Transcript - Service Complaints Program

Slide 1

Melanie:
Welcome to the Canada Revenue Agency's Service Complaints Program webcast. This webcast is a recording of a live webinar that occurred in March 2012. This session is no longer live so if you would like to learn more about complaints and disputes, you can visit www.cra.gc.ca/resolvingdisputes. Thank you very much and we hope we enjoy this webcast.

Hi everyone. Thank you for being with us here today. I'm Melanie and this is Jean, joining us from the Canada Revenue Agency or the CRA for short. Today, Jean will talk to us about the CRA's Service Complaints Process. I hope you enjoy this webinar, welcome Jean!

Melanie:
So, why don’t we get started? Tell us about the CRA Service complaints process!

Slide 2

Jean:
Sure! The CRA has a service complaint redress process that allows anyone who has dealt with the CRA to file informal and formal complaints about the service they received from us.  First, when we refer to service complaints, it’s important to understand that we’re talking about the service rights that are defined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.  Actually, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights is composed of a number of taxpayer rights and commitments to small businesses. The taxpayers rights include: 7 statutory rights and 8 service rights. Depending on the type of rights, there are different redress mechanisms available to taxpayers. Today’s webinar will focus on the redress mechanism to taxpayers that relate to the eight service rights.

Melanie:
Could you tell us a bit more about these eight service rights?

Slide 3

Jean:
Absolutely, Melanie! The eight service rights are:

Number 5, you have the right to be treated professionally, courteously and fairly.
Number 6, you have the right to complete, accurate, clear and timely information.
Number 9, you have the right to lodge a service complaint and to be provided with an explanation of our findings.
Number 10, you have the right to have the cost of compliance taken into account when administering tax legislation.
Number 11, you have the right to expect us to be accountable.
Number 13, you have the right to expect us to publish our service standards and report annually.
Number 14, you have the right to expect us to warn you about questionable tax schemes in a timely manner.
Number 15, you have the right to be represented by the person of your choice.

Melanie:
I know today’s webinar focuses on the service rights, but what could you tell us about the commitments to small businesses?

Slide 4

Jean:
There are five commitments to small businesses:

Number 1, the CRA is committed to administering the tax system in a way that minimizes the costs of compliance for small businesses.
Number 2, the CRA is committed to working with all governments to streamline service, minimize cost, and reduce the compliance burden.
Number 3, the CRA is committed to providing service offerings that meet the needs of small businesses.
Number 4, the CRA is committed to conducting outreach activities that help small businesses comply with the legislation we administer.
And finally, number 5, the CRA is committed to explaining how we conduct our business with small businesses.

If small businesses feel that we are not meeting those commitments, we want to hear from them. They can submit their feedback by completing section 3 on the service-related complaint form. I’ll give you specific information on how they can submit their feedback later on.

Slide 5

For more information about the rights and commitments set out in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, please visit www.cra.gc.ca/rights.

Melanie:
Jean, what does the CRA do to protect these service rights?

Jean:
That is a very good question. Actually, this is exactly what I was talking about earlier when I spoke about the CRA service complaints redress process. The CRA has a three-step administrative redress process to uphold these service rights.

Slide 6

If you recall, I mentioned earlier that the CRA has an informal and formal complaints process. The first recommended step in the informal process is to resolve the matter with the CRA employee or the employee’s supervisor. If the matter is not settled in this way, then you can go to step 2, which is filing a formal service complaint through the CRA Service Complaints Program. If you are still not satisfied with the response, the third and final step in the process is to file a complaint with the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman. Today’s webinar is focusing on step 2, filing a complaint through the CRA Service Complaints Program. 

Melanie:
Then, given this webinar’s focus, would you tell us a bit more about filing a service complaint with the CRA?

Jean:
Yes, first, it’s important to understand what constitutes a complaint related to service. It can be based on an undue delay beyond the CRA’s service standards, inappropriate staff behaviour, poor or misleading information provided to the taxpayer, or a mistake, omission or oversight.

Melanie:
This is good information to know! Can you give us an example of a complaint related to service?

Jean:
Absolutely! Let’s take an example relating to undue delay. Say you filed your tax return in paper format 10 weeks ago and you still haven’t received your notice of assessment and refund. As I said earlier, we recommend that you first talk to us, by consulting the Contact Us section on the CRA Web site or by using contact information provided on the CRA correspondence. If you’re dissatisfied with the CRA response, you can file a service complaint, through the CRA Service Complaints Program, since in this case, 10 weeks to process your tax return and issue your refund is well over the CRA’s service standard.

However, if you were still waiting for your refund, let’s say four weeks after filing your tax return, the CRA would not consider this as an undue delay because our service standard says it may take up to eight weeks for the CRA to process a paper-format return.

The CRA has a number of service standards that set out our commitment to taxpayers. And as you can see, there may be situations where undue delay would not apply.

Slide 7

Take note of the service standards that the CRA aims to meet under normal circumstances, published on our web site. Please visit: www.cra.gc.ca/servicestandards.

Melanie:
Jean, is there such a thing as a complaint that is not considered a service-related issue?

Jean:
Of course! A complaint or dispute related to a decision made by the CRA on how much tax is actually payable, for example, is not considered a service-related issue and must be directed to the appropriate redress mechanism.

Melanie:
What would be the appropriate redress mechanism in that case?

Jean:
Well, Melanie, let’s say you don’t agree with your assessment. You would first call the number shown on your notice of assessment.  If you still are not satisfied with the explanations we give you, you have the right to request a formal review.  In this case, you wouldn’t file a service complaint, but instead you’d file a notice of objection using the formal process for resolving a dispute.

Slide 8

For more information on how to file a dispute, visit www.cra.gc.ca/resolvingdisputes.

Melanie:
So, now that we’ve determined what can be considered a complaint related to service and what cannot, could you tell us how I can file a formal service complaint?

Slide 9

Jean:
Yes, well, after you’ve talked with a CRA employee or the employee’s supervisor under step 1, and still remain unsatisfied, you can then file a formal complaint by completing form RC193, Service-Related Complaint, or by sending or faxing a letter along with any related documents to 1-866-388-7371 from Canada and the United States, or to 1-819-536-0701 from outside Canada and the United States,

or you can send it by mail at:

CRA - Service Complaints
National Intake Centre
Post Office Box 8000
Shawinigan-South QC  G9N 0A6
CANADA

Form RC193, Service-Related Complaint, is available at www.cra.gc.ca/forms. If you don’t have access to a computer, you can call our toll-free number at 1-800-959-2221, and we will send you a copy of the form by mail.

Melanie:
Well, can I make a formal service complaint by phone or by email? Wouldn’t it be more convenient?

Jean:
It might be more convenient but, unfortunately, by phone there is a risk that we could misunderstand the concerns you have. That’s why we ask you to use form RC193, Service-Related Complaint. The RC193 form is not mandatory to file a service complaint, but you do have to send us your complaint in writing.

Unfortunately, we can’t accept a complaint filed by email for security reasons. Complaints usually  contain sensitive information and email isn’t protected well enough.

Melanie:
Jean, you just mentioned writing or faxing the form or a letter with any related documents… I’m curious to know what you mean by "any related documents". Could give us some examples?

Jean:
Sure, of course Melanie! What we mean by "any related documents" is any piece of information you can provide that would substantiate the facts and reasons mentioned in your complaint. These documents could include correspondence you received from the CRA, such as notices of assessments or reassessments, and so on. Any documents that will help us better understand your situation will be helpful during the review process.

Melanie:
Okay! So once the CRA has received the complaint, what do they do with it?

Slide 10

Jean:
Once we receive a complaint, we review it objectively and on its own merit.

You will receive an acknowledgement letter that will include a unique file number for the complaint, and contact information in case you need more information.

We then assign the complaint to an officer who is responsible for reviewing, researching, and working with the appropriate areas to resolve it.

The CRA will follow up with you to inform you of the status of the complaint, and we will provide a formal response by telephone or in writing.

If we contact you by telephone, we will prepare a follow-up letter that summarizes the conversation you had with the CRA. The letter will also provide information about step 3 of the service complaint redress process, explaining that if you’re still not satisfied, you can file a complaint with the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman.

Melanie:
And how long does it usually take for it to be resolved?

Slide 11

Jean:
The time needed to resolve a complaint depends on how complex the situation is and what areas within the CRA are involved. Actually, starting April 1 of this year the CRA is introducing two new service standards.  The first is to acknowledge receipt of your complaint within two working days, and the second is to resolve your complaint within 30 days. Our aim is to meet these standards 80% of the time.

Melanie:
Interesting! Do I have to pay a fee when I file a complaint?

Jean:
No. There is absolutely no fee associated with this service!

Melanie:
Excellent!  I heard that people are encouraged to provide CRA with their feedback. Is this true?

Jean:
You are right, Melanie! The CRA wants to hear from you and we want you to share your comments, opinions, or suggestions through the Service Complaint Program. Your feedback will help us improve services.

Melanie:
And how do we provide the feedback?

Jean:
Well, if you use Form RC193, Service-Related Complaint, there is a section designated on it to write your feedback. You can submit your feedback by mail or by fax at the same address and number I mentioned earlier: 1-866-388-7371 from Canada and the United States, or 1-819-536-0701 from outside Canada and the United States. Small businesses are also invited to provide their feedback by using the same form RC193.

Melanie:
So Jean, you said that if I’m still unsatisfied with the outcome of my complaint after step 2 of the service complaint redress process, I can file a complaint with the Taxpayer’s Ombudsman. Could you  tell me a bit more about this?

Jean:
Absolutely Melanie! Let’s say you first used our informal process, which is talking with us, and then you filed a formal complaint with the CRA Service Complaints Program, as I explained in step 2 of the service complaint redress process and you are still unsatisfied with the explanation the CRA gave you, you can file a formal complaint with the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman. This is step 3 of the service complaint redress process.

Melanie:
What if I decide to not file a formal complaint through the CRA Service Complaints Program and file a complaint directly with the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman’s office instead, would my complaint be reviewed by the Ombudsman’s office directly? In other words, can I skip step 2 and go directly to step 3?

Jean:
In the majority of cases, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman will confirm if the complaint was first sent to the CRA Service Complaints Program for review and resolution, according to step 2.

Part of the mandate of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman is to ensure that the CRA honours the services outlined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights—and that’s exactly what the CRA Service Complaints Program tries to ascertain.

So, in other words, you should follow the 3-step administrative redress process. As we discussed earlier, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman is the last step in the service complaints redress process.

Melanie:
Okay. Let me see if I can quickly summarize for our audience what the 3-step administrative redress process is all about!

Slide 12

First, you must try to talk to the employee of the CRA or a supervisor that you have been dealing with to try to resolve the matter.

Then, if you’re not satisfied with the explanation that they gave you, you can then file a service complaint, as outlined in step 2 of the service complaint redress process. This involves completing form RC193, Service-Related Complaints, or writing a letter that includes your contact information, details of the situation, and any supporting documents.

Finally, if you’re still not satisfied with the outcome of your service complaint, go to step 3:  ask the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman for an independent review of the complaint.

Jean:
That was perfectly summarized, Melanie!

Melanie:
Thank you! But I have another question for you, Jean. Can a third party file a service complaint on my behalf?

Jean:
Great question and absolutely! You can authorize a representative, such as an accountant, a family member, or one of your employees, by using the required authorization forms when filing the service-related complaint.

Melanie:
Okay! And how do I do that?

Jean:
If you’re an individual, fill out Form T1013 and follow the instructions for where to send it. If you’re a business, fill out Form RC59. These documents authorize a third party to act on your behalf. You can also authorize a representative online by using either My Account for individuals, or My Business Account for businesses.

Slide 13

To access these forms, My Account or My Business Account, visit the CRA Web site. 

Melanie:
Could you remind us why it’s so important to voice our opinions about service issues?

Jean:
It’s important to tell us about the service that you receive from the CRA because your suggestions and feedback will help us improve our services. Most importantly, you will help us to uphold the service rights outlined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Without your feedback and opinions, the CRA is missing out on valuable input.

Melanie:
Jean, do you have an example that you can share with us of a service that was improved as a result of complaints or feedback?

Jean:
Indeed I do. The first example that comes to mind is when the CRA Service Complaints Program was first launched, it didn’t have a fax number available for taxpayers living outside of Canada and the United-States who wanted to file a complaint about the services they received from the CRA.

Mail was the only option for them at the time. Because of the feedback we received on this issue, the CRA was able to publish a fax number for people who live outside Canada and the United-States. This information is included in Form RC193 and is currently being updated in the RC4420 CRA Service Complaints booklet which will be available soon.

Am I allowed a second example, Melanie?

Melanie:
Sure, this is interesting. Be our guest.

Jean:
Thanks, Melanie. This one relates to legal representatives, also known as executors, administrators, or liquidators of an estate and their obligations to file a T4 return to report legal representative fees. It was brought to our attention that the information available, both in print and on the CRA Web site, wasn’t adequate to make the legal representatives aware of their obligation to file T4 slips for their legal representative fees.

Slide 14

As a result, the CRA has updated its Web site, as well as the guide Preparing Returns for Deceased Persons, with more detailed information on the reporting requirements.

Melanie:
Great examples of improving service to people, Jean!

And thank you for taking the time today to join us. I’m sure that our audience will benefit from all the information you’ve given on the CRA Service Complaints Process!

Jean:
It was a pleasure, Melanie, and thank you for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to speak on that Program! 

Slide 15

Melanie:
This concludes this webcast on the CRA's Service Complaints Process. Thank you, and we hope you enjoyed this webcast.

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