Updates on CRA service improvements

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) works collaboratively with the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman to address service-related issues raised by the Taxpayers' Ombudsman in published systemic examination reports.

On this page

  • Rights and Rulings: An examination into the sufficiency of information in ruling letters from the CPP/EI Rulings Division of the Canada Revenue Agency.
  • Without Delay: An examination into service issues arising from delays in the Canada Revenue Agency’s Taxpayer Relief Program.
  • Benefits Unsheltered: An examination into the Canada Revenue Agency's communication and outreach efforts to shelters and other support organizations about benefits and credits administered by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Rights and Rulings: An examination into the sufficiency of information in ruling letters from the CPP/EI Rulings Division of the Canada Revenue Agency

Original report submitted to the Minister of National Revenue March 2017

Recommendation #1

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency provide information in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP and Employment Insurance (EI) rulings letters that workers and payers have the right to request a copy of the CPP/EI Rulings Report, and provide instruction on how to request it.

CRA's response

The CRA agrees in principle with the recommendation and will conduct a pilot prior to making a final decision regarding full implementation.

Update

The implementation of this recommendation is still in progress and will be fully implemented by the end of September 2018.

The CRA revised its ruling letter to include a verse to inform workers and payers involved in a CPP/EI ruling of their right to request a copy of the CPP/EI ruling report and to include instructions on how to request it. The revised ruling letter was initially piloted in one region from July to September 2017.

The results from this pilot were inconclusive as they did not provide sufficient information on the potential impact to the program. As a result, a decision was made to conduct a second pilot in another region from October to December 2017, which found that the inclusion of the revised verse generated an increase in the number of ruling report requests.

Based on the findings of the second pilot, the CRA decided to include the revised verse in all of its decision letters, which will be implemented by September 2018.

The CRA’s implementation plan includes updated training for all rulings officers to ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities related to the provision of ruling reports.

Recommendation #2

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends that, where applicable, the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance rulings letters inform the workers and payers that an amount or over-contribution may result from the decision.

CRA's response

The CRA accepts this recommendation.

Update

The CRA has fully implemented this recommendation.

The Have you received a CPP/EI ruling webpage was updated on June 23, 2017, to provide information on this topic.

The CRA amended all of its ruling letters as of June 30, 2017, to indicate that if the worker or the payer has questions on the consequences of the ruling, they can:

The ruling letters provide the CRA’s toll-free numbers for individual tax inquiries, businesses, and self-employed individuals.

Recommendation #3

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency updates the relevant sections of its publications and webpages to clearly communicate with the workers and payers involved in a Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) ruling about what they need to do after a ruling is made, including the steps required by workers and payers to pay any outstanding CPP contributions and/or EI premiums.

CRA's response

The CRA accepts this recommendation.

Update

The CRA has fully implemented this recommendation.

The CRA’s webpage Have you received a CPP/EI ruling was updated June 23, 2017. The content is now directed specifically to payers, employers, employees, and self-employed individuals.

The page provides information on what the taxpayer needs to know if a worker’s employment status changes, and includes:

  • links to information on how to pay outstanding CPP contributions or EI premiums;
  • a link to information on how to appeal a ruling; and
  • a new paragraph directing individuals who have received a CPP/EI ruling to the CRA’s Have you received a CPP/EI ruling webpage.

The RC4110 Employee or Self-employed? guide was updated to include a new paragraph that refers workers and payers involved in a ruling to the CRA webpage Have you received a CPP/EI ruling. This webpage provides information on what to do after a ruling is issued.

Recommendation #4

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency continue to include in their Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) rulings letters:

  1. the name and telephone number of the rulings officer and an invitation to contact the rulings officer to receive an explanation of the rationale behind the decision; and

  2. reference to the "Have you received a CPP/EI ruling?" website.

CRA's response

The CRA accepts this recommendation.

Update

The CRA has fully implemented this recommendation.

The CRA’s ruling letters continue to include the contact information for the ruling officer assigned to the individual’s file. The ruling officer will be able to answer questions related to the file as well as to the decision rendered.

The CRA’s ruling letters were amended to indicate that if the worker or the payer has questions, they can visit the Have you received a CPP/EI ruling webpage which was updated June 23, 2017.

Recommendation #5

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency determine whether changes can be made to increase efficiencies to allow for the inclusion of an explanation of the relevant factors within each rulings letter.

CRA's response

The CRA accepts this recommendation.

Update

The CRA fully implemented this recommendation by the end of June 2018.

The CRA’s ruling letters were amended as of June 30, 2017, to include the following changes:

In addition, a review of all the CRA’s ruling letters was completed to include links to existing CPP/EI explained articles, when relevant.

Without Delay: An examination into service issues arising from delays in the Canada Revenue Agency’s Taxpayer Relief Program

Original report submitted to the Minister of National Revenue September 2017

Recommendation #1 

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends that for each taxpayer who has filed a request for relief, the Canada Revenue Agency: 

  1. Advise the taxpayer whether their request is routine or complex; and,

  2. Provide the taxpayer a clear and accurate estimated processing time.

CRA's response

The CRA accepts this recommendation in principle, pending an analysis of its feasibility.

Update

Between October and December 2017, the CRA conducted an analysis on the feasibility of this recommendation.

As a result of that analysis, the CRA expects to be able to implement this recommendation by April 1, 2019. The Agency will need to take the following steps for this to happen:

  • gather data to determine the approximate processing time as well as the amount of time taxpayer relief officers spend on complex requests;
  • review and where necessary, revise procedures on determining the complexity of requests; and
  • review and where necessary, revise correspondence templates to:
    • advise taxpayers if their request is routine or complex;
    • provide taxpayers with an accurate estimate of the processing time for their request based on the level of its complexity; and
    • advise taxpayers when, upon further review, the level of complexity of their request has changed.

The CRA began tracking its processing times for complex requests in January 2018. An analysis of the data collected will be completed in Fall 2018, and the results will be used to provide more accurate processing times to taxpayers.

After the completion of this analysis, the CRA will also be reviewing and revising, as needed, its procedures and correspondence templates. This stage is expected to be completed by the end of March 2019.

Recommendation #2 

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency maintain nation-wide consistency in the processing times of taxpayer relief requests.

CRA's response

The CRA accepts this recommendation. The CRA already commenced steps in 2014 for maintaining nation-wide consistency in processing times for relief requests related to the cancellation of penalties and interest.

Update

The CRA has implemented significant enhancements to its existing Appeals workload management system and is working to update its current technologies which will contribute to further improving consistency in processing times for taxpayer relief requests across Canada.

Although a national process related to the movement of files was implemented in 2014, the CRA is working to improve technologies so that it can move away from that manual process of inventory management towards a more automated process.

In addition to the enhancements to its management system, the CRA has made the following changes that have resulted in improvements to the processing of taxpayer relief requests:

  • changes to processes and procedures to address high inventory levels;
  • development of program monitoring and quality assurance processes, to identify issues and discrepancies, promote consistency, and identify gaps and improvements;
  • introduction on April 1, 2016, of an external service standard (acknowledgement of receipt of request within 30 calendar days) with a commitment to meet this standard 85% of the time;
  • introduction on April 1, 2017, of a new service standard (processing requests and issuing a decision within 180 calendar days) with a commitment to meet this standard 85% of the time;
  • sharing of a national process map for intake centre screeners across all regions that is expected to enhance consistency among all intake centres.

These improvements have allowed the CRA to reduce the processing time for taxpayer relief requests from an average of 15 months in October 2013, to 12 months in January 2015. With the change to the current manual process for inventory management, the CRA was able to further reduce the processing time to 6 months in October 2015. In the past year, the CRA processed taxpayer relief requests to cancel or waive penalties and interest within 180 days of receipt, 86.8% of the time.

The CRA has completed a comprehensive review of its business processes for the Taxpayer Relief Program intake centres and continues to work at improving efficiency and consistency across all regions.

A review of the business process for the Centres of Expertise is currently in the planning phase and is expected to further improve consistency as well as reduce processing times. The expected completion date for this review is March 2020.

An e-services project is currently underway to improve Form RC4288, Request for Taxpayer Relief – Cancel or Waive Penalties or Interest, which will allow taxpayers to submit structured relief requests through the CRA’s online portals. The expected completion date for this project is May 2020.

Recommendation #3 

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency review and identify the factors that contribute to fluctuations in the number of taxpayer relief requests, as well as the impact they may have on the Taxpayer Relief Program.

CRA's response

The CRA accepts this recommendation. The CRA has already identified the factors that contribute to fluctuations in the number of taxpayer relief requests and is aware of the impact they have on the program.

Update

The CRA routinely monitors both internal and external factors that may have an impact on the volumes of taxpayer relief requests it receives.

Specifically, the CRA tracks and monitors the number of taxpayer relief requests related to natural disasters, such as the British Columbia wildfires (2017), the Ontario and Quebec floods (2017), and the Atlantic and Pacific floods (2018).

The CRA also monitors initiatives implemented by its various program areas to determine if they have the potential to impact the Taxpayer Relief Program.

By closely monitoring these activities (internal and external), the CRA is able to react and respond appropriately to changes in the number of requests for taxpayer relief.

Recommendation #4 

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency allocate sufficient permanent funding to the Taxpayer Relief Program to allow for adequate planning, to ensure the Program consistently meets or improves upon its processing times for taxpayer relief requests.

CRA's response

The CRA recognizes the importance of the Taxpayer Relief Program. As the CRA must respond to many pressures regarding its services and programs, there is a thorough process to allocate funding to programs across a wide range of activities, and new funding may be requested via the Federal Budget. The program is currently exceeding its publicly stated service standard.

Update

The CRA began tracking and monitoring time spent on complex taxpayer relief requests in April 2018. With this data, the CRA is now able to evaluate the time spent on both routine and complex requests and adjust the average time per taxpayer relief request accordingly.

In addition, the CRA conducts numerous costing exercises related to initiatives implemented by its various program areas where it has been determined that the initiative has the potential to impact the Taxpayer Relief Program.

The CRA will use this information to determine and allocate funding, as needed, to consistently meet or improve on the processing times for taxpayer relief requests.

Benefits Unsheltered: An examination into the Canada Revenue Agency's communication and outreach efforts to shelters and other support organizations about benefits and credits administered by the Canada Revenue Agency

Original report submitted to the Minister of National Revenue December 2017

Recommendation #1 

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends the Canada Revenue Agency continue to find new ways to effectively inform, educate, and collaborate with organizations, to provide information on benefits and credits to persons using shelters.

CRA's response

The CRA concurs with this recommendation.

Update

The CRA partners with shelters through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) and the Outreach Program, to ensure that homeless and housing-insecure individuals get the benefits and credits they are entitled to receive. The CRA continues to recruit shelters to participate in these programs.

The CRA shared its regional expectations for the CVITP and the Outreach Program with its regional staff, across Canada, in January 2018. The following were communicated as being Agency priorities moving forward:

  • building on existing outreach to women’s shelters; and
  • increasing the awareness of benefits and credits and of the CVITP among homeless and women’s shelters.

The CRA is able to report on the following achievements between April 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018:

  • conducted 63 outreach activities to women’s shelters, connecting with more than two thousand individuals across Canada who use shelter services;
  • created a factsheet specifically tailored for women in shelters;
    •  
    • Note: Some information highlighted in the factsheet includes:
    • how to apply for the Canada child benefit (CCB);
    • the importance of filing tax returns every year, regardless of income, so as not to interrupt CCB payments;
    • how the CRA helps those in abusive situations to access benefit and credit payments without the involvement of their abusive partner; and
    • how to update personal information with the CRA.
  • shared benefit and credit information with more than 500 individuals at Halifax Connects and at Homeless Connect in Toronto and Vancouver (September 2017 to February 2018); and
  • provided general tax-filing and benefit information to over 250 individuals through a collaborative effort by the CVITP and Outreach Program at the Under One Umbrella event in Sydney, NS (November 2017).

    Note: Several booth visitors were not only able to have their tax slips printed by outreach officers, but were also able have their tax returns prepared and filed by CVITP volunteers.

The CRA is in the process of developing a 3-year strategy to reach and help vulnerable Canadians, which it expects to finalize by the fall of 2018. This strategy was developed using Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+).

Note: GBA+ is the process by which a policy, program, initiative, or service can be examined for its impacts on various groups of women and men.

The 3-year strategy includes items on the following topics:

  • housing-insecure individuals (such as shelter users) as a vulnerable group; and
  • increasing targeted outreach to shelters.

As a result of funding announced in the 2018 Federal Budget to expand the scope of the CVITP and the Outreach Program, the CRA will increase its visibility by approaching more organizations to create partnerships which will contribute to reaching more homeless and housing-insecure Canadians nationally.

To that end, efforts are underway to develop a partnership with Women’s Shelters Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, with the aim of allowing the CRA to more directly, yet discretely, communicate and offer services to most shelters in Canada.

Recommendation #2 

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends the Canada Revenue Agency actively promote and increase awareness of outreach services and information available to organizations with respect to benefits and credits available to persons using shelters.

CRA's response

The CRA concurs with the recommendation.

Update

The actions taken for recommendation #1 also address recommendation #2.

Recommendation #3

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman recommends the CRA ensure consistency across all provinces and territories in:

  1. the promotion of outreach services available; and 

  2. the delivery of information to organizations with respect to benefits and credits available to persons using shelters.

CRA's response

The CRA concurs with the recommendation.

Update

The actions taken for recommendation #1 also address recommendation #3.

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