Frequently asked questions
1. What is an ombudsman?
An ombudsman is a person appointed to examine complaints about government administration or an organization. An ombudsman is an independent and objective party who does not take sides with either the person complaining or the entity being complained about. An ombudsman strives for fairness and objectivity in the treatment of people and the consideration of issues.
2. What does the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman do?
The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman examines and resolves complaints about services provided by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Read about the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman’s mandate. The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman also identifies and examines systemic service issues – issues that affect a large number of persons or a segment of the population – and makes recommendations to the CRA and the Minister of National Revenue to address the issues and improve the CRA’s services.
3. Is the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman part of the Canada Revenue Agency?
No, the Taxpayers' Ombudsman operates independently and at arm's length from the Canada Revenue Agency and reports directly to the Minister of National Revenue.
4. Who can make a complaint to the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman?
Anyone who interacts with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) can make a complaint to the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, including individuals, businesses, corporations, charities, trusts, estates, persons who pay taxes or persons who are exempt from paying taxes, persons eligible to receive an amount as a benefit, anyone who receives a service from the CRA, and their representatives.
5. Will the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman handle my complaint personally?
When you make a complaint with our Office, it will be dealt with by the staff of the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, and not the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman directly. The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman has authority to delegate to staff to review and examine complaints. This includes determining whether to examine a complaint and to make findings and recommendations as a result of examining the complaint.
6. Does the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman advocate for complainants?
The role of an ombudsman, and that of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, is to be neutral and objective, and not to advocate for the complainant or the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). We review the facts, information and perspectives of all sides of an issue, without prejudice or bias, and identifies solutions and makes recommendations that are fair. One important role of the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman is to reduce the power imbalance between the CRA and complainants. The OTO's examination officers use their judgment based on an objective evaluation of facts, taking into account the particular circumstances of a case.
7. What types of complaints can the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman examine?
There are eight rights in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights within the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman's mandate. We examine complaints about unsatisfactory service or unfair treatment from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). This includes:
- undue delays
- incomplete, unclear, inaccurate or inconsistent information
- availability of information
- employee behaviour
- misplaced documents
- fairness, e.g. in process, treatment
- all relevant documents not taken into consideration
- not receiving reasons for a decision
- particular or individual circumstances not considered by the CRA
- inability to access the CRA by telephone
We also review complaints where the CRA may not have respected any of the service rights outlined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
8. What complaints can the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman not examine?
We cannot review complaints:
- that are not about the services of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
- about a decision of, proceeding in, or matter before a court
- about a matter that arose before February 21, 2007
- about an administrative interpretation by the CRA about a provision set out in legislation about its programs
- that other statutory bodies would deal with, such as official languages, access to information, or privacy
- about legal advice to the Government of Canada
- about confidences of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada
9. Can the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman refuse to look into my complaint?
Yes, we can decide not to examine a complaint based on factors such as if the issue is not within the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman’s mandate, whether the issue is still current, if the complainant is personally affected, alternate recourse mechanism exists that should (first) be taken, or the complaint is frivolous or vexatious.
10. When should I contact the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman?
Unless there are compelling circumstances, you must first file your complaint with the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Service complaints program. If you are not satisfied with the results of the CRA’s review then send a complaint to the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman. Whether there are compelling circumstances is a decision of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman. Examples include if there is undue personal or financial hardship, timeliness of resolution, or the complaint raises systemic issues. If you are unsure whether to file your complaint with us, contact us and we will help you figure it out.
11. Is there a cost to making a complaint to the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman?
No, there are no costs associated with filing a complaint or for any service provided by us.
12. How can I file a complaint with the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman?
You can submit a complaint through our online complaint form, by mail or fax, or when necessary, by phone or in person. We cannot accept complaints by email or through our Facebook or Twitter accounts due to a lack of confidentiality.
13. Will the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman tell the Canada Revenue Agency that I filed a complaint?
In the process of reviewing your complaint, we may need to share information about your complaint with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and/or obtain information from the CRA. This will only be done with your consent. However, without your consent, we may be limited in our ability to examine and resolve your complaint.
14. Will the Canada Revenue Agency stop its collection procedures while the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman examines my complaint?
No, filing a complaint with us does not stop or postpone any legal action the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) undertakes. See the CRA’s information on its collections policies for more information.
15. Will the Canada Revenue Agency postpone its audit until the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman examines my complaint?
No, filing a complaint with us does not stop or postpone an audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). See the CRA’s information on its audits.
16. Will interest and penalties stop accruing while the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman examines my complaint?
No, any amounts owing to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), will continue to accrue interest and potentially penalties, during our examination of your complaint. See the CRA’s information on its taxpayer relief provisions.
17. How do I get updates on the status of my complaint?
Within five business days of receiving your complaint, we will contact you about your complaint. After that, an officer will contact you on a regular basis to update you on the status of your complaint. You can also contact us and speak to the examining officer assigned to your file.
18. Can the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman make the Canada Revenue Agency change something?
We cannot overturn a decision of the Canada Revenue Agency. We can make recommendations but, as an ombudsman, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman cannot enforce their recommendations.
19. How will I know when my complaint has been examined by the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman?
At the end of our examination, we will contact you to discuss our findings and any resolution. We will also send you a letter outlining your complaints, our findings, any recommendations we made, and any resulting actions the Canada Revenue Agency will take.
20. What type of outcome can I expect from the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman?
We may find that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) did nothing wrong and no further action on its part is required. We may find that the CRA did not respect one or more of your service rights and may make recommendation(s) to the CRA to address this. These recommendations may include:
- give further reasons for a decision
- correct a misunderstanding, omission or oversight
- review a decision based on information not previously considered
- offer an apology
- change a policy or procedure
- make changes to systems or applications
- review its service standards
- contact or arrange a meeting with a complainant
- provide a dedicated contact person
- consider further staff training
We publish anonymized examples of complaint resolutions in our Annual Reports.
21. When does the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman open a systemic examination?
The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman can open a systemic examination on their own initiative, upon receipt of one or multiple complaints, or at the request of the Minister of National Revenue. A systemic issue with the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) services is an issue that may negatively impact a segment of the population or a large number of persons. We identify systemic issues in a number of ways, including assessing enquiries we receive, complaints filed, feedback we receive through outreach, and issues raised in the public environment, such as in the media, on social media and in Parliament. See our open systemic examinations and how we influence positive change in the CRA.
22. How does the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman make sure the Canada Revenue Agency follows the recommendations and that problems do not recur?
When we make a recommendation as a result of the examination of a complaint, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) provides a response on the actions it will take. We follow up with the CRA to confirm these actions are taken.
When the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman makes recommendations to the CRA through a Request for Service Improvement, the CRA provides a response indicating what actions it will take. We follow up with the CRA to confirm these actions are taken.
When the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman makes recommendations to the Minister of National Revenue, through a systemic examination report, the CRA provides an action plan in response to the recommendations. We monitor and follow up to ensure the actions are taken and the issues addressed. We publish updates on these reports.
23. Where can I complain if I am not happy with the service provided by the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman?
If you have a complaint about the service we provided you, you are welcome to submit it to us in writing, and a member of our management team will respond. Please contact us by email, mail or fax.Email:
Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman
Suite 1000-171 Slater Street
K1P 5H7 Fax:
+1-613-941-6319 (outside Canada and the United States) You can also contact the Minister of National Revenue.
24. How big is the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman and where is it located?
We have approximately 27 full-time employees and are located in Ottawa. See our contact information.
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