also continue our recruitment efforts to attract and retain the workforce the Agency needs to deliver timely client-centred service, crack down on tax evasion and tax avoidance, and improve collections. Our focus on talent management and building the Agency's leadership capacity will help to sustain a healthy, productive and high-performing workforce that can deliver on Government of Canada priorities, meet current and future business needs, and strive to provide the best possible service to all Canadians.
* For more information on the CRA's plans, priorities and planned results, see the "Planned results" section of this report.
- You have the right to receive entitlements and to pay no more and no less than what is required by law.
- You have the right to service in both official languages.
- You have the right to privacy and confidentiality.
- You have the right to a formal review and a subsequent appeal.
- You have the right to be treated professionally, courteously, and fairly.
- You have the right to complete, accurate, clear, and timely information.
- You have the right, unless otherwise provided by law, not to pay income tax amounts in dispute before you have had an impartial review.
- You have the right to have the law applied consistently.
- You have the right to lodge a service complaint and to be provided with an explanation of our findings.
- You have the right to have the costs of compliance taken into account when administering tax legislation.
- You have the right to expect us to be accountable.
- You have the right to relief from penalties and interest under tax legislation because of extraordinary circumstances.
- You have the right to expect us to publish our service standards and report annually.
- You have the right to expect us to warn you about questionable tax schemes in a timely manner.
- You have the right to be represented by a person of your choice.
- You have the right to lodge a service complaint and request a formal review without fear of reprisal.
Commitment to Small Business
- The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is committed to administering the tax system in a way that minimizes the costs of compliance for small businesses.
- The CRA is committed to working with all governments to streamline service, minimize cost, and reduce the compliance burden.
- The CRA is committed to providing service offerings that meet the needs of small businesses.
- The CRA is committed to conducting outreach activities that help small businesses comply with the legislation we administer.
- The CRA is committed to explaining how we conduct our business with small businesses.
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