Questions and answers about the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman and its role

1. What is an ombudsman?

An ombudsman is a person appointed to look into complaints addressed to an organization. An ombudsman is an independent and impartial party who does not take sides with either the person who is complaining or the organization being complained about. An ombudsman strives for fairness and objectivity in the treatment of people and the consideration of issues.

2. What is the mandate of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman?

Refer to the mandate of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman.

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. Can you give an example of a situation where the Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman can assist taxpayers?

A taxpayer may complain to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) about the service they received including: mistakes, undue delays, poor or misleading information, and staff behaviour. If the taxpayer is dissatisfied with the action or response from the CRA's internal redress mechanisms, the taxpayer may request the Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman to undertake an independent review.

5. Besides reviewing complaints, how does the Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman contribute to better service delivery within the Canada Revenue Agency?

The Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman (OTO) may initiate a review of any service provided by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). In so doing, the OTO can identify systemic and emerging service-related issues within the CRA that have a negative impact on taxpayers, and can make recommendations to the CRA to improve service delivery.

6. Is the Taxpayers' Ombudsman the first person I should contact if I have a complaint with respect to service that I received from the Canada Revenue Agency?

No, you should first use the existing mechanisms to resolve service-related complaints within the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) outlined in the pamphlet RC4420, Information on CRA - Service Complaints. The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman is typically the last recourse for those who exhausted all complaints resolution options available at the CRA.

7. 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 the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman.

8. How can I file a complaint with the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman?

Refer to submit a complaint.

9. What types of complaints will the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman review?

The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman (OTO) reviews service-related complaints about the way taxpayers were treated by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). For example, the OTO can review the following service-related complaints:

  • undue delays;
  • poor or misleading information;
  • staff behaviour; or
  • mistakes, which could potentially result in a misunderstanding.

The OTO will also review complaints where any of the service rights outlined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights may not have been respected by the CRA.

10. Are there complaints the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman cannot review?

There are certain types of complaints the Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman (OTO) cannot review, such as complaints that are not service-related, or complaints that do not fall within the mandate of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman. For example, the OTO does not:

  • review complaints relating to tax policy or program legislation (there are already well-defined mechanisms for dealing with these kinds of issues);
  • review matters that are before the courts;
  • review complaints about service that arose more than one year before the appointment of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman (i.e., before February 21, 2007);
  • direct the CRA to take action; and
  • review complaints that other statutory bodies would deal with, such as Official Languages.

If your complaint is not service-related, refer to Complaints and disputes. If you are unsure if your complaint is service-related, feel free to contact us.

11. Will the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman advise the Canada Revenue Agency that I filed a complaint?

In the process of reviewing your complaint, the Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman (OTO) may need to advise the Canada Revenue Agency or share information about your complaint. This will only be done with your consent. Be aware, however, that without your consent, the OTO may be limited in its ability to resolve the complaint.

12. Will the Canada Revenue Agency's collection procedures stop while the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman reviews my service complaint?

No, filing a service complaint to the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman does not stop or postpone any legal action the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) undertakes. The CRA needs to determine whether hardship exists by reviewing your financial situation before postponing and/or ceasing legal action. Please refer to Canada Revenue Agency's Collections Policies (T4060) for more information.

13. I am being audited and I feel that my service rights are not being respected during the process. Will the audit be postponed until the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman has a chance to review my complaint?

The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman (OTO) can only review service-related matters and a review of any service complaint is independent of the Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA) legislated authority to conduct audits. Therefore, the OTO cannot direct the CRA to postpone or stop an ongoing audit.

14. I sent a complaint about the unfairness of a decision to deny my request for penalty/interest relief under the taxpayer relief provisions. Will the interest stop accruing while my complaint is reviewed?

Any amounts owing under dispute will continue to accrue interest during the complaint review process.

15. Can the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman direct the Canada Revenue Agency to reconsider a decision?

The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman makes recommendations only. It has no legislative authority to direct the Canada Revenue Agency to reconsider or overturn a decision.

16. How do I get updates on the status of my complaint?

The Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman will acknowledge receiving your complaint. Subsequently, 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.

17. What type of outcome can I expect from the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman?

At the end of our review, the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman (OTO) will send you and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) the outcome of the review with recommendations, if any. The OTO may recommend that the CRA:

  • give further reasons for a decision;
  • correct a misunderstanding, omission or oversight;
  • offer an apology;
  • change a policy or procedure;
  • make changes to systems or applications;
  • review its service standards; or
  • consider further staff training.
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